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September 2, 2015

Questions We'd Ask Conan O'Brien on '60 Minutes'

by Danny Gallagher, posted May 1st 2010 1:27PM
Conan O'BrienFinally after being bound and gagged by the confines of an NBC contract, Coco will be able to remove that ball gag that Jeff Zucker finds so fetching and speak his mind.

He'll be sitting down with '60 Minutes'' Steve Kroft this Sunday for an exclusive interview on everything that's happened since he gave 'The Tonight Show' back to Jay Leno, just a day shy of his interview contract deadline.

This isn't intended to question Kroft's journalistic ability or choice of questions, but he has a position that most TV fans would sacrifice a live goat to have. Ever since the "s" hit the "f" during NBC's "Late Night-Gate," people have been dying to ask Coco questions that could cost him money, legal fees and quite possibly a finger if he answered them before his contract expired. Here are the questions that inquiring minds want to know.

- Just how much control did NBC have over your show?
Coco gave a very heartfelt and honest speech on his last 'Late Night' episode in which he addressed concerns that the fans and critics had that he would have to soften and tone down his edgy image in order to win a 'Tonight Show' audience. His words felt genuine, but the new show didn't really seem to follow through on that promise. It felt lighter and almost family friendly. Bits like "The Masturbating Bear" and "The Coked Up Werewolf" never saw the light of day, until it was clear his tenure was close to the light at the end of the tunnel.

- Were there bits or sketches NBC would not allow you to do on the controversy?

Towards the end of Coco's reign, the show was filled with bits and pieces that basically gave the NBC brass a giant metaphorical finger, but something tells me they actually had a physical one built backstage that NBC wouldn't let them use. The show had a bunch of "not so much hilarious but really expensive comedy bits," one of which NBC pulled after it went out over the air presumably because it was really expensive. I'm curious to know if they had anything else planned, like firing a model of Jeff Zucker made entirely out of raw meat out of a cannon and into a live alligator farm.

- Shouldn't you bear some of the responsibility for the bad ratings?
I'm not ashamed to admit that in the battle over Coco and Leno, I went with Coco just about every time. Moving Leno to 10 p.m. was a boneheaded move and did anything but help lead into the new 'Tonight Show.' However, both Leno and Coco's ratings were down and even though Coco claims his show never lost money and the controversy turned him into the rightful victim, his show also deserves some of the blame. The only thing that matters to the major networks are the ratings and if they are down, then you are out. Of course, he took the high road to save 'The Tonight Show's' name, but is that enough to excuse him from some of the blame?

- Do you hate Jay Leno?
I hold no personal beefs with the big-chinned one. In fact, I'm very awestruck not just by his presence but his career as a whole. Stories of his rise from the seedy club scene to talk show infamy make him a veritable tall tale of show business. Even Coco seems to have had a mutually friendly relationship with his former lead-in before and during his run on NBC, but is that just as a nice way of avoiding a public feud or incurring the wrath of the current late night ratings king?

- Seriously, do you hate Jay Leno?
At this point if I was Kroft, Coco's nice guy facade would kick in and he'd squirm and try to avoid answering the question head on or in a direct way that actually gets to the meat of his emotions. There would be some awkward back and forth banter, seasoning with a hint of annoyance and hostility. That's when I'd go in for the kill.

- OK, pretend the cameras aren't on. Which do you hate more: a rotting skunk carcass or Jay Leno?
Finally, tempers flair. Chairs are thrown. Set lights are knocked over into smoldering piles of broken glass and twisted metal. Clearly, the interview is over.

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Here's a question: What were his other options in 2004? How serious was Fox then, compared to now?

I believe that if he didn't agree to the Tonight Show deal in 04, he would be the host of The Late Show now.

May 01 2010 at 3:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Conan said on one of the last episodes that the "expensive" sketches weren't real and didn't cost nearly as much as they acted like. It was still really funny though.

May 01 2010 at 3:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I would ask if he really thought Jay Leno wanted to retire from the Tonight Show and did he feel at all bad about pushing Leno out.

May 01 2010 at 2:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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