Conan O'Brien, Meet Dallas (and Dirk Nowitzki)

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Ryan Conlin
A moment after fluffy-haired beat-box comic Reggie Watts left SMU's McFarlin Auditorium Thursday night, a video clip flickered briefly on the screen behind him: Walker, Texas Ranger -- welcome back, old friend. There was this Andy Richter intro, in which he warned: "Tonight, the part of Conan O'Brien will be played by Sir Ian McKellen." Then O'Brien took the stage, full of shaggy confidence and self-deprecating swagger -- the pasty Ivy Leaguer-turned-TV writer-turned-talk-show host-turned-concert-tour rock star. Yes, yes, fine.

Bring on the Masturbating Bear!

His SMU appearance was a bit Late Night, a bit prime-time variety show. He sounded like a old-timer working the circuit ("You people know how to make noise"), offered blank observations about Dallas ("You guys like to drink here ... you're very serious about it"), and, as evidenced by the photo at top, welcome local celebs to the stage. And he made every effort to play to the locals: A Triumph the Insult Comic Dog video was playfully dubbed with inside jokes -- like one in which Triumph offered to "poop on" Greenville Avenue and serve that crap at Snuffer's. Oh, how the crowd roared.

And then, of course, there was the Walker, Texas Ranger Lever. You know the drill if you watched his old show (or this clip): O'Brien pulls his red lever, and a hilarious, out-of-context clip starring Chuck Norris appears. Hilarious. But who better to pull the lever then the only person in Dallas who towers over O'Brien -- Dirk Nowitzki. Probably the biggest cheer of the night.

There was another unexpected guest: Jimmie Vaughan, Oak Cliff's prodigal son returning home to play a few songs and promote his new album Pleasure's All Mine. Other guests: comic Deon Cole and, of course, sidekick Richter. Then, as O'Brien's done at each show on this tour, he closed out the night with a song-and-dance rendition of "I Will Survive" (the Cake version) -- complete with the Masturbating Bear. Mission accomplished.

See more photos in Andrew Shepherd's slideshow.

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