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Ex-'Tonight Show' Host Conan O'Brien Vents On '60 Minutes'

by Allison Waldman, posted May 2nd 2010 8:55PM
conan_o'brien_nbc_beard_close_upFor the first time since the end of his tenure on 'The Tonight Show,' Conan O'Brien had a chance to appear on camera and share his thoughts on the whole long, drawn out civil war between him and Jay Leno and NBC and GE and the late night industry at large.

For the record, Conan O'Brien's sit down with Steve Kroft on '60 Minutes' on May 2, 2010 -- the first date he was contractually allowed to discuss what happened -- clearly established that while he's disappointed about what happened, Conan O'Brien is not defeated. To paraphrase 'Evita,' "Don't cry for him, America."

From Conan's point of view, he's doing just fine. He walked away from NBC's tepid offer of a post-midnight 'Tonight Show' hybrid with his honor intact, as well as $32 million. He also landed a new gig with TBS, and is currently making fun of the entire episode in a stage show that's giving him something to do to pass the time and stay sharp -- the "Legally Prohibited to be Funny on Television" Tour.

While probed and prodded by Kroft, Conan admitted that it was a hurtful experience. "I got very depressed at times. It was like a marriage breaking up suddenly, violently, quickly." According to his wife, Liza, who had a ring-side seat while everything was going down, Conan had a rough time. "It was watching someone's heart get broken," she said. Here's a sample of Conan with Kroft:

Knowing what we know about the lure of 'The Tonight Show,' how David Letterman still feels burned that he never got to replace Johnny Carson, it's not surprising that O'Brien feels short-changed by NBC's actions. He contends that if he had been given more than six months, his 'Tonight Show' would have succeeded. "I have no regrets," he told Kroft. "I'm happy with my decision. I sleep well at night."

When the subject of honor was brought up, in regards to Jay Leno taking back a show he had handed off to Conan in a very public way, it was clear that O'Brien didn't have much respect for Leno's decision. He cackled at the notion that Jay Leno got screwed. "I'm laughing because crying would be sad."

O'Brien agreed that NBC's choice to dump him and keep Leno was a business decision. While the network had to give Conan $32 million, they would have had to cough up as much as $150 million to part with Jay. Conan just resents that now NBC is claiming that they were losing money with his 'Tonight Show.' O'Brien said that is simply not a possibility.

Ultimately, '60 Minutes' did a good job in presenting O'Brien as he is today, and from my perspective, he's a resilient and philosophical guy. If he's bitter and angry, he's covering it very well.

He said, "I think things happen for a reason," and right now, the reason seems to be a new opportunity for Conan O'Brien on TBS at 11 PM starting in November.

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Jan Crump

I don't like Conan at all and the last months have shown he is the dick that he is! His ratings sucked, Jay's don't. He stole the show from Jay originally because NBC wanted someone younger. He thought that was funny and he was on top of the world. NBC made a business decision, and brought back the winning host, Jay, who is wonderful and I love that he is back. My nighttime bedtime routine is once again on schedule. I was on cable looking for anything to watch by Co-kuu! I'm thrilled he is gone and hope his new show tanks and then people will realize the only reason his name is in the news now is because he keeps bashing Jay Leno, who is not at fault. Grow up Co-kuu!

May 03 2010 at 7:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jan Crump's comment

I agree Conan is a jerk. He needs to take responsibility for his failing. He did it to himself. I hate when all he does is whin and noy accept he is lousy, get a life. his new show will not make it. If his rating were not good on prime time how can they be any good on the other show. Plus he looks like a bum a typical poor loser.

May 18 2010 at 2:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You know what - why don't you just stop acting like a spoiled brat and move on. You have a new show, 32 mil and alot of publicity isn't that enough? If your show had been doing that good NBC would not have brought Leno back, pretty simple and as far as Leno "bumping you" oh poor baby, that is life in any job someone can replace you at any time and can you tell us what is it you are doing to Lopez - BUMPING HIM !!! Wow isn't that odd.
Move on people who can hardly pay their mortgage really don't want to hear your sob story. I had a job for 35 years and got rifed (reduction in force) without a blink of an eye and only 1 year salary which is definitly not 35 mil and this was after my 401k dropped to a 201K from the recession, so do you think the biggest part of the people care about your sad story - hell no.

May 03 2010 at 3:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lin East

poor conan- he received 32 million dollars-
people are starving in this country- homeless- out of work-
am I the only one here who thinks 60 Minutes has lost its touch with reality??
get over it conan- you stunk- ratings fell-
yes- Jay Leno is a jerk- that's news to you??
suck it up and get a real job for crying out loud

May 03 2010 at 2:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well. Can we FINALLY get beyond this?

I mean well, damn. Since this entire "drawn out civil war" began....

(1) A few dozen miners died in West Virginia.

(2) An oil slick is about to hit the Gulf Coast.

(3) An earthquake hit China.

(4) Tornadoes struck the Ohio Valley.

I mean, DAMN. It's not like there's not something more major happening around this continent.

Okay. Caught my breath. Realized you are JUST a TV blog.

So. What else has been happening since, well, the LAST post about Conan the late?

(1) World's Fair opened.

(2) May sweeps started.

(3) Your blog supposedly did a makeover. [Key word is 'supposedly.]


Do you really need a count of how many Conan posts y'all done in the last week? Or the week before?

(Hint: It's been daily.)

May 02 2010 at 10:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to Dave's comment

Good to see you on TV again, Coco!

May 02 2010 at 10:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm really glad to see an article honestly reviewing the interview. An article from the Baltimore Sun says that he whined an snipped through the experience. I would like to know how the words "I'm fine" constitute whining?

I'm glad he granted this interview to a show traditionally watched by an older audience. Maybe now some the most common misconceptions about this incident will be clarified to some who were confused about what NBC did to whom.

One thing I wish they would have mentioned, although it showed humility that Conan didn't mention it himself: The $30 million he received from NBC might sound like a windfall, but he didn't exactly use it to pay off a mortgage or buy a 3D TV. As Andy Richter stated on an interview on Regis and Kelly, Conan set up a fund for his staff who had moved across the country with him, lost their jobs, and were unable to find new work. According to Andy, Conan took money out of his own pocket to start a corporation so they would be okay until they found new jobs.

Where's the whining here?

May 02 2010 at 10:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Professor Zed

Glad to see that Conan is just fine and doing great. I find him absurd and ridiculous. Always did!

(Meanwhile, I haven't watched even one second of the despicable creep who preceded and replaced Conan.)

I'm really looking forward to next fall when Conan will be back, this time on TBS. By the way, GREAT DECISION TBS! It will be great to forgo the depressing news (local or as presented on Jon Stewart's Daily Show - where's it's presented with a humorous twist, but it's still ultimately depressing) and tune into Conan for laughs and tears of joy galore!

May 02 2010 at 9:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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