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Review: Conan O'Brien

Coco's Back at the Masonic

You’ve never seen Conan O’Brien quite like this before. Yes, you’ve seen him prance about on the Late Night Show, you’ve seen him spew self-deprecating humor that regularly comments on his tall, white, gangly body (aka the Albino Rhino), and chances are you’ve seen Conan’s brilliant comedy bits (Triumph the Insult Comedy Dog, the Masturbating Bear). But take Conan off NBC’s Tonight Show set and plunk him down in front of 3,000 people at the Masonic Auditorium and things get more interesting.

Now in the first leg of his cross-country Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television tour, Conan was at the Masonic Auditorium Thursday for a sold-out performance. He returns for another show tonight, seven months after he left the Tonight Show with a cool $32 million check and a very public battle for the position with Jay Leno.

The show is a veritable hodgepodge of stand-up comedy, impromptu musical acts (including one with San Francisco native Chris Isaac), Conan’s wacky costume changes, and reappearances by some of the Late Night Show’s most beloved guests. Overflowing with humor and strategically worded insults for his former bosses, Conan noted over and over again that he was legally prohibited by NBC from using their “intellectual property.”

“How can a masturbating bear be intellectual?,” snarked O’Brien. But Conan “honored” his contractual commitments but having someone run onstage to mask the bear with a panda face, thus dubbing it the “Self-Pleasuring Panda.”

Not to be reigned in any time soon, Conan brought out more familiar faces, including his trusty sidekick Andy Richter, the “Walker Texas Ranger Lever,” Triumph the Insult Dog, and a couple of his own sketches, including one where he plays a malicious TV executive cackling evilly, plotting his downfall, and demanding Cheetos be stuffed in his mouth.

Not only was Coco’s performance a goofy, and at times profanity-driven celebration of himself (not to mention his triumph at having secured a show on TBS), but it was also an unusually sincere effort by Conan to reach out to his audience, sometimes literally.

Conan is anything if not an extraordinarily sincere comedy clown. He can gaff, joke, and dance around wildly all he wants, but there’s an element of earnestness peeking around the corner in between every sketch. Conan is not a man with pretensions or entitlement, just masturbating bears.

Catch "The Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour" at the Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium (Center) on Thursday April 22 and Friday April 23.