Trips worth taking: ‘Conan O’Brien Must Go’ features the comedy legend at his best

Are you feeling the sting of Curb Your Enthusiasm coming to an end on HBO? Never fear: Conan O’Brien has come to the rescue—and his new show might be his best show yet.

In Conan O’Brien Must Go, the legend travels to four foreign lands, with each trip inspired by a call into his podcast. Somebody from Norway called and said he was a fan? What the hell! Let’s get on a plane and go surprise the guy! We’ve got the budget for that sort of thing! We’re HBO!

It’s a great premise, and while Conan became a fine interviewer over the years, it was the behind-the-scenes stuff and street skits that really distinguished him. Now we get a whole show of Conan meeting up with people and riffing. The setups are also pretty funny, like him dressing up as a Viking or performing on some Norwegian rap group’s song. (“Velkommen Til Klubben,” featuring the crystalline-voiced Conan, is now available on streaming services.)

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Other bits include him going on a low-rated radio show—he helps spike their daily listenership from four people to five!—appearing on a Bangkok TV show where he’s legitimately uncomfortable, and, best of all, appearing on an Irish soap opera. He appears as a balloon delivery boy and, astonishingly, acts the shit out of the part. I’m not kidding; what could have been a goof turns out to be a layered couple of minutes of a delivery boy believably frustrated at his job. Conan has a career in Irish soap operas if he wants it.

While Conan is always funny, much of this show’s charms come from the people he visits in Norway, Ireland, Thailand and Argentina. The subjects range from supremely sweet to surprisingly wise-assed (in a pleasant sort of way), and Conan’s rapport with all of them is truly winning stuff. Conan doesn’t pull punches in his exchanges; if he thinks you are a weirdo, he will say it. Most of the subjects who made the edit respond well.

Conan fans will recognize his arch nemesis, production supervisor Jordan Schlansky. (Conan fans will understand this question: What the fuck does Jordan do, anyway?) He joins Conan in Argentina and proceeds to drive him crazy; I’m pretty sure Conan’s complete frustration with Jordan’s pronunciation of “tango” is genuine. What Conan does with a piece of meat while arguing with Jordan defies description. Honestly, a whole series with Jordan and Conan squabbling would be golden. Trusted assistant Sona Movsesian doesn’t make it on any of the trips (we do see her a bit in podcast footage); perhaps we’ll see her in future seasons.

Speaking of future seasons: Let’s start the campaign now for many, many, many more episodes of this show. Maybe this will be Conan’s Curb. He actually employs a fake Larry David in the Argentina episode to funny effect. The fake cameo is pretty good … pretty, pretty, pretty good. There’s also a fake cameo involving Bono and a humanitarian award used as bait. (Next time around, Bono must make a real appearance. It’s mandatory.)

Season 2 hasn’t been announced yet, but I would like to think it’s a no brainer. Then again, HBO does tax write-offs of already completed movies and has been up to some notoriously weird shit lately, so who knows?

Conan O’Brien Must Go is now streaming on Max.

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