On the very day he announced the launch of his upcoming new TV show on Fox – oops, make that TBS – the famously deposed Tonight show host kicked off his 32-city North American live comedy tour at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts before an appreciative crowd of more than 2,500 people.
As described by New York's WNBC News on Tuesday morning, The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on TV presentation found O'Brien delivering "gentle" jibes toward his onetime bosses at NBC – while other news reports noted that he never once mentioned his former network by name.
"This is the first time anyone has ever paid to see me perform," the comic told Monday's crowd in Oregon. "But people have paid to make me go away."
O'Brien – whose L.A.-based, 4-times-a-week, 11 p.m. TBS show is expected to kick off in November – also wisecracked during his 90-minute set, "You may have heard I got a new job: new assistant manager at Eugene's Banana Republic."
Also onstage for the show, which will play in Vancouver on Wednesday: longtime Conan sidekick Andy Richter, opening act Reggie Watts, the band Spoon and 30 Rock's Kenneth the page (and comic in his own right), Jack McBrayer.
And the critical reaction? "Extremely funny," Rolling Stone says in its review, describing the star as looking "like a paler, redheaded Barry Gibb, complete with full beard, no tie, and the top two buttons undone on his shirt."
Correspondent Scott Sepich also found Conan edgier than he's been on TV (one allowable example: "I can't say 'Peacock,' but I can say 'pea' and 'cock' ") – and the fans justifiably ecstatic "with his transformation from late-night pariah to traveling folk hero."