Conan O’Brien at the Midland Theater

I hadn’t even planned on attending last night’s Conan O’Brien’s Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television tour. However there I was at The Midland on a Sunday Night, in the eighth row. As a general tip, always go to the venue box office day of show, you never know what may open up.

Box Office lessons aside… I’ll come right out and admit that I never was “Team Coco” when the whole NBC/Leno/O’Brien/Tonight Show catastrophe unfolded. Though I did side with him I wasn’t as passionate about it as the sold out standing room only crowd was. Thus my reason for attending was that the very idea of a traveling variety show intrigued me and the fact that I do enjoy O’Brien’s general brand of comedy, and because well, lots of people wanted to be at the show so why not?

There was a pretty varied crowd anxiously awaiting getting to their closely squished together seats prior to show time at 8. I arrived at the theater a little after the doors opened at 7. Lines to the merch booth were almost 40 people deep. The varied, affluent looking, and traveling crowd (I encountered a couple from Omaha at the box office) seemed to fall into the prime advertisers demo. Looking around watching people purchasing things left and right made me question what the hell NBC was thinking by treating the guy like they did, and in such a public fashion. Of course there have been countless tellings of it all by those that are far more informed than I so I will leave the whole ‘bash NBC’ at that and get into the meat of the show.

Reggie Watts had the unenviable task of opening the show. He had a pretty rapid fire delivery and has some pretty amazing talent in what he does with his voice. He had some nice music-based jokes that relied on dropping science, sex and heavy drugs, a mescaline reference? Yeah he went there…EPIC. The crowd seemed a little mixed toward him, some not really coming around just eager to get to “Coco”. I found his fact based, matter of fact humor fun and will probably seek out some of his material.

O’Brien’s band would come out first. The horn section featured long time band members including Kansas City Native, Mark Pender, La Bamba, and Jerry Vivino. They would make their way out into the crowd with La Bamba taking some vocal duties on the opening number. Pender would then take over and “hold the note” on his trumpet for quite a long while. After the fun opening it was time for the man of the hour to grace the stage.

When O’Brien appeared after a video showing where he was two months ago, he looked relaxed, bearded, and a bit looser than his recent on-air appearance with the top two buttons of his dress shirt undone. He would precede with a show that at times felt a bit “talking cure” and a bit of a thank you to the Team CoCo faithful.

Spending most of the opening discussing a bit of the fallout and the various stages of grieving he has gone through, it was nice to see that the show mixed quite a few shots at Kansas City into the mix. The Shuttle Cocks were riffed on to pretty hilarious effect. Andy Richter was at the show as well and may have delivered what in my estimation may have been just about the funniest moment of the evening. In his “commercial” for the Shady Lady. I didn’t get detailed notes on what all was said, though it wasn’t to kind to the establishment but filled with some great double entendres about flappers and fish sandwiches.

Some of O’Briens show favorites would make an appearance. Triumph the insult comic dog made a video appearance that had a nice, funny dubbing in for the city and various other jokes made at KC’s expense. A couple of others, the Masturbating Bear, and the Walker Texas Ranger lever. The latter two having undergone name changes due to those pesky lingering intellectual property rights that many wondered about in relation to the fall out from NBC. Thus we now have the self pleasuring panda and the Chuck Norris switch. KC Native Jason Sudeikis would make a guest appearance to pull the Norris switch at one point.

The show was a nice mix of jokes and song numbers with O’Brien taking up a guitar with the “Cocettes” as backing singers and dancers. The two hour show seemed to leave the CoCo faithful satisfied and was a nice throw back to the by-gone time of such a traveling show. I haven’t converted to Team CoCo, but I am fully behind what they are doing and I am really looking forward to what he does on TBS.

I give the Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour 4.5 “inflatable flying bats out of hell” out of 5

By John Coovert

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