Saturday, January 23, 2010

Conan O'Brien: Last 'Tonight Show,' January 22

It doesn't seem like that long ago that I wrote about Conan O'Brien's final episode of Late Night.

That's because it wasn't. Late Night with Conan O'Brien ended on February 20, 2009, after 2725 shows.

It also doesn't seem like that long ago I wrote about O'Brien's debut as host of The Tonight Show. Again, that's because it wasn't. The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien began on June 1, 2009.

Time to write about another final episode in O'Brien's career, January 22, 2010 -- the 146th episode of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien.

Although during his final week on the air as Tonight Show host he kept saying he was going to have fun on his last shows, it was impossible to watch without considering all the drama and all the legal wrangling and all the ugliness that surrounded O'Brien's situation with NBC, not to mention the tens of millions of dollars involved.

The last show didn't have the same anger and bitterness that characterized some segments of the episodes leading up to it.

Guests included Tom Hanks, Neil Young, and Will Ferrell. Steve Carell made a brief appearance.

After his monologue, Steve Carell was part of a short comedy bit where he was charged with conducting NBC's exit interview with O'Brien.

Tom Hanks followed and then came Neil Young performing "Long May You Run."

Before closing out the show with Will Ferrell singing "Free Bird," O'Brien delivered his parting words.


CONAN O'BRIEN: By the way that was a picture, that was a picture of our staff and our amazing crew; and let's have a hand for them because they are amazing.


Ladies and gentlemen, before we bring this rodeo to a close, I think a couple of things should be said. Um, there's been a lot of speculation in the press about what I legally can and can't say about NBC. And this isn't a joke, to set the record straight, and this is true, tonight I am allowed to say anything I want.

(Some laughter)

No, it's not a joke, but thanks sir. Tonight I really am allowed to say whatever I want, and what I want to say is this: Between my time at Saturday Night Live, the Late Night show, and my brief run here on The Tonight Show, I have worked with NBC for over twenty years.

Yes, we have our differences right now. Yes, we're going our separate ways. But this company has been my home for most of my adult life. I am enormously proud of the work we've done together, and I want to thank NBC for making it all possible. I really do.


Uh, a lot of people have been asking me about my state of mind, and I'll be honest with you, walking away from The Tonight Show is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Um, making this choice has been enormously difficult. This is the best job in the world. I absolutely love doing it, and I have the best staff and crew in the history of the medium. I will fight anybody who says I don't. Uh, but no one would.


Um, but despite this sense of loss, I really feel this should be a happy moment. Every comedian, every comedian dreams of hosting The Tonight Show. And for seven months, I got to do it. And I did it my way, with people I love. I do not regret one second of anything that we've done here.

And, yeah. And, you know, I encounter people when I walk on the street now, or just, uh, whom give me a sort of a sad look. I have had more good fortune than anybody I know. And if our next gig is doing a show in a 7-Eleven parking lot, we will find a way to make it fun. We really will. I have no problems.


And...I don't want to do it in a 7-Eleven parking lot, but, whatever.

Finally, I have something to say to our fans: This massive outpouring of support and passion from so many people has been overwhelming for me -- the rallies, the signs, all this goofy, outrageous creativity on the Internet. The fact that people have traveled long distances and camped out all night in the pouring rain...


It's pouring. It's been pouring for days and they're camping out to be in our audience. Really.


Here's what all of you have done: You made a sad situation joyous and inspirational.

So to all the people watching, I can never, ever (Chokes up)thank you enough for the kindness to me. I'll think about it for the rest of my life.

And all I ask is one thing. And this is... I'm asking this particularly of young people that watch: Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it's my least favorite quality. It doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you. It's just true.

When O'Brien finished up his run as host of Late Night, his goodbye was classy and sweet.

His goodbye to The Tonight Show also showed class.

In spite of the nightmare of NBC's late night shake-up and all the hostility, O'Brien thanked NBC.

That was the right thing to do and I'm glad he did it.

When Conan ended Late Night, I wondered if he would change.

Discussing his final episode in February 2009, I wrote:

Throughout the show, O'Brien was humble.

Surely, O'Brien has gained a lot of confidence over the years. Obviously, O'Brien is not the shaky, inexperienced unknown he was when he took over Late Night from David Letterman when he moved to CBS in 1993. Sixteen years later, after polishing his stage presence and solidifying his comedic persona, O'Brien still manages to keep his ego in check. The self-deprecating humor still works.

Once O'Brien takes over The Tonight Show, will that change? Will he go Hollywood? I hope not.

There were times in this whole mess that I thought his ego was no longer in check. I completely understand his anger with NBC and his disappointment. Still, I admit I didn't like seeing it.

For me, late night TV helps to put the stress and worries of the day out of my head. I don't want anger and drama and petty sniping, but that's what the audience has been getting for a while now.

Jokes don't hide bitterness. They often reveal it. David Letterman provides a perfect example of that.

I'm glad that Conan chose to put the anger aside and be gracious in his goodbye statement.

Just as with his goodbye to Late Night, he was classy. This time that had to be very difficult to do. He had to have a lot of conflicting feelings given the circumstances of his departure.

But he did keep the proper prospective: He's been extremely fortunate. He's worked hard and it has paid off, even though his time as host of The Tonight Show didn't go according to the plan.

At the end, Conan said all the right things. For his sake, I really hope that his remarks were sincere.


Video, from Mediaite.

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