Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

When Conan O’Brien and Beth Stelling compare gigs gone awry, “Taps” beats heart attack

Conan O’Brien, Beth Stelling
Conan O’Brien, Beth Stelling
Screenshot: Conan

With Conan O’Brien’s Team Coco on board presenting Beth Stelling’s latest comedy special, Girl Daddy on HBO Max, it’s perhaps not a shocker that Conan had the stand-up on Wednesday’s show. Still, getting Stelling superfan O’Brien on board has its drawbacks, as the pandemic, plus Conan’s pandemic-pressurized brain has come up with some creative, if questionably effective, promotional techniques. With both comedians variously sporting some Girl Daddy swag (Conan’s baseball cap barely squeezing over his floppy, Irish setter quarantine hair), the pair did a quick analysis of how the Team’s efforts have gone over.

Marketing the special in sidewalk chalk in a public park? Rain is a problem, but the notably outspoken Stelling gave at least a provisional nod. A handsome banner celebrating the stand-up’s big HBO premiere is excellent, although the shot of said banner proudly mounted on the isolated country lane that’s home of one of Stelling’s North Carolina friends suggested a couple of adjustments. And then there’s Stelling’s dad, whose day job as a vaguely Grinch-suited sidewalk pitchman transitioned easily into promoting his daughter’s newest venture, which was—another way to go. Conan told Stelling he would normally have sprung for one of those huge Times Square billboards you might see Spider-Man swinging in front of, but what’s the point these days, right?

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Still, a comic’s gotta hustle, as Conan and Stelling reminisced about some of their previous, less-than-successful gigs over the years. Being asked to do a tight 15 at a charity gig sounds like a good way to get your material in front of people with deep pockets, but, as O’Brien and Stelling noted, it’s not always the easiest room. Like when Stelling played a Planned Parenthood fundraiser, and her table mate had a coronary immediately before Stelling was introduced. Stelling—who will call your mom on you—implied that the woman in question pulled through okay, even apologizing while being wheeled out by paramedics (something Stelling termed “The epitome of being a woman”), but, still, her improvised lead-off, “Wow, I’ve done a lot of things to get out of donating money, but never that,” was a rough sell. “Potentially too soon,” was Stelling’s post-performance assessment, but, hey, at least she wasn’t going up after dead soldiers, right?

Yeah, that was Conan’s trump card, explaining how following a filmed tribute to deceased U.S. service members—complete with a playing of “Taps”—was his cautionary tale to charity comedian bookers everywhere. Conan’s a funny guy and all, but you might as well play break out the sad bugles during the set. Note to event planners from Stelling: Jock Jams as mood-changer. Just think about it.

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Beth Stelling’s stand-up special Beth Stelling: Girl Daddy is on HBO Max now.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.

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