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January 28, 2015

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Conan untucked

O’Brien goes electric onstage - and gets months of unexpressed rage, comedy out of his system


Justin M. Bowen

Conan O’Brien performs at the Pearl Theater inside the Palms Saturday during his Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On Television Tour.

Conan O'Brien @ The Pearl

Conan O'Brien performs during his Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour stop at The Pearl in the Palms on Saturday, May 1, 2010.
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While Jay Leno was bombing at the White House Correspondents Dinner in D.C., and Shane Mosley going down to Floyd Mayweather at the MGM Grand, Conan O'Brien emerged undefeated in his two-night gig at the Pearl at the Palms.

Conan's first-ever Vegas gig, part of his 30-city coast-to-coast Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour, expressed the Passion of the Conan, serving as an infomercial for his forthcoming TBS late-night show and as a venue to exorcise both his very real, very public crisis, and his extroversion.

He was greeted by a capacity crowd that was both enthusiastic and astonishingly sedate — as if it had gathered at the Pearl to, well, watch TV together. More exciting for the fans than the opportunity to see their cerebral hero in 3D was the chance that Conan would see and hear them, as they (politely) fist-pumped and WOO-ed. Here was the overwhelming whiteness of being Team Coco: More minorities were represented by the guest comics, onstage seven-man band and two backing singers than in the $75-150 seats.

The show opened with a video close-up of nightmarishly overgrown ginger nose hair, and tracked the unemployed Conan's grotesque dissolution and redemption. Conan then walked us through his personal Eight Stages of Grief, which included Anger that Kim Kardashian, Snooki and those meerkats have TV shows while he doesn't.

Fan favorites were greeted with joy. But as they remain technically off-limits as the "intellectual property" of NBC — including The Masturbating Bear — an absurdity which Conan milked for all it was worth, they were presented with semantic tweaks. The Self-Pleasuring Panda made a rousing appearance, and there was, of course — "someone from the past I think you'll be happy to see" — a drop-in by Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, who delivered a video greeting, with local references inserted with amusing inelegance. Andy Richter remained his amiable free-agent self.

Conan gave a generous chunk of stage time to comics Reggie Watts and Deon Cole (a writer for the Tonight Show), both of whom turned in sets of quirky meta-comedy.

Strapping on a robin's-egg blue electric guitar, Conan tore into "Polk Salad Annie" — a staple of Elvis Presley's act at the Las Vegas Hilton — hilariously adapted to describe his upper-middle-class suburban family. Puzzling over how to exit the number, he did a full Elvis, with strobe-lit gyrations. Like everything in the tightly scripted and directed show, the songs referred to the resurrection of Conan — we got "On the Road Again" ("I just can't wait to have my own show again") and a show-closing cover of "I Will Survive."

"We want you to leave here saying 'That was kinda worth it' — that's what we're aspiring to," Conan said. Mission accomplished: He made a fanboy out of me — I'd watch this every night, any time, on any station.

— Originally published on

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