I saw Conan at Universal Studios last Saturday. No, not the Tonight Show — it was Conan’s traveling stage show at the Gibson Amphitheater (“Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Televison Tour”).
First, a word about the audience. The crowd was so devoted, I was surprised that the concession stands weren’t selling Kool Aid. The girl sitting in front of me handed out orange glowing wristbands to everyone in our entire section. Jim Jones aspired to this kind of loyalty.
I wondered how Conan would fill two hours since he isn’t a stand-up comedian by trade. After a 15-minute delay, the show began with stand-up, but not by Conan. Comic Reggie Watts didn’t really tell any jokes; he sang songs. Watts is a very talented guy — great with accents and characters. He did about 20 minutes.
Then there was an intermission. And then a filmed comedy bit: Conan’s gotten fat and bearded… he has to get back into shape for his tour, etc. Like most of Conan’s filmed pieces, he would benefit from saying the following thing to his editor: “I think this bit is perfect. Please edit out half of it after I leave the room.”
And finally… Conan!
The Irishman gave a long monologue, pacing about the stage Chris Rock-style. As the stand-up segment drew to a close, I thought: There’s still a lot of time to kill here. Now what?
There was a filmed piece by Triumph The Insult Comic Dog. And another comedian (Conan writer Deon Cole) did another half hour of stand-up. But other than that, the evening was mostly filled up with songs.
Conan strapped on a Stratocaster and sang song parodies. It seemed like an odd choice — Conan Becomes Weird Al. But the crowd loved it.
And then a line of stars came out to pull the Walker Texas Lever — John Hamm, Jonah Hill, the guy who plays the page from 30 Rock and a comedian from Parks & Recreation. This was the funniest part of the show, and that includes the surprise duet Conan sang with Jim Carrey.
In the end, TBS is the perfect place for Conan. He wasn’t a big enough star for NBC, and networks just aren’t patient enough to water slow-growing plants. TBS will be thrilled to draw Conan’s small-but-rabid audience.