In an interview with 60 Minutes’ Steve Kroft that will air Sunday, Conan O’Brien said he wouldn’t have taken back The Tonight Show from Jay Leno if the roles had been reversed. “I know me, I wouldn’t have done that,” O’Brien tells Kroft. “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.”
O’Brien also explained why he decided to leave NBC rather than air at midnight behind Leno. “I think this relationship is going to 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].”
The interview — O’Brien’s first since leaving NBC and signing onto TBS — will air on the very day his contractual muzzle expires (as part of his exit deal with NBC, O’Brien agreed not to give any interviews in print or broadcast until after May 1). The piece is also expected to include highlights from O’Brien’s 32-city “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On TV Tour.” His new talk show on TBS bows in November.
UPDATE: CBS has released more quotes from O’Brien’s interview Sunday. Read the quotes after the jump. The talk show host on Jeff Zucker’s claim that The Tonight Show lost money while O’Brien served as host: “I honestly don’t see how that’s possible. It’s really not possible. It isn’t possible.”
On Zucker’s opinion that lower ratings meant people didn’t want to see O’Brien as The Tonight Show’s host: “In my opinion, I don’t think that’s fair or accurate. But he’s entitled to his opinion. I think for anyone to say that the results were in after six months — that doesn’t ring true to me.”
On whether or not he has any regrets: “I don’t regret anything. I don’t regret one decision I made in that week and a half period…I wish it had ended differently. But I’m fine. I do believe, and this might be my Catholic upbringing or Irish magical thinking, but I think things happen for a reason. I really do. And I think that this all happened for a reason.”
On whether or not he was screwed: “The biggest thing people come up and say to me in gas stations and restaurants, I have so many people say this to me. ‘Hey partner, you got screwed.’ I don’t — and I always tell them, ‘No, I didn’t. I didn’t get screwed. I’m — I’m fine. It just — it didn’t work out.’ But I don’t want people thinking, you know, that I got screwed. Because it just didn’t work out.
On whether he’s resolved his issues: “No, I have not resolved all my issues. I am mostly very happy. I love this tour. It’s the most thrilling thing I’ve done in my career. And so I’m in a really great place in a lot of ways. But I’d be lying if I said I don’t have my moments of everything, you know, anger disappointment, frustration, and just confusion.”