Instead, O’Brien gave his future bosses — the Atlanta-based TBS executives in the audience — a preview of what they just bought, which simultaneously flipped a giant bird at NBC’s peacock. NBC legally banned O’Brien from doing his show on television, radio or the Internet until September, but it didn’t stop him from basically taking an elongated version of his late night show on the road. O’Brien joked, played music, and brought out a variety of special guests including show staples Andy Richter and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, as well as Georgia natives Evander Holyfield and “30 Rock’s” Jack McBrayer to help with special segments.
While I was mistaken to think O'Brien would be doing straight stand-up, I wasn't disappointed at all by what I ultimately witnessed. First, Reggie Watts opened the show with an impressive, audience-captivating performance, combining live, improvised music with comedic ramblings. He ended his set by seeming serious, as he told the crowd that he wrote a poem he would like to share about what the tour had been like and meant to him. “This poem is written from the point-of-view of someone who wasn’t there, but thinks they know what it was like. Here it goes ... it's in French.”
Then a video clip played, showing a comically overweight O'Brien lying down amid pizza boxes and empty beer bottles, with long hair and a hobo-beard like Tom Hanks from Castaway. The unemployed, unmotivated “Clip Conan” was playing video games, guzzling wine and sleeping on his daughter’s trampoline, before receiving a phone call to go on tour. Ending the video with a Rocky-like montage, O'Brien got back into comedy shape and finally took the stage looking fit, rested and ready to go.
Sporting a new ginger/gray beard, complete with his patented bright-red pompadour hairdo, O’Brien comfortably monologued for roughly 20 minutes, joking about how Atlanta has been so hot that he went outside yesterday and “turned into a sticky puddle of orange.” He briefly touched on the feud with NBC and Jay Leno, but essentially took the high road for most of the night, focusing instead on how it affected his own outlook. He shared that it was hard for him to have a dream job like that for so long, be trained with an extremely specific set of work skills, and then all of a sudden be unemployed. He sarcastically joked that since so many things out of your control can happen to you that instead of working really hard and planning out your life, you should “put blinders on, get some job, marry anybody, and get to the grave as fast as you can.” After joking that he was actually in Atlanta to bring back Freaknik, O'Brien got into the meat and potatoes of his act.
He said that after something as dramatic as being fired and banned from TV, he had to take eight specific steps to recovery:
2. Blame myself
3. Blame everyone else around me
6. 36 hours of Red Bull and Halo
7. Buying everything Amazon says I would also like
8. Get your ass to Atlanta, Georgia
The eight-step program definitely worked as O'Brien put on one hell of a show. I never knew that O'Brien was a gifted guitarist, but he was apparently eager to show that off as he introduced changing segments of the show by taking lead guitar on six different songs, including “On The Road Again,” “Poke Salad,” and “Seven Nation Army.” I will say that while the music sounded fine, it was the only negative of the show for me; one or two songs … fine, but I came to laugh, not to dance, so six was a bit much.
Andy Richter paid tribute to the Clermont Lounge, giving it the tagline: “Next time your friend says ‘I’m feeling more creepy than horny,’ head to the Clermont Lounge.” O'Brien then proceeded to come back out on stage in a ridiculously skin-tight, undersized purple leather suit, just like the one Eddie Murphy wore for the 1987 taping of his classic stand-up special Raw. O'Brien joked about his lack of ass before encouraging the cameras to find all of the “CoCo groupies” in the audience. He then gave the audience a shirtless serenade behind a piano. For being a self-described weird, gangly Irishman, O'Brien is surprisingly ripped.
After changing back into his fashionable black suit and purple button down, O'Brien said that while NBC owns the right’s to the “Late Show’s” popular segment, the “Walker, Texas Ranger Lever,” which plays absurd, unedited clips from the 1993 show starring Chuck Norris, it didn’t own the rights to the “Walker, Texas Ranger ‘Handle’,” so he brought out a handle and called on Evander Holyfield, Andy Richter and Jack McBrayer to come on stage and pull the ‘handle,” thus rolling clips of Norris breaking people’s necks and flinging them into trees, being knocked out by giant yellow boat paddles, and lastly, having a young Haley Joel Osment reveal to Wilford Brimley that Norris told him he had AIDS.
All in all, O'Brien’s Atlanta stop on the Legally Prohibited tour was a success. He brought all of the humor, creativity and genuineness that made him a beloved talk-show host. Though his new show on TBS will film in Los Angeles, O'Brien made it clear with his numerous references to the Atlanta-based network and ATL-inspired jokes throughout the night, that he's not done with this city.
View a photo gallery of last night's show.
(Photos by Joeff Davis)
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