Conan O’Brien says: No, thanks

Awwww, crap! Seriously, this is going to suck if NBC goes through with its plan to put Jay Leno back at 11:35pm.

From the New York Times:

Conan O’Brien Says He Won’t Do ‘Tonight Show’ Following Leno
January 12, 2010, 3:10 pm

. . .

People of Earth:

In the last few days, I’ve been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me. For 17 years, I’ve been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I’ve been absurdly lucky. That said, I’ve been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.

. . .

Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno Show at 11:35. For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn’t the Tonight Show. Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot. That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.

So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn’t matter. But with the Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.

. . .

Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it’s always been that way.



Read the full letter here

I don’t know Jay Leno and, for all I know, he could be quite the guy, but I can’t help feeling like Conan got royally scroogied by NBC. I’m going to miss seeing Conan’s completely off-kilter but thoroughly entertaining wit on display over at The Tonight Show (unless NBC comes to its senses and keeps Conan and The Tonight Show at their present time), but I have no doubt he’ll find a platform worthy of his stature, and soon.

And, NBC? I hope you’re proud of the mess you’ve made for Conan, his family, staff and writers. This wasn’t fair to any of them.

In memory of happier times:

And one of my favorite interviews:

Comedy Central Insider has a nice round-up of Stephen Colbert-Conan O’Brien moments here, too.


  1. I still can’t believe NBC, and Jay Leno for that matter, for accepting the offer that inevitably would push Conan out. That upsets me greatly.
    However, I highly admire Conan and his crew’s bold decision to not f**k with the integrity of the Tonight Show. Good for them. I wish them the best at finding a new place to do what they do best: making us laugh.

  2. Conan will go to FOX then where he will be treated with utmost respect by a network that knows how to handle its talent properly. No way Conan is bowing into the night without having a back up plan!

  3. this is obviously not the end of conan…hes too funny for that. its not the newest thing though that comedian talk show hosts move networks. good luck to conan and his staff
    and who knows maybe he’ll become a correspondent for colbert ;)

  4. Caoilfhiann says:

    I think it’s time for Conan to move to Comedy Central. I realize that basic cable is a step down from network, but he was on NBC, so it’s not that much of a step. I wonder if Jon Stewart has considered starting a talk show like The Tonight Show. C’mon Busboy Productions. Give it a try.

    • heh, As much as I’d love for Conan to come over here–I think Fox is his most likely destination. He’ll have huge advantages… goes on at 11, has a huge audience already in play, and has no network competition.

      • I agree. As fun as Conan working with our boys would be, basic cable is a step down from network, and there are already signs a network (FOX) might try to lure him in. But I do hope Conan uses some of the free time he might have before moving elsewhere to visit one or both of the Comedy Central shows.

      • mrtigger001 says:

        Yeah I’d love to have him at Comedy Central too to have the ultimate late-night trio one after another, but it’s unfortunately just wishful thinking.

        I really hope he can break out of his shell and take things to another level, wherever he goes. I know from his flashes of brilliance that he can be on par with Jon and Stephen on a nightly basis if he’s given total freedom.

        Best of luck, Conan.

        • Indeed, Best of luck to Conan. I do think that Fox has a great environment for entertainment and will do wonders for Conan.

  5. MaryLovesColbert says:

    Well, this is absolutely ridiculous. I can’t believe that NBC is putting him in such a demanding position, and so publicly as well. It’s really unfair. And I think it’s a huge mistake on their part. I don’t quite know why they’re bending over backward for Jay Leno – I just don’t think he’s that funny. They’re being very unfair to Conan. I’m positive he’ll find another place to be hilarious. :D

  6. Conan is such a class act. NBC? Not so much.

    He’ll land on his feet, but I still can’t help feeling bad for him. Hopefully he’ll get out of this ridiculous situation and wind up someplace where his quirky brand of humor is both appreciated and encouraged.

  7. Good for Conan. I hope he finds a way to still pay his staff–or find them jobs until he starts with Fox. But good for Conan. NBC was dicking him around and Leno eagerly jumped in to take Conans job. The Tonight show does not go on at 12:05 and it is an insult to put it on at that time. I’m proud of Conan for doing what’s right. Furthermore, with the ratings Fox has, Conan will have great ratings.

  8. I’m so angry that his West Coast stint might be cut short; for the reason that he might have to uproot all his staff and for the admittedly very selfish reason I never did get a chance to go see a taping.

    • Conan fit in much better with the NYC setting, IMHO. I hope he gets to go away from the LA scene and be near our boys in NYC so we can see more Stewart, Colbert, Conan sillyness =)

      • I agree. I haven’t gotten used to Conan’s show coming from LA. He needs to move back to the old neighborhood so he can play with his buds Jon & Stephen. Yo, Conan! Move back to Noo Yawk! The East Coast misses you!

        NBC is STOOPID. I’m trying to give Jay the benefit of the (growing) doubt, but that’s becoming increasingly difficult, considering his apparent willingness to allow NBC to shove Conan and Jimmy Fallon to a late-night time-warp.

        Conan and his letter to us “People of Earth” (LOL) demonstrate Conan’s integrity. I wish him and his staff the best.

  9. This news is incredibly terrible! I seriously can’t imagine life without watching Conan every night. I hope to God he goes somewhere soon or NBC and Jay Leno comes to their senses and let Conan stay. UGH, I feel sick, I gotta go :(

  10. I am truly devastated. I cannot believe he wasn’t even given the chance to have “The Tonight Show” a franchise he so dearly loves. 7 Months is nothing.. Jay Leno needs to F*ing leave! If he would just quit like he was supposed to none of this would be happening.

    • I think of this as a blessing. I think Conan will get a huge audience at 11 over at Fox.

      Conan will be paving the way forward. I am so curious to see it unravel. This itself is a drama that I bet NBC wishes to tape to make it a reality show since that’s the only thing that scores them ratings.

      • It occurred to me – with disgust – that NBC pulled this excrement in order to boost ratings.

        • They would be dumb enough to think that would work, but then again given their track record of incompetence, it’s more likely they really think they’re making the right moves.

      • You don’t know for sure that he will go to Fox. And if he does, it won’t be for a long time. It would probably take a year or more to develop another show.

        Even if he does it still doesn’t change the fact that he lost “The Tonight Show” a franchise he has dreamed of hosting his whole life.

        • Well you and I disagree. It would take less than 6 months I believe. I am of the opinion that Conan will be on Fox in the fall schedule.

          Conan isn’t going to develop a new show. He will do what he did on late night just with better talent. FOX is the hit network now, and Conan has a lot of talent to play with.

          Conan will most likely make less money, but FOX will most likely gain in ratings and Conan eventually will become his own brand.

        • I hope you’re right, Ronald. I hope you’re right.

        • I hope so too–but I’m saddened if I’m wrong. But a new set isn’t hard to come up with—and Fox has been toying with the late night stuff with Wanda.

          I just pray that Conan’s production crew finds a way to be employed.

  11. Totally d**k move on NBC’s part. And Leno’s. You had your day in the sun, Jay. Now step aside.

    ReCAPTCHA: dexter comes. I love Dexter!

    • I remember when I was a kid, I begged to stay up for Jay. I guess I found stupid punchlines funny.

      I’m just sorry that The Office and Community are on NBC (along with BriWi). I only watch NBC for them, and now its like I have a huge decision to make. Luckily I’m not a Nielson family so it doesn’t really matter—but NBC has some of the most interest broadcast ideas that they then went and canceled. Anyone remember Freaks and Geeks?

      • Wow! I remember when I was old enough to babysit the kids across the street that I was finally old enough to watch Johnny – when the show was 90 minutes!

        • hehehe..

          when I was a very young kid my pops nicknamed me boogie as i’d eat cheese boogies while watch carson =)

      • I felt the same way! I want to boycott NBC but I love their Thursday night sitcoms!

        They really do have a clear lack of vision and commitment: Freaks and Geeks, Ed (I think there were more stories to tell, plus I love Michael Ian Black!) and they let two shows defect: Scrubs and Southland. Crazy. Seinfeld wouldn’t have had a chance had it debuted in this current climate!

        • *nods in disgust*

          Seinfeld started off with a lack of ratings. Good things take a time to grow and prosper. Unfortunately NBC as it is currently directed is cancel after season 1. Community is a great fun new show that did well after the office and was moved in front of TV ratings killer parks and rec. While I think that show is mildly entertaining (the writing has been more funny this season than last), Community was placed infront of a show killer. 30 Rock is living because it gets its ratings from The Office. If Community was still placed there, it would be in good ratings shape.

      • “boogie” – now, that’s funny!

        recaptcha: flipped of
        (ok, one letter off, but pretty close to my opinion of NBC these days!)

  12. I’m glad Conan isn’t taking this lying down. Go Conan! Stick it to NBC!

    And I think Leno has been on long enough. For crying out loud, keep that bland piece of cardboard off the air.

  13. Ms Interpreted says:

    I seriously want to give Conan all the props in the world for handling this s**tstorm with as much dignity as he has thus far. NBC did just about everything imaginable wrong in its handling of things, and I’m really glad I don’t watch any of its other shows now.

    Deadline Hollywood cites an inside source and notes, “When Conan read the statement to the staff, ‘he broke up. He began to cry … Because for 17 years he was working towards The Tonight Show, and now he says he’s prepared to walk away from it. That’s an amazing thing. An amazing thing. But he takes very seriously the fact that The Tonight Show baton was passed to him.”

    Virtual hugs for Conan — this really puts NBC in the “scum” category, as far as I’m concerned. I read something earlier (I forget where, unfortunately) that said NBC stands for No Bloody Class … yeah, that’s a nice way of saying it.

  14. Unbelievable. Conan spends six years under contract, waiting to take over when Leno retires. He uproots his family, his writers, his staff. And then they give him, what, six months before pushing him back to the later slot, because Leno’s show won’t fly? Unbelievable.

    • NBC just doesn’t have the money. They had to make moves that would force one of the late night hosts out and unfortunately it was Conan.

      Leno should very very ashamed of himself.

  15. Absolutely. What a great letter Conan wrote. And how sad, sad, sad. Jay has been such an utter slime, dropping hints about “coming back” before this even came down. And NBC is clueless. Conan was so loyal and now he will have to take his show elsewhere. I’m sure he can do it though. He is a nice guy and I think he will provide for his staff until they get a new gig maybe at Fox. I dont’ think it will be Comedy Central because I don’t think they could pay all of Conan’s people. But I REALLY hope he comes back to New York and he & Stephen will make great comedy again!

  16. My captcha: unheard debt. Speaks a lot, I think, about what I feel about this.

  17. lockhart43 says:

    That letter from Conan is great. It gets his point across bluntly, but it’s still charming and funny. I’ve been upset about this really ever since they decided to keep Leno on at 10pm. The whole thing has really just been a huge slap in the face to Conan and to his staff, because NBC is basically saying, “We love you. We just don’t think you can continue unless Leno is in front of you.” And as much as I would LOVE to see Conan come back to New York, what I want even more is for NBC to officially pull the plug on Leno so Conan can stay at The Tonight Show doing what he clearly loves.

    The entire thing is really NBC’s fault. They tried something out; it didn’t work. The fact that they fail to understand how much keeping Leno on has already hurt not only Conan’s show, but every other NBC show that had to move its time slot from 10pm, is ridiculous. If they don’t fix this whole mess, they will have royally screwed themselves over.
    Anyway, thank you for posting those videos. That interview Stephen did on Conan is one of my all-time faves :)

    • And you maam are lucky you are in Michigan as I just might wanna kiss you for your bright thinking.

      I have an old video that I’ll try to upload of Jon on the old Conan show.

      • lockhart43 says:


        I’m just hoping a the proverbial lightbulb turns on in NBC’s head, making them realize what a HUGE mistake they’re making. They are, along with reality shows, destroying good TV as we know it.

  18. I think Conan should have stayed in NY. I said it then and I say it now.

    To quote my favorite “The Hives” Song “Hate to say I told you so” !

    • I believe he should have also stayed in NYC; but this statement along with his commitment to go to LA shows how much he respects the tonight show.

  19. Don’t know if this has been said already but if so, I’m saying it too. People are forgetting that it took Jay Leno two years to become the #1 guy in Late Night. They give Conan seven months? He should bolt NBC and I too would love it if he could do something on Comedy Central, but FOX is the obvious choice. He would have a lot of freedom and hopefully he would come back to NYC so he can do stuff with our boys.

    I hate Jay Leno and I hope that he fails when he comes back to the Tonight Show. They could get Jimmy Kimmel to take his place, did anyone see Kimmel the other night? Hilarious as Leno. Other than what Stephen does every night, that Kimmel show was one of the best pieces of satire I’ve seen in a long time.

  20. Great behind-the-scenes video, I had to watch it again after reading on other news sites that Conan is pretty much getting paid to leave. Last year, I recall the Times or some other newspaper writing a story about the “next generation” of Late Night… and how all of its participants (strangely) get along really well. It was oddly heartwarming to read, and the video verifies this 100%.

    It’s my dream to see Conan immediately resurrected as part-time correspondent for The Daily Show or as an intern for Colbert’s show.

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