There’s definitely something to be said for “Team Coco” fans — a rare breed of supporters who demonstrate a new form of loyalty, one that could only be mustered when the man of the hour is down and out.
And really, who better to root for than the awkward and pale goofball that thinks up bits involving a vomiting Kermit or a man that loves Preparation H. When Conan O’Brien was abruptly taken off television, the injustice was so apparent that even those who didn’t get Conan’s sometimes wacky ways were immediately siding for his team.
This loyalty and in some cases, unwavering love, for the red-haired comic was no more apparent than it was Tuesday evening, in a sold-out show at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis.
Fans traveled for hundreds of miles and countless hours to get a glimpse of their hero, only knowing the promise of “music, comedy, hugging and the occasional awkward silence” was on the agenda. Conan summed it up well, “You know what that says to me? Pressure.”
In all fairness, for Conan fans, the man could do no wrong. He could’ve read “War and Peace” cover-to-cover in his best Ben Stein voice and we would’ve clapped in utter delight and begged for more.
Thankfully, however, Conan knows how to please his fans. The show opened with one of the most appropriate and hilarious video montages I’ve seen. A close-up of a fat, long-bearded Conan, lying on the floor, surrounded by old pizza and empty beer bottles, gave way to the former Late Night star’s reality, just two months ago.
A life of checking an always empty mailbox, answering the phone — only to get a wrong number call looking for a “Debbie” — and all-too-frequent naps that occasionally ended with the soiling of sweatpants was summed up as Conan’s life after Late Night. Then, of course, the call that changed everything — an offer for a 32-city tour and a chance to turn his life around. The sweatpants were stripped, the fat suit tossed aside and the beard, cut off with kitchen scissors. It was hysterical and oh-so-Conan.
And appropriately so, it laid the foundation of the show — the fact that both hilariously and legally, Conan is prohibited from being funny on television. With the help of his friends — the good ol Late Night band, transformed to the “Legally Prohibited” band, plus Andy Richter, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, previous Late Show writers and a little musical inspiration from Brian Setzer — Conan delivered a perfect show, giving fans exactly what they wanted — Conan at his best.
It was almost like a Variety Show of sorts, that included comedy, musical numbers, flashy costumes and back-up singers. All that he needed was a skit with Donny and Marie.
And though it would’ve been easy to create a cookie-cutter performance for the 30-some shows he’s performing, Conan made a point of making each show as local as possible. Starting with a mini battle between St. Paul and Minneapolis — Conan joked about how boos would emerge when he said one city or the other.
“You live a couple miles away from each other,” he said. “You go to the same mall, get over it.”
He also joked about our weather — “I’m in Minneapolis on the only nice day of the year. Yesterday it was 40 below and tomorrow it’ll be 102.” He perfectly nailed our “Minnesota nice” saying we may be friendly but we’re also passive-aggressive. Then, immediately worried that our laughter and clapping was only sarcastic.
There was an Andy Richter commercial for our well-known Jucy Lucy’s, a Triumph voice-over poking fun at everything from Prince (our state flower) to Jesse Ventura (our state animal). And even mentioned our very own Amelia Santaniello, saying a good day for us would be snagging the WCCO anchor’s autograph. (Hey, that is a good day!)
And as promised, Conan wowed the crowd with his lesser known musical talents. A treat for Minneapolis only was the special guest Brian Setzer, during which a bring-down-the-house performance of “Rock This Town” ended up being an all-time dream for Conan.
“I can seriously die now,” Conan said post-performance.
But of course, what Conan show would be complete without a few friends from the past? You knew it had to happen, and even Conan seemed a bit “wish we didn’t have to, but we totally do,” when a certain bear walked on stage.
Conan couldn’t help but laugh when he explained that legally, the, er, “I love myself bear” could technically be the “intellectual property” of NBC. So a quick edit and a few on-stage costume changes and voila! — a new character, the self-pleasuring panda. And away he went.
By far one of my all-time favorite bits on the old Late Night show was a certain lever that prompted old scenes from “Walker, Texas Ranger.” The most hilarious part of it was that it was a staple on Conan’s old set, and would often be pulled “on accident.” I couldn’t have been happier when the old lever appeared on stage. Though — again for legal reasons — it was promptly changed to “the handle that plays clips of a show Chuck Norris was on.”
I laughed until I cried, I cried until I laughed and I’ll admit, I may have peed my pants just a little.
I could probably go on and on talking about how great the show was and how awesome it was to see Conan in the pale, freckly flesh. But thankfully, it won’t be much longer until we can all see Conan — doing what he does best and this time, back on television. While a part of me is thrilled he’ll be back on TV — thanks to TBS — another side is sad that such an honest, intelligent and all-around enjoyable show will cease to exist.
And for that, I really must thank NBC. You gave us a chance to laugh with our hero, strengthen our fan base and come November, prove even further that you made a giant mistake.
Sara Boyd is a web producer and columnist at WCCO.COM.