The infamously ugly public split between Conan O'Brien and NBC in January 2010 was the sort of separation that could break a man, his $32 million settlement notwithstanding. After all, "The Tonight Show" was O'Brien's dream job.
Most people would not consent to being filmed at the lowest point in their professional lives, but O'Brien (now hosting a new talk show, "Conan," on TBS from Monday to Thursday at 11 p.m.) didn't become one of the most unlikely TV icons in history by being anything like most people.
So he gave old friend Rodman Flender the go-ahead to chronicle last spring's "Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television" live tour. The resulting documentary, "Conan O'Brien Can't Stop," hitting theaters on Friday, is an eye-opening look at the comic at a crossroads.
Here are some of the things you'll learn about your beloved Coco:
A comedic whirlwind
O'Brien fills his television shtick with silly verbal digressions and other endearingly self-deprecating quirks. That's not an act: Off-screen, Conan is every bit as much the wound-up jokester, interacting with his writers, producers and anyone else in his path with boundless energy.
The tour freaked him out
One of the most revealing images in Flender's film is that of Conan sitting quietly and alone, intently staring at the ground just before his first onstage appearance. You wouldn't know it based on his tongue-in-cheek tweets, sedate first television interviews and enthusiastic live appearances from the period, but the tour was a huge gamble for O'Brien and he was not at all sure he could pull it off.
O'Brien dubbed his negative, biting side "Mean Conan" in an interview with The New York Times. It's on display throughout the documentary. Whether he's depicted sarcastically deriding his team or snapping at his wife Lisa, the movie makes it clear that even O'Brien has his darker moments.
Conan on NYC
O'Brien lived in New York for the entire 16-year run of "Late Night" and during his time as a writer for "Saturday Night Live." New Yorkers mourned his decampment to L.A. in 2009. But he tells Flender that while he loves NYC, it never felt like home. Neither L.A. nor Boston, his actual hometown, does either, he adds.