Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop and Neither Can You

Posted: March 12, 2013 by jperritt in Documentary
Tags: , , , , ,

conanI’ve been able to visit New York City a couple of times. I planned to go see Conan O’Brien on those occasions, but I was thwarted. I did, however, get a nice Conan O’Brien magnet that is still on my refrigerator today. Although I find O’Brien pretty funny, there is much of his humor I cannot recommend and you must exercise caution if you plan to watch the documentary.

Anyone who follows him knows that he was formerly a late-night talk show host on NBC. After years of being on the network he was moved to replace Jay Leno, however, Leno wanted his job back after retiring. NBC rehired Leno and O’Brien refused to go back to his original time slot, so the network bought out his contract. Needless to say, O’Brien doesn’t have a good relationship with NBC or Leno. And this is where the documentary Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop picks up.

The documentary chronicles O’Brien on a comedy tour of 45 shows in the US and Canada. We are quickly shown the loyalty of O’Brien’s fan-base as many of his venues sell out in less than an hour of announcing the tour. Throughout the documentary we hear many fans voicing their displeasure of Leno/NBC and the way they treated Conan. We also see these fans picketing in front of Rockefeller Center shortly after Conan is let go. These fans are part of the driving force for Conan to go on tour. The other part? His ego.

As I said, I really like Conan so I don’t want this to come across as harsh, but he is very sure of himself. He blatantly exclaims this throughout the film; sometimes explicitly sometimes implicitly. Although documentaries are edited just as much as studio films, you still get a seemingly gritty/true-to-life view of O’Brien.

I guess the thing that struck me the most about the film was O’Brien’s identity struggle. He has been in front of a crowd/camera for so much of his life that he didn’t know what to do when it was taken away from him. While I completely agree that he was done wrong (I am on “Team Coco”), his identity longed for approval from a crowd.

What was interesting was that the crowd worshiped him, but, in a sense, he worshiped the crowd. The crowd gave him meaning and purpose. However, we quickly see how this identity failed him. Just as much as Conan professes that he needs the crowd, he likewise professes that he hates the crowd. After every show he performs he is, understandably, exhausted. But when fans continue to find him after the show, he often mocks them behind the scene; complaining of how they won’t leave him alone.

What Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop illustrates for us is when our identity rests in anything other than Christ, we can’t stop serving that identity. Conan was always performing to appease the crowd. He fed off the performance onstage, but loathed the performance backstage. The very thing he longed for, he ended up hating.

Towards the end of the film, when the tour is over, he exhaustingly states that he is ready to drive his kids to school. Basically, he is ready to stop, rest, and just be a dad to his children. However, the film ends telling us that he took 3 weeks off and started his talk show on TBS – Conan O’Brien truly can’t stop.

When your identity rests in Jesus Christ, you can stop. You can stop working for approval. You can stop trying to earn favor. You can stop worrying about what others think of you. If you have faith in Christ, you are accepted, secure, and loved.

Conan O’Brien isn’t unique in this struggle, he’s just like you. Everyone reading this post places their identity in many other things: their job, their money, their looks, their reputation, their talents, their [fill-in-the-blank], and you can attest to the fact that when you do that, you can’t stop performing. My advice? Just stop, and look at Christ.


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