In case you lived on a deserted island a couple years ago and haven’t interacted with the media since then, I’ll lay out the basic facts that led to the events behind this documentary. Jay Leno announced that Conan O’Brien would succeed him as host of The Tonight Show, then he didn’t leave for years, then, when he finally did leave and O’Brien took over the show, Leno announced that he would start a new show and it would run immediately before The Tonight Show, essentially stealing a chunk of O’Brien’s thunder and audience. Then Leno convinced NBC to move his show to The Tonight Show slot, moving O’Brien to after midnight. O’Brien had enough and quit, quite publicly.
NBC paid him heaps of money and let him leave without suit if he would agree not to appear on television or speak ill publicly about The Tonight Show for one year.
So, does the workaholic, driven O’Brien take this time off to opine or write or spend time with his family? Of course not, hence the title. He launches a live show tour of the US called The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour. This documentary is somewhat about his fall from The Tonight Show and somewhat about his plans for the future, but largely it’s about the tour and, via the tour, a look at his life immediately following the Tonight Show debacle.
O’Brien was a lead writer for The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live, Late Night and The Tonight Show. He’s a seriously funny guy whose comedy has greatly impacted modern comedy in ways many people don’t realize. When this crap all went down last year it was a great disservice to him. This doc is an interesting and thorough look at his reaction to this disservice. It is not fluff, it’s a very transparent look at a dark time for O’Brien and it’s certainly a good watch.