"I am angry," Conan O'Brien admits in Rodman Flender's tour doc Conan O'Brien Can't Stop. "I'm trying not to be...but sometimes I'm so mad I can't even breathe." Prohibited from appearing on television for six months after his early 2010 break with NBC, Conan hit the road, capitalizing on his newfound social network currency to attract an audience to intentionally vaudeville-reminiscent live shows blending self-deprecating stand-up with self-indulgent musical performances aided by his celebrity friends.
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Sometimes painted in the press as the petulant jilted wife in the NBC divorce, here the comedy writer-turned-late-night-host comes off as less an entitled whiner than a perfectionist: NBC's crime was not taking away his toy (The Tonight Show), but taking away his control. As fly-on-the-wall as it gets—meaning the camerawork is often sloppy—Flender's film presents O'Brien in full-on Tortured Star mode, alternately overexerting himself and complaining that he's being overworked, courting attention and sulking alone. The portrayal is at times startlingly negative, to the point where you wonder if O'Brien is consciously playing up the diva act for the camera.