Conan O'Brien to 60 Minutes: I would not have done to Jay Leno what he did to me
CBS has finally released a few excerpts from its interview with former Tonight Show host Conan O'Brien -- his very first interview since NBC kicked him off the network to hand his show back to former host Jay Leno.
The 60 Minutes interview will air one day after O'Brien's NBC severance agreement allows him to start speaking to the press on television. And that document will likely govern what he can say about the situation -- so it will be interesting to see what he says.
Curiously, he does insist he would not have treated Leno the way Leno treated him -- although some industry people have trouble believing comic George Lopez willingly gave up his 11 p.m. timeslot on TBS to make room for O'Brien, despite Lopez's repeated insistence that he did. And given that the Tonight Show has notched top ratings since Leno resumed hosting it, O'Brien's criticisms may ring a little hollow.
According to the New York Times, O'Brien will maintain that NBC chose the cheaper course by keeping Leno, given that his contract had a $150-million payout if his show was canceled early, more than three times what the network eventually paid O'Brien.
That nugget suggests O'Brien was outmaneuvered by Leno, who had gone through this dance before with David Letterman, and positioned himself best to survive if NBC had to choose between the two of them.
But even though 60 Minutes can't circulate the video clips they normally provide before a big interview, they have released a few salient quotes and photo. So here it is:"Conan O’Brien says he would have left NBC rather than do what Jay Leno did to him, in his first interview since being forced off the Tonight Show. O’Brien’s interview with Steve Kroft will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES, Sunday, May 2 (7:00-8:00PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
“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 says. “If I had 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. Everyone's got their own, you know, way of doing things,” he tells Kroft.
Asked by Kroft what he would have done, O’Brien says, “Done something else, go someplace else. I mean, that's just me.”
O’Brien eventually left NBC, deciding not to play second-fiddle to Leno. He says he didn’t see the point in giving his all in a relationship that seemed to have no future. “I think this relationship is going be toxic and maybe we just need to go our separate ways,” he says. “That's really how it felt to me…and I started to feel that I'm not sure these people even really want me here….I can't do it [anymore]."