Monday, May 3, 2010 | 4:06 p.m.
By Don Chareunsy, Vegas DeLuxe editor
It’s rare for a non-rock star to receive a standing ovation before a performance (and, frankly, many rock stars don’t receive an O after a show), but such was the case last night at The Pearl in the Palms when comedian and talk show host Conan O’Brien took the stage to thunderous applause for his Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour stop.
O’Brien, sporting a black suit, purple dress shirt, his trademark red ’do slightly disheveled and a beard, which divided his avid and loyal following (it’s true -- he polled the audience), unleashed for the next 90 minutes not-so-subtle jabs at NBC, video spoofs (including fan favorite Walker, Texas Ranger clips) and guitar licks that were true to his love of rockabilly.
Just before O’Brien, formerly of NBC’s The Tonight Show and soon-to-be of a TBS talker, appeared, a video “from one month ago” showed a pot-bellied O’Brien passed out amid pizza boxes, then eating KFC and drinking heavily to Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself.” After he receives a call to go on a 32-city national tour, he gets back into fighting shape with the Frank Stallone classic “Far From Over.”
O’Brien’s career is far from over. Upon taking the stage, O’Brien, who said this was his first show in Las Vegas -- and certainly not his last -- relished the ovation, admitting, “I miss applause. How shallow is that!” after a nearly four-month absence from airwaves. O’Brien’s show was impressively Las Vegas-centric, taking shots and/or praising Sin City (“unlike L.A., Las Vegas is a city with real people and real values”) for 99-cent pancakes, all-you-can-drink vodka, big billboards of entertainers nobody’s ever heard of, Larry’s (Topless) Villa and guys in tight T-shirts with bejeweled leopards on one shoulder (thanks, Christian Audigier).
O’Brien described his freakishly long legs as two ivory Slim Jims with a sprinkle of paprika and compared his redheaded looks to the Wendy’s girl, Jimmy Neutron and Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton. He detailed the eight stages of Talk Show Hosts Losing a Talk Show: 1) denial, 2) blame myself, 3) blame everyone else around me, 4) anger, 5) paranoia, 6) 36 hours of Red Bull and Halo, 7) buying everything Amazon says I would like (“I bought a Team Edward thong”) and 8) get your ass to Las Vegas. During the anger stage, he wondered how he didn’t have a show when Kim Kardashian, Snookie, The Animal Planet meerkats, Criss Angel and two cake bakers had theirs.
The night also included longtime and loyal sidekick Andy Richter, who had one of the quotes of the night -- “I feel sorry for the panda who had to give up his head skin” (don’t ask); The Coquettes, two backup singers; Deon Cole, a show writer who side-splittingly sent up racial stereotypes; The Masturbating Bear; Triumph the Wonder Dog, “the only dog in America not boned by Jesse James and Tiger Woods”; and a surprise appearance by boxer and Las Vegas resident Mike Tyson.
Before O’Brien walked onstage at 10 p.m., Seattle performer Reggie Watts warmed up the audience with an electric and eclectic mix of music, comedy, theater and even a little dance. His profanity-laced beat boxing and rap had the audience in stitches, and his digs at pretentious poets, science-fiction fans and Wolfgang Puck’s salty and fatty foods were hilarious.
O’Brien’s seven-member Legally Prohibited Band also warmed up the crowd with a three-horn-strong number that took the players into the audience. Our thanks to contributing photographers Scott Harrison and Denise Truscello for their photos of O’Brien from his sold-out Saturday night performance (which explains the different color shirts for those who should care about such matters).
In his encore, O’Brien, with guitar in hand, ran into the crowd, and the first person he tapped on the shoulder was yours truly in the fourth-row aisle. Consider me part of the Conan cult.
*Apparently this journalist is a celebrity magnet: Flamingo comedy headliner George Wallace was next to me at the box office and in front of me as we passed through security. I’m 6-foot-1, and Mr. Wallace towers over me. What is he, 6-foot-6, maybe?
*O’Brien’s original Saturday-night-only performance sold out so quickly that last night’s performance was added, which might explain the line for the box office and will call stretching far back to the 24-hour cafe 15 minutes before show time. (The show started 15 minutes late.)
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Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.