Conan O'Brien signs deal, Friday his last 'Tonight Show'

It’s official: Conan O’Brien is leaving NBC. The network confirms that the host signed his exit papers and will end his seven-month run on The Tonight Show Friday with guests Tom Hanks and Will Ferrell. “In the end, Conan was appreciative of the steps NBC made to take care of his staff and crew, and decided to supplement the severance they were getting out of his own pocket,” Gavin Polone, O’Brien’s manager told TheWrap. “Now he just wants to get back on the air as quickly as possible.” For more on the situation, head to our Hollywood Insider blog.

NBC reaches a ‘resolution’ on Conan, announces Jay Leno is back on ‘Tonight’ March 1
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Leno and Letterman last night: The insults get personal
David Letterman to Jay Leno: ‘Don’t hang around waitin’ for somebody to drop dead’
Conan O’Brien books final guests, including Tom Hanks and Will Ferrell
David Letterman: Relentlessly mocking Jay Leno is “just fun”
Jay Leno addresses his planned return to The Tonight Show, ongoing negotiations with Conan O’Brien
Quentin Tarantino to direct Conan O’Brien in Late Shift 2: The Rolling Thunder of Revenge
Ken Tucker: Late-night jokes, and why the anti-Conan, pro-Jay backlash won’t work

Comments (206 total) Add your comment
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  • Maserda

    :-( Sad

    • imastarrah44

      Conan is such a class act. I wish him and his crew well in all their future endeavors.

      • Kat

        Bravo, Conan, for taking care of your staff. Well done. You will be missed but don’t worry, Leno will be off the air soon, and you will be back, and happily, not under NBCs disloyal thumb anymore. All the best to you, and even greater success.

      • Trey

        HE shouldn’t have to compensate his crew out of his own pocket. The network should take care of them too.

      • amye

        He damn well should compensate them. He’s getting 33 MILLION and they’re collectively getting 12 million.

        Conan sucks and I feel worse for his staff and Leno getting the creamed by everyday people who know nothing about the situation other than what the media wants us to see, but still make disparaging remarks.

        I turned into Conan a few times to try him, but his comedy is like watching my 18 yr old son try to be funny w/his friends.

      • hc

        Amye, if you have a son that’s 18 years old then your days of being relevant and being able to relate to popular culture are likely long over. So long! You won’t be missed.

      • @Amye

        If you’re thinking Leno is funnier than Conan, you’ve got problems.

      • Tom Selleck’s Moustache

        12 million divided by 200 only leaves about $60,000 a piece. And he’s getting 33 million. Let’s hold off on the Humanitarian of the Year award for a sec. Although Conan > Leno

      • j

        You can be older and still relevant. I am 50, have a 9 year old and I have always liked Conan. Everyone has different tastes.

      • Diane


        I’m over 40 and I bet I have a higher disposable income than the average 25 year old. Sooner or later the advertising world will realize that.

      • shatteredshards

        @Diane – it’s a good thing that disposable income is what dictates who gets put on TV, not ratings, right?

        You may have more disposable income, but your generation is not the one staying up to watch The Tonight Show.

    • J T


      • Tom Brazelton

        He’s been taking about Haiti every night on his show – asking viewers to give to Ben Stiller’s StillerStrong charity.

        What is Leno doing to help the people of Haiti?

      • hello?

        @ hc: Ummmm…Conan himself is “older”…at least old enough to have an 18 year old son. He’s 46 to be exact, which makes all comments about being older and not being relevant pretty stupid.

      • agentseventy3

        How much are YOU giving to the people of Haiti, “JT”?

    • sandi

      More like good riddance. He was a disaster from day one. So glad he’ll be gone and off television forever after tomorrow. So not funny.

    • Drew

      Why isn’t anyone talking about the real victim here, Andy Richter. That guy was the best part of Conan’s show and now he’s left out in the cold. He didn’t get $45 mil. Poor guy.

      • Andrew

        I agree. They should have given Andy Richter the Tonight Show. That would have been EPIC!!!!!!

      • AR

        I heard that when they did market research they learned that over 60% of the Tonight Show audience tuned in “mainly because of Andy Richter”.

      • AR

        I heard that when NBC did some market research they found out that over 60% of viewers tuned in “mainly because of Andy Richter”.

      • Andrew

        They should have given the Tonight Show to Andy Richter. That would have been EPIC!!!

    • wow

      Its not sad at all. NBC has the worst writers ever. Conan + Great writing = WIN!

  • TheObserver

    I hope fox picks him up *fingers crossed*!

    • dave

      If they did they could start his show at 11:00 instead of 11:35 and maybe he’d submarine Jay and Dave.

    • Isembard

      Exactly what I’d been thinking. Heaven knows, I don’t watch dreadful local “news”, so this’d be great for me.

  • claire

    so sad. it’s been hard watching his shows the past 2 weeks knowing that it’s all we’re going to get. he’s been hilarious…we’ll miss you coco.

    • ohyeah

      So happy. It’s been great watching Leno the past 2 weeks knowing that he will be going back to the TTS. He has been wonderful…we can’t wait for his 11:35 return.

      • molly

        You’ll be one of the very few tuning in to see Jay’s return to The Tonight Show

  • niki

    Part of me was hoping this would all turn out to be a joke to boost ratings :/

    • Scott P

      I was thinking the exact same thing niki, oh well…

  • Rick

    I think Jeff Zuker’s the real villian here, but Jay Leno was a prick not to do the right thing and refuse to take The Tonight Show back.

    Leno was losing to Letterman for 18 months when he first took over The Tonight Show; if someone had fired him after 7 months, we wouldn’t even remember his name today.

    Well, hopefully Letterman can keep his audience and Conan can keep his core audience on another show while Leno bombs (along with the rest of NBC).

    • Rob

      You comparing apples and oranges. Leno didn’t have an established audience when he started and Conan did. It was reasonable to believe Conan would start of strong with his existing audience following him and Tonight Show fans.

      • Summer

        WHAT?!? Leno had Johnny Freakin’ Carson as his predecessor…audience established.

      • DL

        Not only did Jay take over for Carson, he had already been a guest host on the Tonight Show around once a week for a long time towards the end.

        Not only did Jay have a built-in audience, he had been given a chance to keep Carson’s.

      • agentseventy3

        Are you serious, Rob? Hello? Have you never heard of Johnny Carson?

      • Shel

        Okay, I must be missing something. Isn’t everything you are saying also the same for Conan? He had Jay’s audience to take over and he had his own….in theory. Where DID all you guys go anyway?? lol

    • Al

      That’s a different situation. Leno took over and was number one for 15 months before Letterman even moved to CBS. He was up against Arsenio Hall and Pat Sajak at the beginning. When Letterman’s show started, Letterman was number one for a while he was the new entity, then fell. The point is, both Leno and Letterman both started at number one, Conan didn’t.

      • Luddite

        That, of course, was 15ish years ago. I mean, the TV landscape has only changed a little bit since then, not to mention the way that people actually watch TV (DVR, on the Internet, etc). And Nielsen ratings have become, for all intents and purposes, a pretty bad predictor of what people are ACTUALLY watching. But whatever. We should absolutely keep comparing now to then.

      • Me

        To Luddite,

        Exactly! Nielsen was a great indicator of ratings. Matter of fact, I’m sure it still works great, but this is mostly for sporting or awards events – basically any live event. Outside of that, I DVR everything. And it allows me to watch more TV. Haven’t the network execs realized this yet?

      • KC

        Leno’s bad ratings in prime time are what pushed the whole situation.

      • Johnification

        Leno became #1 by accidentally having Hugh Grant booked on his show right after the tranny prostitute thing. Then, back in the early ’90s, Leno had the BALLS (I use the term to exaggerate and also remind that it actually was shocking back then) to ask Hugh, “What were you thinking?!” After that, Jay kept a “what will he do next?” audience for a while, until those people got comfortable with their milquetoast and never switched back to Letterman.

      • dan

        Let’s be honest jay is funny if u’re over 65. Good luck nbc I’m sure that this is a good decision, like the magic carnival on heroes.?? Next u should cancel all the comedies on Thursday. U guys at nbc are some real visionaries. Keep making dummy decisions.

      • Shel

        Now the Hugh Grant interview was an “accident” but still resulted in Jay getting 15 years as #1? You guys are hysterical!!! So people who “got” Letterman and his edgy, hip humor simply skipped over to Leno just once to catch a cheater (kinda ironic) and somehow – amazingly!!!! – became brainwashed milquetoasts! I stand in awe of your ability to brainwash yourselves with this stuff.

  • Butters

    Eff NBC & Jay Leno.

    • mimi d

      I hope all the celebrities who are asked to go on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno say the same thing, Butters!

  • tundr

    For some strange reason there are more Jay Leno fans than Conan O’Brian fans. They’re the ones who’ve made him #1. It’s there fault Conan is gone.

    • Chip H

      I don’t even know if it’s necessarily that there’s more Leno than O’Brien fans in the absolute, just more of them willing to watch Leno live as its broadcast, which, sadly, is all the suits care about. DVR users need not apply.

      • @ChipH

        You are right DVR users need not apply. Why? Because they skip through the comercials. The ads are what pays for shows. The higher the rated show the larger a network can charge for ad space. It’s business and Conan just did not bring in the numbers NBC needed for TTS or else they would have never tried to bump him to 12:05. It was a calculated move to get rid of him and it worked. Job well done NBC. Now back to Leno who dominated that time period which equals more ad revenue.

      • LAJackie

        Actually it has been proven that dvr users actually see more of the commercials than people who watch regular tv. Before I had my dvr I would go pee or put the kettle on when the commercials came on. I never sat and watched them. With my dvr, yes I’m ff but I’m still actually seeing the commercials. Anyway, the whole ratings thing is bogus because Conan may have had lower ratings but he had more of the “preferred demographic”. Leno should have done the classy thing and left the Tonight Show when he was supposed to.

    • Al

      I think a lot of Conan fans are also Colbert and Letterman fans. Jay got better ratings because his fans are less likely to watch his competitors.

      • EWsMom

        So in other words, Leno’s fans are more LOYAL than Coco’s fans?


      • Ian

        Yeah, so loyal they couldn’t manage to watch the exact same show 90 minutes earlier. What troopers they are…

      • Me

        That’s me. But I watch Stewart and Colbert on DVR and I catch Letterman clips on YT. I love all three but I have a job to get to in the morning.

        Sucks about Conan though…watched a bit of last night’s show on DVR this morning. I don’t want to hear or see Leno again. I know it’s strange because I don’t know him, but I was a fan of his for so long and this was uncool.

      • Natalie

        Al, I think you are onto something there. Conan’s brand of humor is much different than Jay’s. I never *got* Conan and I never cared much for David Letterman’s style either. I’m not saying one is better than the other, it’s just personal preference. And to answer Ian’s question: I don’t want to watch Jay Leno at 9pm (which is what time it comes on where I live), I want to watch him during Tonight Show hours (if I’m actually up). He’s a host of what is essentially a talk show and talk shows have never been popular in prime time, but are just fine in early or later time slots. That said, I think NBC is biting its nose to spite its face. I like Jay, but I think he will have a hard time recovering from this farce.

      • @Ian

        Dude, get your facts straight. Leno on TTS 5.6 mil viewers Leno at 10 5.3 mil viewers. His fans did follow him 90 minutes earlier. How about where are all these “loyal” viewers of Conan? His numbers just plain stunk at 2.3 mil viewers.

      • @@ Ian

        When you move an hour and a half earlier, especially into prime time, isn’t the goal to grow the audience?

        Heck, if it’s the same people that watched, it would follow that some of them probably are not used to staying up until 11:35 for the Tonight Show anymore, so he might lose even more than one would expect with his aging audience.

      • Ian

        @Ian – My facts are straight, and I deal with ratings on a regular basis for MY job. Late night numbers are a tough demo. Most fans only see 1 or 3 shows a week at most due to the late airing. Which means if he was AVERAGING 5.6 million at 11:35pm, he should get at least TWICE that with the same show in prime time. He didn’t. His numbers would be the equivalent of getting 2 million in late night. And of Course Conan’s numbers were pretty low. He’s new to the show. He was getting the same numbers Leno was right after Carson left. It took him years to build his ratings to pass Letterman. Conan got 7 months, and then never built numbers after Leno tanked at 10pm. That’s why affiliates were birching about Leno. They had 11pm news shows go from #1 to #3 after Leno moved to 10pm. THAT’S what caused all this. NBC hit the panic button before ever giving Conan the same chance Leno got when he took over. Now they’re really paying for hitting that button.

      • Ian

        Natalie, if you look through television history you’ll see a ton of talk/variety shows that were very popular in prime time hours. Ed Sullivan ring a bell?

        @Ian – My facts are straight. I understand ratings as they are a part of my daily job. If you get 5.6 million in Late Night, you should get twice that in prime time. The reason being that in Late Night, even your biggest fans may only see 1 or 2 shows a week due to the late airing. It also took Leno 3+ years to build those numbers, and he started with numbers right in line with Conan’s. But Leno got to keep working on the show, Conan got 7 months and awful lead-in numbers the last few months (on a tanking network), and NBC panicked.

      • dave

        The biggest difference is that when Jay started out Johnny wasn’t sitting there wanting to come back so they gave Jay time. It’s not the same situation and that’s just TS for Conan.

      • Shel

        Ian, for someone who claims to work with ratings for his job, you certainly skirt through facts. For one, NBC did not expect Jay to “grow” or double his audience simply by moving his show to 10:00. They told him (and the press) that they expected he would get killed relatively-speaking against new dramas on the other networks – but that his show would STILL make money for them. They felt he might see growth during the summer repeat season. That said, they were quite happy with his ratings and the money he was bringing in. They were just too stupid to realize how much those ratings might hurt their affiliates’ ratings for the late news. That is an NBC executive problem – NOT Jay’s.

      • Shel

        OMG, I can’t believe this stuff. I am a huge Stewart/Colbert fan and I like both Leno & Conan – how do you explain me, you generalization-spewing idiots? Everything is not black & white, and certainly people can like more than one kind of comic, host, or humor show. All the people saying over & over about how Leno’s audience is all old are just (1) repeating what they read on another blog by another “expert” and (2) employing wishful thinking.

    • Elizabeth

      Yeah, Jay’s fans did a bang up job at 10:00, didn’t they?

      I’m just waiting to see if NBC owns up to their screw up and starts bouncing some executives.

      • Maserda

        Guess there were too many other interesting things to watch at 10pm

      • Lainey

        “In the end, Conan was appreciative of the steps NBC made to take care of his staff and crew, and decided to supplement the severance they were getting out of his own pocket,”


        I would kill to have Conan for a boss.

      • Dave

        “Yeah, Conan’s fans did a bang up job at 11:30, didn’t they?”

      • Frank

        I don’t get the Leno bashing…he didn’t want to go to prime time…but NBC insisted it’d work. It didn’t…so how is that Jay’s fault? I thought his prime time show had a lot of different and interesting aspects to it. But, history has shown talk shows mostly succeed in the mornings or late at night, for whatever reason. I like Jay and Conan…there should be room for both, but NBC screwed that pooch. If anything, it seems fans’ anger should be at them, not Conan or Jay. All they tried to do was entertain…and I thought they did it very well.

      • BW

        Actually Jay was getting about the same number of viewers at 10 as he was at 11:30. Conan’s viewers on the other had constantly slipped

      • Eric

        Actually it probably was Leno’s fans who watched at 10. If you look at audience viewership during his tenure at the Tongiht Show he averaged around 5 million viewers, which was enough to win in late night. However, that same 5 million was small beans in prime time. Leno will go back to 11:35 and remain strong against Letterman and possibly Conan.

      • Ian

        If you knew anything about how the numbers work, you’d realize that his numbers should have been much higher at 10pm than they were at 11:35. Getting the same numbers in that move is a BAD performance. Conan’s numbers slipped because he was new to the show (Leno took years to build his numbers up), and then had terrible lead-in numbers to drag them down further.

      • GEX

        Frank, you’ve given your opinion without any research. How can you not understand the Leno bashing by now? The guy feigns to be a nice guy or even a classy guy. But he’s selfish. Soo selfish. And wiggles his way out of everything by pretending to be this nice guy. His whole speech about the Tonight Show being a dynasty and how he wanted to hand it off to Conan was poppycock. Colleagues and comedians have called him out for being a phony for years.

      • dave

        I think that’s more the nature of the show than anything to do with Leno. I don’t think anyone could make a nightly talkshow at 10:00 work today.

    • Chris

      Yes, it is their fault.

  • maiv

    aw I’m gonna miss him and Andy. I’m sure that they’ll find another network tho

  • byron


  • Sara

    Heard about it on the radio on the way in this morning. They sounded jealous, like “Oh, lucky Conan! 32 mill!” Would you give up the dream job you worked a really long time to get, for $32 mill? :-/

    • Dusty

      Exactly. :(

    • I


      • Isembard

        Oooh, very astute. They really have burnt their bridges there.

      • Joe

        oh please…

        I’m a programmer, worked the past 8 years to get to the point of where i am today owning a development firm and all. If someone offered me 30 mil to quit and never touch a computer again, I’d do it in a hearbeat.

        While I’m sure 30 mil isn’t a large amount of money for conan who was probably getting 10mil a year anyways, it’s still a dam good deal. Leno is reportedly worth 800 million.

        Conan’s been completely humiliated through all this, to get back on the air for another network and fail again due to ratings would just be an even bigger humiliation. He succeeded at the 12:30am slot, putting him at 11:30 just isn’t going to work in my opinion.

        Ultimately I believe NBC’s decision came down to numbers. Jay leno was in an iron clad agreement where if his show as terminated early he’d be paid 150 million, conan was much cheaper. If the roles were reversed and leno was 30 mil while conan was 150 million I can guarantee leno would be history.

        Sad for conan, but my suggestion is to save future humiliation and just retire. 17 years or whatever on the air for his late night show was great, he’s not going to succeed anywhere else.

  • Mara

    To paraphrase Princess Buttercup, I will never watch the Tonight Show again. (With Leno as host anyway. Who are they going to give it to when a car finally collapses on top of him? Fallon? HA!)

    • C.

      Mara – that’s a good point that I never really thought about….but WHO IS going to replace Jay when he eventually does have to leave? NBC has burnt many a bridge with this change and I think it’s clear where lines have been crossed among talk show hosts. Maybe it is too early for projecture, but Jay isn’t young and will eventually HAVE to hang it up, right?

      • April

        Didn’t anyone tell you? Leno is going to live forever.

      • I-Man

        NBC is going to take Leno to Pandora and switch his mind over to the Avatar so he can keep hosting the Tonight Show. :)

      • C.

        Maybe it really WILL be Fallon; CNN seems to think so:

  • Asher

    Not going to watch Jay Leno!

    • EWsMom

      Good for you!
      No one was watching Coco either, so not sure what your point is…

      • Dusty

        I think it’s delicious that Jay’s ratings haven’t improved one bit during this whole ordeal, while Conan’s have climbed by over 50%. NBC is going to suffer even more for their poor decision making.

      • Chris

        I think the public should send a real message to NBC and NOT watch the Tonight Show whenever the chin takes it back over.

      • EWsMom

        Why would Jay’s ratings “improve”

        Last I checked, Coco is out of a job starting Friday…Leno is going to be back on Monday, and then again after the Olympics.
        Coco is going bye-bye…Leno is not.

        So again, why would more people be watching Leno now?

      • @Dusty

        Please don’t ever use the word “delicious” other than talking about food.
        I hate that usage!

      • Scott

        Leno is classless! That’s why nobody will watch him. He’s the one that screwed up by taking a prime time spot. He could have fought it.

      • KC

        I think someone was watching.

      • @Dusty

        You are wrong. All three Leno, Lettermen and Conan are all up in the ratings as a result of this mess. Can’t wait for Leno to defeat Lettermen again at 11:35. Now that will be delicious.

      • Why?

        You can’t wait for Leno to beat Letterman? Why? Do you get a check? Nope….you’re life will still suck.

  • Steve

    Sad. Good luck Coco! Hope you and Andy & everybody land on FOX real soon! :)

    • Janet

      Me, too! I’ll miss them until then. This week’s shows have been especially great.

  • Ann

    Conan was awesome, despite what ratings may have reported. Hope he gets another gig and burns Leno in the ratings.

  • Dusty

    This is basically a broadcasting tragedy. What NBC has done to the Tonight Show franchise is irreversible. I cannot wait for the ridiculous movie that is surely to come out of this.

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