April 30, 2010

Conan O'Brien: I Would Never Do What Jay Leno Did to Me

Posted: 11:44 AM ET

by Eunice Oh

If the tables had been turned during their late-night dispute, Conan O'Brien says he knows what he would – and wouldn't – have done to Jay Leno.

"He went and took that show back and I think in a similar situation, if roles had been reversed, I know – I know me, I wouldn't have done that," O'Brien, 47, says in his first post-Tonight Show interview, scheduled to air on 60 Minutes Sunday.

In the interview, the new TBS late-night host tells Steve Kroft that he would not have "surrendered The Tonight Show and handed it over to somebody publicly and wished them well – and then … six months later… But that's me, you know."

Adding that "Everyone's got their own, you know, way of doing things," O'Brien, who's been on the road for his 30-date North American tour, says if he had been in Leno's shoes, he would've "done something else, go someplace else."

Leaving NBC, he says, was like severing a "toxic" relationship, especially one he didn't see having a future with.

And though he may have negotiated with the network, O'Brien says he "started to feel that I'm not sure these people even really want me here."

Filed under: Conan O'Brien

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robert titcher   April 30th, 2010 11:54 am ET

I use to be a regular of Larry Kings, but when he does news show, I never watch. When he interviews celebrities etc. I try to watch. I would suggest selecting a special night for celeb interviews like thursday. I would like to see interviewed David McCallum, Michael Caine, Sean Conerlly, Tom Seaver, Yogi berra, Jerry West, many of the old timers before they die off.

MzNomerNAZona   April 30th, 2010 1:07 pm ET

Jay Leno will forever be tainted and smarmy to me now. I can't bare to watch him anymore. If his ratings are good it is because people are falling asleep with the tv on.

He has an aura of sleeze about him now. That said I think Conan should go back to late late night. He isn't suitable for that time slot and all the old fogies that watch at that time.

Charles   April 30th, 2010 2:27 pm ET

@Robert Titcher,
I agree; it would be nice to focus on some a little more lighthearted occasionally as LKL did at one time. LKL cannot compete with Fox and MSNBC but could remain king if the past programs were revisited.

Charles   April 30th, 2010 2:35 pm ET

I wonder why you don't give Jay Leno credit for so graciously turning his show over to O'Brien even though he was not ready to leave it and had the highest ratings. Leno is a class act. It's interesting that you would find him tainted because of this when there has never been anything sleezey in his past, neither professionally nor personally. And to date, unlike O'Brien, he has said nothing negative about O'Brien.

If people fall asleep with the TV on as you say, well apparently it's turned on Leno as there are numerous other choices as you know.

I think you address the problem yourself when you say Conan is not the best choice for the Tonight Show time slot. I think you could have said that without insulting those who do watch the Tonight Show in that time slot. Apparently you are a very young something or another; who knows quite what, but you may be surprised at how young some of Jay's fans are. I wish them both the best and perhaps NBC has learned a lesson. Don't kick someone out when they are not ready to go and are rated number one, as they did to Jay Leno.

MzNomerNAzona   April 30th, 2010 3:19 pm ET

@charles Do you always 'argue' other people opinions? Are you some kind of oppressive person or do you ever allow anyone to have their own opinions? just sayin

Charles   April 30th, 2010 3:28 pm ET

Funny that you say that; you suggest I am here all of the time when in reality, probably 10-15 blogs in my life. I don't argue; I simply voice my opinion. But what I don't do that people like you do, is always find something ugly to say about someone which is one of the reasons I don't often participate. In this example, why not just express your support for Conan without trashing Jay? What does that really accomplish? Just sayin

tyrone   April 30th, 2010 4:33 pm ET

Mr King! WHAT DO YOU MAKE/ is there another expretion you can use when u intreviewing ?

Deb Henthorne   April 30th, 2010 4:36 pm ET

I feel Conan treated George Lopez unfairly by pushing his show back an hour.George Lopez is more classy and,let Conan take his spot.

gerald Jolly   April 30th, 2010 6:44 pm ET

I feel very sorry for both Conan and Jay.

The reality is that they were both pawns in a filthy dirty little game brought upon by the Network they both worked for.

If anybody deserves critisizm it's the GOOFS at the network.

gerald Jolly   April 30th, 2010 6:45 pm ET


I would'nt watch NBC if Jesus Christ himself was appearing there.

ba   April 30th, 2010 7:03 pm ET

Yo coco I think it was Jay's show before it was yours and didn't Jay get a rotten deal when the execs decided several years ago to kick you up to the show? You are the one who blew it while Jay kept quiet and waited to get it back. Neither one of you are funny and the format is designed more for commercials than anything else. Time to grow up and shut up and move on.

Cindy   April 30th, 2010 7:23 pm ET

@Gerald Jolly,
I agree with you. We may each have our favorite comedians but they both got a bad deal. As best I can tell, they are both respectable people. The good news is we don't have to worry about them; I think they will be quite fine compared to many.

Joe G. (Illinois)   April 30th, 2010 7:31 pm ET

He should write a book and go on Ophra..

Mary in Michigan   April 30th, 2010 9:29 pm ET

And that is why Conan has more class than Leno do and this is why I will no longer watch Leno.

Christie   April 30th, 2010 9:38 pm ET

@Mary in Michigan,
There's far more important things to worry about than two millionaires who will be quite fine. This in no way would be a "deal breaker" for me when it comes to watching or not watching either one of them. They are both good guys.

Tope Adeyinka   April 30th, 2010 10:05 pm ET

Conan is funny, but apparently ,Jay is funnier. NBC played both of them against each other, Conan is bitter, rightfully but he should vent his anger on NBC not Jay. If Jay's show had succeeded we wont be talking about all these.
Is it fair to say that NBC acted in its own best interest? None of us here seem to pay serious attention to the business aspect of this confusion. Lets just enjoy comedy my friends. Stop hating.

MzNomerNAzona   April 30th, 2010 10:40 pm ET

It is my opinion that jay leno seems tainted and smarmy to me now. He was terrible in the earlier slot....just terrible.....and he should have graciously let conan fail on his own and just waited before starting up his tired old show again. snooze.

Anonymous   April 30th, 2010 10:58 pm ET

I think they are both boring as hell and Conan makes himself look petty by saying those things. Conan isn't anywhere near as talented or funny as Jimmy Falon. NBC should get rid of both those has beens and get him on earlier.
Jay Leno made himself look bad by not displaying a more principled reaction to the antics by NBC. After all it isn't as if he needs the money. I just don't get Leno...he really damaged himself and his image I think.

Ted   May 1st, 2010 8:03 am ET

Conan, you may not noticed, but we have a capitalistic system, where the money decides who stays and who goes!
Not Leno, but the executives of NBC decided that you are not as good as Leno is and gave you a chance to move to another time. Your own ego stopped you to do that, so do not blame anyone, but yourself.
The only thing funny about you is how you look!!

Lee Leier   May 1st, 2010 2:38 pm ET

Please, please Conan, give up the blue background on your set and give us some colors like yellow, whites, touches of red, green and maybe teal blue.
The colors on your set and your blue shirts are not appealing...they are too dull for your personality.
Lighten up the colors on your set please!!!
oh, and get rid of that old retro intro , Bonnie Hunt should do the is just not appealing!!

Cajazz76:24:8   May 1st, 2010 5:03 pm ET


Very well stated.. To be honest, Conan seemed to be just a bone-head with dry humor who had little interaction with the audience, live or broadcast. If he were the only show on, I probably would be singing to my cat. chirping with the crickets, or choking the chicken...

Diane Wilson   May 2nd, 2010 6:56 am ET

In my opinion Conan is a no-talent and Jay Leno is the king of comedy.He is naturally funny whereas Conan always TRIES so very HARD. I've never laughed at him once, while Jay Leno effortlessly cracks me up every time. That's the difference between the two.

Ted   May 2nd, 2010 10:49 am ET

@ cajazz

Thank you, it seems we run parallel on our way to the happy hunting grounds!

karla   June 17th, 2010 2:37 pm ET

Conan is an idiot. Idiot! He not only tried to oust Jay from his own show; when it didn't go as well as he'd planned, he went and did the same thing to George Lopez!!! Both George AND Jay should be commended for having taken being screwed by Conan so well.

JakeD47   September 27th, 2010 12:29 pm ET

Is Conan kidding? It was his "in 5 years" power play that forced Leno out in the first place. Wow, I guess he has spent his summer off rewriting history.

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