Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cuckoo For Coco: A Fan Account...

I am pretty much the only person in Los Angeles who didn't even try to get tickets to Conan O'Brien's "Legally Prohibited (from Being Funny on Television)" tour stop at the Gibson Amphitheatre this past weekend. It's not that I don't find him funny; I just didn't have extra cash lying around after buying new patio furniture and anticipating the amount I would be spending on both National Doodle Day 2010 as well as the merchandise at Glee: Live in Concert next month. But one of my good friends went to the show-- on BOTH nights-- so I asked her to write a guest blog of her experience for me. Fair warning: she is a self-proclaimed "Coconut" (is that a real thing??) who got so excited about the show that she scoured Target the day before, looking for a bright orange wifebeater, and then bedazzling her Blackberry cover with orange rhinestones to spell out "I'm With Coco." Here is what she had to say:

"On Saturday and Sunday night, my friend and I decked ourselves in orange from nearly head-to-toe and headed to the Gibson Amphitheatre to see what this night of "music, comedy, hugging and the occasional awkward silence" had in store for us. We were not disappointed...

Conan O'Brien ran out on stage and immediately reminded us of why he is so loved, and what has been missing on television these past few months. His presence is commanding and his nature humble. He took in the standing ovation and began his monologue with an energy that matched the crowd's. Conan quickly tackled the elephant in the room, welcoming everyone to an "extremely awkward situation," as the venue sits on the same Universal Studios property where his Tonight Show filmed. What's interesting about seeing the show two nights in a row, is the opportunity to witness how brilliant Conan is when it comes to improv and crowd interaction. While clearly the show is scripted, he very easily adapts to different amusing circumstances that present themselves. On Saturday night as he prepared to launch into a musical number at the piano, the microphone wouldn't stay up. A stage hand rushed to adjust it, but Conan stopped him and said, "No, wait. It's funnier this way." On Sunday night a man in the first row was frantically taking photos and Conan's quick wit had everyone, including the man, in stitches.

Conan transitions flawlessly from the monologue into the first musical number, an hilarious recreation of an Elvis song about growing up poor in the south, reworked to ruefully fit O'Brien's upper middle class upbringing in the affluent Boston suburb of Brookline. After the first song, Andy Richter joined Conan on stage and I was transported back to my parents' living room, circa the mid-1990s. Another aspect of Conan as a performer that I truly appreciate is his ability to share the stage – Andy wasn't there to play "second banana." Both nights they riffed off each other, laughed with and at each other, and basked in that back-and-forth chemistry that drew so many of us in all those years ago. One of my favourite bits was "Groupie Cam," during which Andy scans the crowd looking for groupies for Conan. All of the women, and many men, stand up and wave, hoping to have their image projected onto the big screen. For his part, O'Brien grants us with his trademark purrs, meows, and other awkward responses to women. With each show the tour finds a popular local establishment and Andy creates a commercial spoof – LA's was Big Mama's & Papa's Pizza. He even took the stage solo at one point for a segment of the show called "What I Learned," during which he pokes fun at himself and show business.

The show progresses rather seamlessly between pre-recorded video bits, sketches, insane musical performances, celebrity guests and even a stand-up routine from popular
Tonight Show writer Deon Cole. I've seen Cole perform live a few times since January, and he never fails to bring the house down. One of the highlights, aside from the music, is a bit brought back from the old Late Night show. Longtime fans will recall with much enthusiasm the Walker, Texas Ranger Lever segment once featured frequently, which has been reenvisioned for the tour as the "Chuck Norris Rural Policeman Handle." It was at this point during both LA shows that numerous well-known faces came out to assist in pulling the handle to showcase ridiculous clips from the '90s series. On Saturday night Jack McBrayer, Aziz Ansari, Jonah Hill and Jon Hamm took the stage to assist in the bit, while on Sunday Sarah Silverman replaced Hamm. Perhaps one of the most notable and talked about guest appearances was during Conan's "power ballad," as he launched into Five for Fighting's "Superman." The first night Jim Carrey appeared from the backstage door, clad in a Superman costume and the pair shared a hilarious duet. The second night saw Conan don the Superman costume as Carrey appeared as Kick Ass, and both kicked the song up a notch with improvised antics.

As the show came to a close with a fantastic musical number, the crowd jumped up and cheered and chanted until the LPB returned to the stage, smiling and waving. The encore was a rockabilly number, a song that Conan said had no relevance or meaning to anything, he just happened to really like it. As he sang "40 Days," O'Brien leaped off the stage and ran through the crowd, high fiving as many fans as possible. He then stopped in the audience to jam for a moment, before finishing his run through the crowd and returning to the stage. Each night, all of the celebrity guests, as well as the Masturbating Bear, came out to dance with Conan's backup dancers, the Coquettes. Giant yellow balls with a cartoon drawing of O'Brien were tossed into the audience, and the entirety of the Gibson sang, danced, clapped and stomped through the number, cheering loudly as the show came to its final close.

I'm actually still trying to wrap my brain around how unfathomably incredible the show was, and perhaps cannot coherently recount my experience. I will say that, while I always knew Conan had musical talent, he really is a force of nature on the guitar. As a performer, he has a presence and energy that pulls one in. He seemed genuinely excited to see the fans, humbled by the enthusiasm, and even made it a point to speak about how wonderful the people of Universal were to he and his staff during their short stay on the lot. Both evenings were 100% about Conan and Co. having a great deal of fun with the fans – flash photography and video recording were even encouraged. [In fact, the tour's official website,
Team Coco.com, scours YouTube for videos to post to the blog for other fans to see.]...

I strongly encourage anyone who enjoys fantastic live music and truly some of the best comedy in existence, to do whatever it takes to see this show. You will not be disappointed. Even if you are not a "Coconut," it's still an impressive spectacle of talent and an incredibly fun way to spend a few hours."

[Photo Credit: Caileigh Scott, 2010]

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