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Concert Reviews:
Conan O'Brien Brings The Laughs, Live, To East Lansing
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK



EAST LANSING -- Conan O'Brien would probably rather be on television right now. But his loss is the gain of fans getting to see him in the flesh, including a student-heavy crowd that turned out at Michigan State University's Breslin Center on Friday night (May 21) in East Lansing.

And the lanky comic is clearly having the time of his life on The Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On Television Tour, a 41-show trek that started April 12 and wraps June 14 as O'Brien plots his next TV foray for TBS this fall. On Friday he was energized and ebullient, delivering a beefed-up, one hour and 50 minute revue that included guest appearances by Kid Rock -- who stylized his profane blues number "If I Was the President," to mention O'Brien -- and Sarah Killen, the Michigan woman who O'Brien has designated as the only person he's following on Twitter.

O'Brien brought the whole gang with him, too -- sidekick Andy Richter, staff writer Deon Cole and the TV show's house band, now dubbed the Legally Prohibited Band and featuring all the principals save for drummer Max Weinberg, who's rumored to have parted ways with O'Brien after "The Tonight Show" debacle. It was the band, in fact, that got things off to a rocking start, with the three horn players walking through the Breslin crowd to whip up the enthusiasm -- which was actually already well-stoked by opening act Reggie Watts (who claimed he'd attended MSU even though is biography says otherwise).

The recently bearded O'Brien was quick to win the crowd over, too, striding on stage wearing a green MSU T-shirt under his sports coat -- which he said he wore every night on TV but that NBC edited it out. He also told the crowd he'd turned down an invitation to take the show to U-M; "Any school that needs a football stadium that big...(is) over-compensating for something," he noted. And he applauded MSU as "an amazing party school...you guys are so drunk right now you don't even realize school ended two weeks ago!"

During a mock commercial break, meanwhile, Richter made a few pejorative (but, Spartan faithful will tell you, accurate) references to the famous local dive bar The Riv.

O'Brien trotted out a few ridiculous props, including a giant, inflatable bat he said came from one of Meat Loaf's concert tours and the purple paisley leather suit Eddie Murhpy sported for the 1987 film "Eddie Murphy Raw." A video segment early in the show depicted a fat, sullen, disheveled O'Brien at home, dealing with his fate after being booted from "The Tonight Show" while Eric Carmen's "All By Myself" played in the background. Triumph the Insult Comic Dog appeared via video, too, taking jabs at Tiger Woods and Jesse James and dubbing in some local references to, well, comic effect. Poking fun at the legal settlement that gives NBC intellectual property rights to some of the bits O'Brien used, the Masturbating Bear made a costume change to become the Self-Pleasuring Panda, while the Walker, Texas Ranger Lever morphed into the Chuck Norris Reel Production Handle.

And O'Brien used the live opportunity to strap on his guitar and play music, including "Polk Salad Annie," "On the Road Again" and a bit of the Doors' "The End," all with altered and personalized lyrics. He finished with the disco classic "I Will Survive," running through Breslin to slap hands, give hugs and dance with his fans.

Early on O'Brien promised it would be "the best night of your lives," and it was certainly a fine fix until he gets himself back on the late-night TV scene.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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