FrontBurner After Dark: Conan O’Brien in Dallas at SMU’s McFarlin Auditorium

I’ve decided to speak for all FrontBurner contributors when I say that we’re with Coco. As such, we completely agree that it would have been a travesty had Conan O’Brien allowed NBC to move The Tonight Show back a half-hour. He earned his 10:35 p.m. (Central) show, and we’ve decided to honor his courageous stand by keeping him in that slot here on the blog.

And that’s my official reason for why I’m posting DMagazine.com contributor Ryan Jones’ recap of O’Brien’s May 13 show at SMU’s McFarlin Auditorium at 10:35 p.m. tonight. It’s what Conan would have wanted. Enjoy:

The last time most Conan O’Brien fans caught a glimpse of the once-and-future talk show host, he was dapperly dressed and clean-shaven, wrapping up his final episode of The Tonight Show on January 22. But O’Brien’s “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour,” which landed at SMU’s McFarlin Auditorium Thursday night, opened with a recorded skit that showed a much different side of the red-headed comedian.

Decked in sweats, O’Brien lay amongst a mountain of pizza boxes and empty beer bottles in his living room. His trademark pompadour had become a tangled mess of orange hair, and his midsection had ballooned up about 40 pounds. The time off had taken its toll.

Then he got a call asking him to take his act on the road, and O’Brien sprung into action, unleashing a makeover montage that, save for a little scruff, left him looking like the same pale, gangly guy we all remembered. And when he finally came bounding onstage at a little after 9 p.m., it was to a raucous ovation.

O’Brien was in his usual self-deprecating form, whether it was pointing out his ridiculously long, white legs and referring to himself as the “Ivory Spider,” or coming onstage dressed in the same skintight purple leather jumpsuit Eddie Murphy wore in Raw. He threw a few jabs at Dallas, as well, and Conan’s comedy cohort Andy Richter stepped in with a tongue-in-cheek commercial for Liquor To Go, including the line “Because we all know it’s OK to drink and drive a little.”

Old Conan standby Triumph the Insult Comic Dog made a hilariously vulgar cameo, taking shots at everything from Snuffer’s to Mark Cuban, and even the ever-popular Walker Texas Ranger Lever reemerged, though it had to be redubbed the “Chuck Norris Rural Policeman Handle” for legal purposes. Every pull showed an even more ridiculous, over-the-top action sequence from Walker, Texas Ranger, and the bit culminated with O’Brien inviting Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki onstage to pull the lever, rolling a clip in which Walker commandeers a car and then punches a woman in the face.

Dallas guitarist Jimmie Vaughan stepped in for a three-song set at one point, and O’Brien himself took to the microphone with his guitar several times, including a cover of “I Will Survive” that played everyone off stage to the encore. The only things missing for hardcore fans of his old Late Night show were longtime band leader Max Weinberg and former announcer Joel Goddard.

But O’Brien himself did all he could to make the show worth the steep price of admission. He told jokes, he talked, he sang, he laughed, he hugged. He even string danced. What else could you want?

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