Like a starving feral cat on a fat juicy mouse, I pounced on my opportunity to get tickets to see TELEVISION’S VERY OWN pasty Irish beanpole, Conan O’Brien, as he made his way into Seattle on his “Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television” tour. If you are perusing this review, I know that you not only can read English at a high school level but also are likely to be aware of O’Brien’s recent trouble in TV land, hence the tour name. You see, once upon a time a few months ago, Conan O’Brien became the host of NBC’s very own “Tonight Show,” which is possibly one of the most influential programs in broadcast history. Do not look at me askance for my assertion, nor tell me that I have suddenly slipped into college-level alliterative prose. Even in its dotage, “The Tonight Show” is often the last place American eyes rest for the night, other than on a snoring corpulent blanket-hogging spouse or the flashing neon sign that reads, “ALL-NITE LIQUOR,” sadly blinking you into sleep. The “Tonight Show” monologue, a mix of jokes and topical observations and jokey topical observations, often has quite a lot to do with the national pulse – politics, scandals, whatever is going on in the world that you can poke at and make a little lighter for that moment. Millions of people watch the host, and the host becomes a friend of sorts, trusted to bring some truisms via comedy, which is always the sneakiest and best way. It’s kind of a big deal, that job, because what you do and say becomes something of the barometer of the common American, and is noted by all, including kings and lords and gods and presidents and members of Congress and all kinds of powerful folk. Yes, even Triumph the Insult Comic dog has some kind of clout – you better believe it.

So, when NBC decided to return the “Tonight Show” to host Jay Leno (after not giving it to David Letterman all those years ago when Johnny Carson retired and against Ol’ Johnny’s wishes, those bastids), and move Conan back a time slot and way back in prestige, you might see why O’Brien was more than a little upset – he was devastated. He had moved his entire “Late Night” crew and their families to Los Angeles for the “Tonight Show,” then after a few short months, poof! It was taken away, and a poor substitute offered. You work for years, get the KING LORD GOD slot of big television comedy/talk shows, and aren’t even given a reasonable chance to build your new audience and your spin on the franchise.

Welcome to showbiz.

A showdown then occurred, no doubt via very aggressive, unpleasant, expensive, and brutally competent lawyers, and similarly-featured managers, publicists, executives, accountants, and their minions. The result? Conan gets 30+ million bucks to take a hike, probably losing a good chunk of 17 years of what NBC termed their “intellectual property” from both his stint on the “Tonight Show” and “Late Night,” and the caveat that he not show up on TV, anywhere, until the end of this year. Leno gets his “Tonight Show” back, and public sympathy lies strongly with O’Brien. “Team Coco,” as his loyal fans are now known, rallied to his defense, certainly buoying O’Brien’s spirits and confidence that his career would survive the bump.

Which brings us up to today. O’Brien announced last week that he will be hosting a new show on TBS. And in the riding-high rally spirit of Team Coco, we have this new comedy tour featuring Conan, his TV show band, sidekicks La Bamba and Andy Richter, and a few of those contested IP features. I was rather surprised when I heard about it. Damn, I thought, that dude should chill out in Fiji with his family or learn how to play canasta or spend his time writing and figuring out this new show, why a stage tour now? I wasn’t unhappy about it, obviously, just curious. I didn’t know how he would have the time to get a live traveling show together in such a short time. But hey – the guy has been getting together a show every night for many, many years…he’ll work it out, I knew. Maybe it was to keep the momentum of Team Coco going, keep to interest high, keep in the press. Maybe it’s fun to do something visible when you’ve got a gag order on you elsewhere. Maybe Conan cannot tolerate “downtime.” Maybe he thought people missed seeing him, and maybe he missed connecting with and playing off of an audience. Probably all of that.

Conan is such a likable guy, goofy yet lightening-fast, smart without being snotty, willing to do what it takes to MAKE THE BIT HAPPEN. Like David Letterman, Conan’s closest counterpart, you get the feeling that they live for the monologue and comedy bits on the show. The guest interviews are generally a necessary evil. I always felt this bursting razory energy from O’Brien when I watched his show – like he was containing himself and would be far more edgy if he could be. This was my expectation for the stage show: CONAN ON FIRE!

I had great seats – about 9th row back on the right side. McCaw Hall is really a nice place, all fancy ‘n stuff. (They also have a lovely restaurant with elegant yummy food that served me with amazing lightening speed. Honestly, I gave my order to the very nice waitress, and it was on the table in about the time it would take for her to walk to the kitchen and walk back. It made McDonald’s look sluggish.) The Hall was filled with happy giddy Conan fans, many getting their pictures taken by the front the of stage backdrop, and a few wearing orange party hats in honor of Conan’s 47th birthday that day.

The show began with comedian/musician/beatboxer Reggie Watts. I didn’t realize there was going to be an opener, so in my mind I was all Homer Simpson saying, “Oh…alley ball!” in mild disappointment. But OH MY MY, what a wonderful surprise Mr. Watts was! It would be hard to explain what he does, because it is such a seamless integration of humor and hiphop and surrealist raps that flow into concise commentary, done in such a unique way. He is not only funny, but a ridiculously good singer and someone who has an incredible feel for timing and musicality. I love that he is mixing up all these things and doing it his way. He absolutely won over the Coco-nuts, and he gets my highest recommendation. Wish I would have recorded some of what he did, but this gives you some idea. Go see this guy!

After Reggie and a short intermission, Conan’s old “Tonight Show” band compadres roared onto the stage and then out into the audience for a big high-energy start to the main show. And then there he was – Conan himself – as tall, thin, pale, geeky, and totally swell as you might imagine him to be, and the crowd went wild. He seemed very comfortable onstage with only 4 of these shows under his belt, and noted that his wife and some of her Seattle-based family were in the audience. There were lots of bits incorporating local humor – always a smart thing to do to win over a crowd – but it did seem that Conan had a real fondness for our town, which he said he visits often.

There was quite a lot of talk from O’Brien about “the situation” with NBC, most of it leading to bits. The filmed ones were quite good of Conan as a mental Ernst Blofeld-style TV executive and as a bloated hairy sloth of an unemployed talk show host. I got the impression that O’Brien was still processing what had happened to him, and that behind all the funny of it, there was still some…something. But that did not interfere in the least with anyone’s enjoyment of the show, as costumes were changed, songs were played, and Conan joked and giggled and mugged for his peeps. He seemed genuinely happy to be performing again.

Fie on intellectual property disputes! Watch the infamous Masturbating Bear magically change into...The Self-Pleasuring Panda!

Conan likes to play guitar, and did so quite often during the show. Here's his take on the '60s hit "Polk Salad Annie," including some fine dancing at the end. My poor little camera couldn't get a good read on that white face of his. BWAHAHA!

This giant inflatable bat looks like it was designed by a kindergarten boy in 1967, which of course makes it awesome. If it used to be Meat Loaf's bat, PILE ON THE SWEET SAUCE!

Andy Richter really is a funny guy and a perfect companion to O'Brien, and show writer Deon Cole came out and told some mostly-racial-humor jokes, which he delivered pretty well, considering they were fresh off of notecards.

Famous Seattle rock dude Dave Matthews was a special guest, and sang "Bartender" for the assembled. He also joined in on the Chuck Norris/Walker Texas Ranger clips, because he could.

So...was Conan ON FIRE? Not exactly. The stage show was mostly, well, very like his TV shows with some Conan music and a few non-network-friendly words. The crowd ate it all up, and it certainly was lots of fun, but it wasn't quite the show I thought it could have been. It's hard to say if O'Brien will ever have this kind of opportunity or completely focused crowd-love again, which is why I don't understand him not coming into the tour wanting to WOW people or try out all the bits he wishes he could've but couldn't get past the censors over the years or say everything about "the situation" that he would like to, and I think he should've. I don't know that any of the musical bits were all that entertaining, and the "Conrad Bain" song should be axed ASAP. The whole "Different Strokes" meme is just too old now to flog.

Conan's original Twitter post which alerted a semi-awake me to get my great seats said this: "Hey Internet: I'm headed to your town on a half-assed comedy & music tour. Go to for tix. I repeat: It's half-assed." No no no, Team Coco, don't hiss at me; I'm not going to agree with him. The show was a good three-quarter-assed, and very enjoyable. Here's to Conan gaining a quarter-ass over the rest of the tour. I love the guy, and wish him all the best best best. Yes I do.

The show ended with a version of Ronnie Hawkins rockabilly classic "40 Days" and as Conan plows his way through the crowd, you see many very happy faces. And that's what it's all about, Charlie Brown.