Tomorrow night, Conan O’Brien visits Houston with a group of comics for a night billed as Conan & Friends: An Evening of Stand-Up and Investments Tips. Between the show’s namesake — now the longest-reigning late night TV host after a quarter-century on the job — and the comedians he’s tabbed for the tour, it’s a can’t-miss event for comedy fans. Ron Funches, James Veitch, Taylor Tomlinson and Flula Borg will share the stage with “Coco” at tomorrow’s Revention Music Center show.
Those comedians and the man who’s given them the spotlight are some of the best and busiest in the industry. The tour is a special treat we’re all afforded since O’Brien’s got a little time for ventures like this with his show on hiatus until January. When it returns, it’ll be interesting to see how the program has been re-tooled to work in a half-hour format. His fans would agree that 30 minutes of Conan is probably still better and way funnier than a lot of other television options.
Music has been a huge part of O’Brien’s late night endeavors. He’s an avowed music lover and a musician. Conan the Guitararian has traded licks with both Jack Black and Jack White (and several other guitar heroes). He’s assembled house bands featuring the E Street Band’s Max Weinberg and bandleader Jimmy Vivino. His shows have brought an array of incredible musical guests to late night viewers over the years.
Word is the revamped Conan show is cutting musical performances. It’s hard to be greedy when you’re getting such a killer live comedy lineup, but it would be thrilling to have a few musical interludes dropped into tomorrow night’s festivities, just for old times’ sake. We don’t necessarily need Jack Black or Jack White onstage (though that would be amazing). We’ve compiled a short list of tunes Conan and friends could work into the set, all from past, memorable moments on his late night programs. Even one of these would be a sweet nod to we who have watched religiously for the laughs and also for the tunes:
“On the Road Again”
When O’Brien was famously on hiatus once before, it was because he’d just been extracted from hosting duties on The Tonight Show and was awaiting the start-up of his tenure with TBS. To kill some time he did a comedy tour similar to the current one. That one was called “The Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour” and he performed Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” on the tour, with part of the lyric arranged as “My Own Show Again.” Nelson’s done comedy stuff for Conan before (see the Red Headed Stranger’s Hobbit audition video), so it’d be nice if O’Brien returned the favor and had Willie join him to duet this appropriate and Texas-bred tune.
A movement from the final act of the ballet Gayane, the “Sabre Dance” is a beloved piece of music that actually charted on Billboard 70 years ago. Admittedly, the only reason to hope for this song at tomorrow night’s show is because it would signal the appearance of an unbilled friend of Conan’s, a certain, beloved bear performing his own “sabre dance” of sorts.
Any Rap Song, ABBA Track or Ditty From the 1930s
O'Brien has some serious chops on guitar, but he saves most of his singing for laughs. How eclectic is his singing taste? Just look at this spot from a week-long residency the show did at the Apollo Theater. As he travels the neighborhood, he interacts with the locals and creates comedy gold, including lots from his efforts to sing. He tries to "rap" over a human beatbox and warbles through ABBA's "Take a Chance on Me" (fortunately, a passerby saves him with a capable rendition of "Dancing Queen"). Invariably, most of O'Brien's attempts to sing devolve into him affecting the vocal stylings of Michigan J. Frog. We love you, Conan, but save the serious singing for Brian LaFontaine.
“One More Will Fit Inside You”
The good news about Conan’s new show format is it’ll allow him to do more remotes, including the always hilarious and surprisingly poignant visits he pays to far-away places like Japan, Ireland and Israel. Two years ago, O’Brien visited Berlin and met tour mate Flula Borg (Pitch Perfect 2, @midnight) for lunch and a wild German vocabulary lesson. A highlight of the uproarious segment is the earworm "One More Will Fit Inside You," which Borg purports to be a popular German drinking song.
“Late Night with Conan O’Brien Country Music Theme Song”
O’Brien’s had such a long and storied late night career it’s hard to recall that in the 1990s KPRC –TV had his Late Night with Conan O’Brien show running between 2 and 3 in the morning. O’Brien probably hasn’t forgotten this bit of Houston history since he championed hard for Channel 2 to move him to the time slot just after The Tonight Show. His battle with the local NBC affiliate resulted in some funny bits, including a nationally televised showdown between Mattress Mac and Hilton“That’s a Fact, Jack” Koch.
In 1997, O’Brien actually traveled here to plead his case and took to the streets for a segment which had him in late night Houston spots like a bail bonds agency, the bus station and an unnamed strip joint. He met prospective viewers and told them that the show featured a Houston Astro and a Houston Oiler each week (it obviously didn’t and, considering those Oiler teams, was a bad pitch). He also he fibbed that the show began with a “country music theme song,” which he then improvised while strumming an acoustic guitar. “It’s Late Night with Conan O’Brien/All Houston loves that show, I ain’t lyin’” he sings. As one kindly older fellow in the segment says, “I wouldn’t mind hearing that at all.”
Team Coco Presents Conan & Friends: An Evening of Stand-Up and Investment Tips, 8 p.m. Friday November 16 at Revention Music Center, 520 Texas. $50.