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<i>Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop</i>: Team Coco Forever

The deliberately truncated title of Rodman Flender's terrific new documentary Conan O'Brien Can't Stop -- which takes viewers backstage on the carrot-topped comedian's 2010 live show the Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On Television Tour -- can be completed four different ways based on what we see in the movie.

1. Conan O'Brien Can't Stop... Moving
From the first scene of the film, in which O'Brien buzzes by one of those open-topped star-spotting vans that roam the L.A. streets and calls out a quick hello before zooming off, he's a man that seems to live his life with the fast-forward button on. Over the course of the next 89 minutes, the 48-year-old performer is rarely glimpsed sitting down and never appears to sleep. Maybe his need to be up and moving is to make up for all that time he spent behind a talk show desk, first on Late Night with Conan O'Brien for sixteen years, followed by his truncated seven-month stint on The Tonight Show, a job that ended roughly two months before the film begins. But more likely, he's just too busy thinking, planning, writing and rehearsing for his next move, which turns out to be this live show. Hastily assembled in about four weeks, the Legally Prohibited tour will send Conan, his band and his sidekick Andy Richter to thirty-two North American cities (starting in Eugene, Oregon and ending in Atlanta with stops in Edmonton, Vegas and New York in between) where they'll perform comic skits and music and host a few special surprise guests. The pace is grueling and the work exhausting, but it clearly invigorates O'Brien. While auditioning female backup singers for the act, he performs alongside each hopeful, throwing himself into the wild dance routine that accompanies one of the bits over and over again. "You don't play around," one of women says after her aerobics workout/audition, obviously impressed at her potential boss's unlimited energy. He just laughs and readies himself for the next try-out.

2. Conan O'Brien Can't Stop... Talking
Performing some 40-odd shows -- sometimes two in one night -- is tiring enough, but O'Brien is also expected to be available for meet-and-greets before and after each performance. These sessions require him to smile, shake hands and crack wise with an assortment of fans, industry types, fellow stars (Jim Carrey and Jon Hamm are among the famous faces that drop by to say hello) and special contest winners. He handles all of these encounters like a pro and never fails to send his visitors away happy. But when they're gone, he starts complaining about all the glad-handing he's forced to do and sometimes takes his frustration out on the people around him. His personal assistant Sona Movsesian, a young, snappy Armenian woman, frequently bears the brunt of his less-than-admirable behavior. Early on, he threatens to fire her when she mixes up his take-out order and hands him a piece of fish covered in a fattening butter sauce. Later, in a bull session with the production team, he forces her (and everyone else) to hold up a banana to her ear before she asks a question or makes a statement. But by far O'Brien's least flattering moment occurs when 30 Rock's Jack McBrayer stops by the greenroom and is subjected to a steady stream of increasingly mean "dumb hick" jokes. Assuming that his host is just kidding around, McBrayer plays along, but there are a few moments where he seems visibly confused about why Conan -- whom he's helping out by making a cameo appearance on stage that night -- is being such a dick.

3. Conan O'Brien Can't Stop... Performing
Here's the big secret about Conan O'Brien: For all his kvetching about the demanding tour schedule and the endless waves of people who approach him for pictures and autographs off-stage, he also openly admits that he needs the attention and applause that come with stardom. He's been a performer for so long, he doesn't know how to function when he's not making people laugh. In fact, one of the main reasons for the entire Legally Prohibited tour is to get him back in front of an audience as soon as possible after the whole Tonight Show debacle. (One also gets the feeling that he primarily agreed to let Flender film him so that he'd have a camera to perform for as if he were still on TV.) It's not that O'Brien doesn't have an off-switch -- we're treated to a few fleeting glimpses of him talking to his wife and playing with his kids like a normal family man -- it's that he would rather choose to ignore it. After an exhausting show at Radio City Music Hall, he looks out his dressing room window at the eager crowd of fans gathered at the stage door. His team insists that he head back to the hotel and rest, to which he replies incredulously, "What am I going to do? Go back and read a Kindle?" So instead, he suits up and heads out into the fray, a comedy king greeting his subjects and basking in their adoration. It doesn't seem like the healthiest way to live, but as John Lennon once sang, "Whatever gets you through the night/It's alright, alright."

4. Conan O'Brien Can't Stop... Being Funny
There are a lot of serious moments in Conan O'Brien Can't Stop, as Flender captures his star ruefully describing his feelings of betrayal over what happened with NBC and discussing tour logistics with his production team. But this is first and foremost a comedy, one of the funniest to be released so far this year. Better still, the behind-the-scenes stuff is just as hilarious as what we see of the on-stage material. Despite his occasional dickishness and needy behavior, O'Brien is a magnetic presence, always quick with a joke or insightful comment. Meanwhile, Flender captures the blood, sweat and laughs that go into planning and executing one of these traveling road shows. By the end of the movie, when the Legally Prohibited tour pulls into its last stop, you're almost as exhausted as the star and his crew. (It's worth noting that the director omits any mention of the other things going on in O'Brien's life during this three-month period, most notably his move to TBS. The station is mentioned briefly early on, but we're not privy to any of the negotiations that led to his return to late night. While that tunnel vision can be frustrating at times, it also replicates the cocoon that O'Brien had to put himself in for much of the tour.) No matter how you choose to complete the title, this is one gem of a documentary.

Tell us what you thought of the movie below, then see our list of the finest stand-up comedy films ever!

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