We Checked Out Wednesday Night’s Taping of Conan at the Majestic. Here’s What It Was Like.
Not everyone could get a ticket to catch a live filming of Conan at the Majestic Theatre this week, no.
Hey, listen, it just wasn’t gonna happen for some people. It’s simple mathematics, is all: The Majestic seats fewer than 2,000 people.
So, yeah, “I kinda hate you” has been a popular phrase uttered in the vicinity of most ticket-holders these past few days.
Still, the vibe around town has been electric all the same for most folks regardless — and for a few reasons, actually. The impetus behind Conan O’Brien’s trip town this week is, of course, the finals of the big ol’ NCAA men’s basketball tournament. And O’Brien’s show is hardly the only sideshow going on in these parts as a result of that mess.
Conan was, however, the first such ancillary affair to go down. Starting on Monday night, O’Brien and his team essentially took over downtown, completely dominating the block upon which the Majestic sits, as well as the nearby Main Street Garden Park, where yet even more Conan props and fan affairs have been set up to further promote the fact that Conan is here in town — y’know, lest anyone out there somehow hadn’t noticed and/or needed more of a reminder that they hadn’t won tickets in the lottery to get some.
But even those who’d been locked out in the initial ticket-grab have had a few opportunities to get in regardless. There are no-shows at events like these and, where there are TV cameras rolling, there are empty seats that need filling. So, to that end, on a daily basis, Conan fans have been waiting on standing by outside of the Majestic each morning this week, waiting in line all day in the hopes that they’ll be able to sneak into the show at the last minute.
And they’re happy to wait on these thin hopes because the payoff is, well, getting in. One woman — the first in line yesterday morning — was so excited to see her gambit pay off that she hardly even minded that she’d landed a seat behind tallest guy in the room besides O’Brien himself. Her misery was further rewarded when, at last night’s screening, O’Brien riffed on her situation.
Plus, she was hardly along in her glee: Those who made it to last night’s night taping were simply ecstatic to be in attendance. Conan‘s house band, Jimmy Vivino & The Basic Cable Band, kept everyone well-engaged and clapping in the build-up to the show’s start, and, when O’Brien himself finally stepped onto the stage, backed by a giant, LED-lit outline of the state of Texas, the audience’s applause came like roaring thunder. This volume would only increase later when O’Brien would join his sidekick Andy Richter and the two together, and rather awkwardly, rode Richter’s “mechanical bull podium” all tandem-style.
The whole taping, really, was a bit surreal. Live, of course, there are no commercials. But there are commercial breaks, during which O’Brien would sort of jam to the band’s music on stage and periodically interact with the audience. A couple of times, the host would even make his way down the aisles to shake some hands and high five his fans. To be sure, he even let a few fans touch his hair at one point.
But never once did he go backstage. Not for anything. He just kind of hung out during the breaks, getting a little face-powdering here and there, as his living-room set appeared and disappeared out of thin air between commercials thanks to the show’s many stage hands.
All in all, the taping felt like a true performance. And the fact that it was filmed in the Majestic Theatre only made it seem all the more thespian. Here O’Brien was, the leading man, with Richter and Vivino in supporting roles.
There were other memorable moments, chief among them when guest Simon Helberg (The Big Bang Theory) joined O’Brien on set and offered up a rather incredible Al Pacino impersonation that had everyone laughing from the stage to the balcony. Helberg may not have boasted the star power of some of the week’s earlier guests (read: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen), but his natural awkwardness somehow kept things rolling smoothly.
In keeping with that smooth tone, the audience minded the rules — no cell phones, no yelling out of place, no getting up in the middle of the show to head out to the lobby and closely following the band’s applause cues — things ran damn near perfectly.
It was all so well done and just plain ol’ fun that, when it finished, it was hard to walk away.
So the show kept going: Once off film, O’Brien got on the mic and sang a song about the closing of the show to help bring closure to everyone’s experience and ease their starlit gaze. OK: Maybe he was just trying to usher everyone out. But it seemed like a nice winding down gesture after what had been a fantastic production and experience for most audience members.
Then the host thanked the adoring crowd and Texas in general for being so humble and downright hospitable.
“Everyone is so nice here,” O’Brien said just before his audience finally relented and started to file out of the theater. “I gave a shout-out to Whataburger the other night — and they sent us a ton of burgers. So, tonight, I’d like to give a shout-out to the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.”
No word yet on if O’Brien got his wish in that regard. But, hey, if the cheerleaders did come, we can say one thing for sure: They’d have a good time.
O’Brien, lest anyone ever doubted it, is just a phenomenal host.