What even constitutes “fun” anymore in this jaded, video-saturated age? For some, the deeply nerdy answer is escape rooms: adventure games in which a group of participants are locked in an actual, physical, non-digital, totally analog room and then must solve a series of fiendishly clever puzzles or riddles in order to escape within a certain time limit. They’re like laser tag or bounce houses, only crossed with The Imitation Game and a little bit of Saw. The ever-intrepid Conan O’Brien recently decided to explore, in his words, “this brand new fad that’s sweeping the nation.” Thus motivated, the host and his cranky, put-upon producer Jordan Schlansky headed to Escape Room L.A. in order to put their critical thinking and dramatic-sunglasses-removing skills to the test and film the results for broadcast.
Once inside, O’Brien and Schlansky are assigned to a 1940s-detective-themed room complete with a secretary who sports a decidedly off-period eyebrow piercing. Ever the ham, O’Brien takes the FDR-era trappings as an excuse for suit-wearing cosplay and shaky Edward G. Robinson impersonations. Schlansky, whom Conan describes as “the Spock to my Captain Kirk,” has no patience with his boss’ shenanigans and actually tries to solve the puzzles efficiently so that the duo can emerge from the room in a respectable amount of time. With his teammate more focused on practicing his golf swing with various breakable props than on doing brain work, Schlansky is unable to achieve this entirely reasonable goal. Eventually, having emerged from his self-imposed film noir dungeon, a relieved Conan tells his audience, “Man, that wasn’t for me.”