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February 22, 2024

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O’Brien brings local flavor, personal touch to MSU gig

Conan O’Brien told the crowd he hoped attendees would walk away thinking, “wow, that was sort of worth it.”

Judging by the boisterous reactions of the crowd at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center on May 21, O’Brien’s “Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour” did not disappoint. For two hours, O’Brien entertained the crowd with a mix of stand-up, musical performances, familiar props and features of his former shows and some special guests.

After opener Reggie Watts and the Legally Prohibited Band (featuring familiar faces such as Richie “LaBamba” Rosenberg, whose face O’Brien later licked during the show), O’Brien took the stage wearing a MSU jersey underneath his sport coat. 

He explained his excitement for being in Michigan, with a warm response from the Spartans. The crowd ate up O’Brien’s name-checking of local restaurants and businesses (he claimed that his new job will be at the East Lansing “Meijers”), as well as direct digs at school rivals.

According to O’Brien, he rejected a bid by the University of Michigan to play on their campus.

“I don’t like that school,” he told the crowd. “Any school that needs a football stadium that big must have a small penis.” 

He joked MSU had a major drinking problem, since the students in attendance at the show clearly did not realize school ended weeks ago.

“Your mascot should be a hung-over Spartan vomiting into his helmet.”

O’Brien was not alone on stage that evening. Longtime sidekick Andy Richter joined in on the fun, as did Triumph the Insult Comic Dog in a pre-taped segment with local jokes dubbed into the tape. Deon Cole, a former writer for O’Brien, also took the stage for standup. 

Michigan resident Sarah Killen spent her 15 minutes of fame with O’Brien onstage after he chose her Twitter account as the only one he’d follow.

Killen pulled the “Walker, Texas Ranger” Lever, rechristened the “Chuck Norris, Rural Policeman Handle” due to O’Brien’s former employer, NBC, owning the intellectual rights over the original name. For the same reason, “the Self-Pleasuring Panda” visited the crowd, instead of the notorious Masturbating Bear. 

Both bits brought familiar elements of O’Brien’s shows to the audience (including the famous “Walker” clip where Haley Joel Osment’s character bluntly states “Walker told [him] he had AIDS”), and reminded people why they paid to see the show live. 

As O’Brien said, it was the first time people ever paid to see him and in return, he attempted to make the show as personal as possible.

While O’Brien is best known for his comedy, another passion of his is music. Throughout much of the show, O’Brien had a guitar in his hand, singing original and parody songs (such as “My Own Show Again” to the tune of “On the Road Again”), which brought a unique spin to his comedy not often seen on television. 

In keeping with the musical theme, O’Brien’s guest that evening, Michigan native Kid Rock took the stage to explain, in song, why he would make a good president. 

“I’d put TV cameras in the Lincoln Bedroom, and the whole nation could watch Rock layin’ it down,” he sang.

O’Brien’s show combined the best of his comedy with his personal musical hobbies, his friends in show business and local flavor to create a show that kept the audience laughing and cheering all night. At the end of the show, O’Brien ran through the crowd of the Breslin Center, high-fiving and hugging fans in the audience, all the way up to the upper sections of the arena. 

He made the show as personal as possible, showing even though he may have fared well financially in the wake of the NBC controversy, he still cared about the people who made him popular. He will begin his new show on TBS Nov. 8, so it is unlikely that O’Brien will have the chance to tour again. For those lucky people who had the chance to attend the “Legally Prohibited Tour,” it will be a memorable and unique experience.

Judging by the massive audience applause throughout the show, it seemed fairly unanimous that O’Brien made the show more than “sort of worth it.” 

MSU’s representatives of “Team Coco” can sleep well knowing they were able to be a part of such a riotous experience that showed why O’Brien has been beloved for nearly 20 years.

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