Halfway through his trip across America, Conan O'Brien would be forgiven for showing signs of weariness, delivering a slick, packaged stage show that simply can't have the spontaneity and unpredictable nature of a live nightly talk show. But the Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour's Tuesday night stop in the Twin Cities proved that great entertainers will always find a way to avoid repeating themselves.
Yes, the short-term "Tonight Show" host recycled month-old jokes about his exit from NBC, most notably a reworked version of "I Will Survive" and a recap of the eight stages of mourning. No one who has followed "Team Coco" online was surprised when O'Brien poked fun at "Texas, Walker Ranger" or introduced a certain self-pleasuring bear. But, as at every stop, O'Brien and his team of writers went out of their way to customize their show, an extra effort that didn't go unnoticed by the sold-out Orpheum audience.
"Why are you guys mad at each other?" said O'Brien after some loyal Minneapolis fans booed a reference to St. Paul. "You all go the same mall. Get over it." He also addressed the state's reputation as being both nice and passive-aggressive and concluded that the night would therefore be peppered with "sarcastic applause."
The show neatly dropped in references to Jucy Lucys, WCCO's Amelia Santaniello, skyways and Leeann Chins. Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, who participated through a taped bit, boasted of his Minnesota knowledge by identifying the state animal as Jesse Ventura and the state flower as Prince.
But as with most nights on the tour, the greatest local treat was a musical one. Brian Setzer, who moved to Minneapolis several years ago, offered blistering licks on his Stray Cats classic, "Rock This Town" and soloed on the encore, "40 Days," as O'Brien hit the stairs and high-fived audience members in the balcony.
"I can seriously die now," O'Brien said after Setzer's sizzling take on "Rock This Town." "Highlight of my life."
O'Brien, a middling musician, certainly has good taste. His horn-heavy band -- pretty much the Max Weinberg 7 without Weinberg -- was red-hot throughout the evening. With a house band like that, it'd be fairly impossible for O'Brien, or anyone else, to get stale.
email@example.com • 612-673-7431