“This is the real Conan O’Brien,” he told the sold-out audience, who roared appreciatively.
O’Brien did look a bit different Friday night at Warner Theatre, where he kicked off his 18-city tour, “Conan & Friends: An Evening of Stand-Up and Investment Tips.” Instead of a suit, a get-up he has worn for the last two decades on his late-night television shows, he sported a more casual look, including a leather jacket he said evoked a “hip biology teacher.”
The two-hour show, which featured sets from comedians Rory Scovel, James Veitch, Marina Franklin and Flula Borg, was a solid dose of highly entertaining weirdness while TBS’s “Conan” is off the air for three months. Earlier this year, the network announced O’Brien would scale back to 30-minute episodes to mix things up and give him the chance to produce more travel shows and remote segments, which often lead to his best material.
Until the show returns in January, O’Brien has some time to kill. And this was a much different tone than O’Brien’s last tour in 2010, “The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour,” when O’Brien was still smarting from the unpleasant end of his “Tonight Show” tenure on NBC.
This time, it was pure joy. Onstage at the Warner, O’Brien said it was also a celebration of his 25 years on television (NBC’s “Late Night” debuted in 1993), a feat only accomplished by “golden gods” such as Jerry Springer or Mario Lopez.
“This is a big deal,” O’Brien said, “Because this is a chance for me to break out of everything I do.”
Indeed, O’Brien used some spicier language than he does on TV as he did 25 minutes of stand-up, eschewing his usual monologue. But the show still had some signature bizarre Conan bits — such as randomly deciding Willem Dafoe was his nemesis — and his typical self-deprecation. This crowd was better than his studio audience in Burbank, Calif., he said, because those are people out on work release; afterward, they are cattle prodded and led to Ellen DeGeneres’s show across the lot, “where they are forced to dance against their will.”
O’Brien devoted the last 15 minutes of the show to an audience Q&A, which led to hilarity and confusion, especially when fans had lame questions such as “What’s your favorite band?”
“That’s your question?” O’Brien asked in disbelief. “I’m open to talking about my sexual preferences, where I have scars, and you want to know my favorite band? I don’t know, the band of bears that plays at Disneyland.”
He also fielded queries about how he constructs his famous hairstyle (just add mayonnaise, bathroom caulking and onion juice) and his famously robotic producer, Jordan Schlansky (“I’ve met copper hinges with more personality”).
True to form, he didn’t get political — though he did air some archival footage of President Trump, whom “Late Night” used to call if they ever needed someone in New York to help out with a comedy bit. One time, Trump insisted on doing some improv and said he had a hilarious idea that involved pouring water all over a desk. (Spoiler alert: It was not funny.)
One audience member asked about O’Brien’s longtime sidekick, Andy Richter, and what he might be doing at the moment. O’Brien said he had no idea, but it probably involved a Barcalounger and beer.
“Andy has the best life,” O’Brien said. “I want to die and come back as Andy Richter.”