In many ways, CONAN O’BRIEN CAN’T STOP is the vague, thematic equivalent of Judd Apatow’s criminally underrated FUNNY PEOPLE. As a behind-the-scenes look at one of the most trying periods in his career, it’s hard not to sympathize with O’Brien’s almost patronizing off-stage antics. Underneath the surface of CoCo’s hilarious demeanor, there is an uncomfortable rage and misery that bubbles its way up over the course of the documentary; the only question is whether or not it’s intended as humor.
While on stage, the comedian is thoroughly in his element. At one point in the film, one of his crew acknowledges the fact that he seems to be having genuine fun during his show – in spite of the numerous shots scattered throughout depicting him alone, isolated and completely floundering. It’s this juxtaposition of moments – his absurd stage persona versus his crass, insulting, off-stage one – that makes the film something more interesting than it would initially appear.
So what does it all mean? Not much. Though CAN’T STOP is an interesting look into a television personality’s identity when the cameras are off – even when they’re not – it doesn’t really go beyond that; in the end, it doesn’t have much to say, and despite scratching the surface of the complexity of comedic personalities, it never digs deep enough to warrant any provocation of thought. Still, it’s worth a watch for CoCo fans – even if they might not look at O’Brien the same way again after watching him wrestle with his demons – and the way it exemplifies the toll that loss of purpose can take on a man is interesting enough to make it watchable.