Conan O'Brien is employed so the rest of us don't have to be

Conan's got a job -- why don't you?
Photo by Caitlin Donohue

Yuppies love jokes about homeless people.

Consider that a telling, if ancillary, lesson I learned at last night’s Conan O’Brien “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television” tour, which continues tonight, Fri/23.

In the wake of O’Brien’s sacking from his late night gig at NBC earlier this year, the show marked a return to relevancy for the comedian. His comeback seemed to resonate with the younger, upper middle crowd at the Nob Hill Masonic Center, many of whom are no doubt fighting to maintain their own $79.50 comedy show lifestyle in the face of economic shittiness and uncertain employment.

Before we could see the man himself, we the audience were treated to a video showing an obese, bearded Conan from “a month ago” lolling about in sweatpants and pizza boxes as he waited for the phone to ring that would grant him a chance to spread his snark to the masses once more. No job = letting the dog lick peanut butter off your toes and sweatsuits. I looked around, and the buttoned down, well coiffed crowd around me was chuckling uncomfortably to themselves. Unemployed -- and that beard! What a loser Conan was!

But the call comes, and we watch the birth of the 72 city “Legally Prohibited” tour. Barred from TV, radio, and the Internet until the fall (when his new TBS series begins, surely a come down for a man used to the bright lights of network television) by the terms of his contract with NBC, live performances are one of the only options open right now to O'Brien, whose career’s been light on the stand up without the sound stage up to this point.

+ beard + certain degree of world weary grizzle = Conan from last night's show

His lack of live experience didn’t matter to the folks last night, though. They whooped it up as the man made his entrance onstage, re-energized in a sharp suit, his band behind him once more. The gut was gone, but the beard stayed, a rugged look that seemed to scream 'this man has been through some shit!'

“We played San Francisco in 2007 in the Tenderloin, at the Orpheum,” O’Brien explains to us. “I had to get to the theater by canoeing through hobo urine!”

Haaaa! “That’s the show it’s going to be,” he tells us, as the crowd cheers his cheekiness. He tells us he can see “some guy in a top hat in the balcony” telling his wife, Mildred “it’s time to go.” Frumpy old people aside “your asses are mine tonight! You can’t change the channel,” he tells us. But no one’s leaving. The bland jokes, humorous musical numbers, and even an appearance from Chris Isaak (omg! He’s like, so cute!) keep the endorphins up and the bright, shiny crowd enthralled.

In crazy times, your late night show will always be there for you. Even if that interview didn’t go so hot, or you’re forced to give up the private parking space, you know your favorite TV host awaits to round out the day with some reassuringly belittling comments on pretty much every single person in popular culture. All the better if he’s cracking wise about the unemployment office and the steps of grieving that happen when you lose your job.

These days, that’s what we call relevant humor. Go get ‘em, Coco.

Conan O’Brien’s “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television” tour

Fri/23  8 p.m., $39.50-79.50

Nob Hill Masonic Center

1111 California, SF

(415) 630-8496