Conan O'Brien on '60 Minutes': Will too much NBC-Leno talk turn him into a victim?
Image Credit: CBSLet me start by saying I am a huge Conan O’Brien fan. HUGE. So much so that if he had no choice but to broadcast his show from a cockroach-infested 7-Eleven on the wrong side of the tracks — or in a turkey pen with John Tesh — I would still tune in every night.
So that’s precisely why I’m a tad worried about Coco’s 60 Minutes interview this Sunday. According to early transcripts that have circulated, Conan is quite candid when discussing January’s late-night fiasco, saying that if he were Leno, he would not have taken The Tonight Show back: “I know me, I wouldn’t have done that…. 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.” (Also, Conan claimed that had he stayed with NBC, their relationship would have become “toxic.”)
I believe Conan, and I’m certainly curious about his true, no-holds-barred feelings about everything that has transpired. But I would be lying if I said his statements don’t have me a tad worried that he’s in danger of getting painted as the perpetual victim. Part of what made Conan’s exit so incredibly graceful in that final hour on Jan. 22 was the fact that, in the end, he refused to bitterly point fingers. Though he had spent the better part of his final days on The Tonight Show ripping into the network — rightfully, most would argue — he ended on a tearjerker of a monologue that outlined his happy, if complicated, history with NBC. (“I have worked with NBC for over 20 years. Yes, we have our differences right now and yes, we’re going to go our separate ways. But this company has been my home for most of my adult life. I am enormously proud of the work we have done together, and I want to thank NBC for making it all possible.”) He told all of us not to be cynical. And we tried not to be. Conan simply came out of the situation the bigger, gracious man that would undoubtedly move on and find a home elsewhere.
And find a home, he did — on TBS this November. The fans that refused to be cynical always believed it would happen, and it did! And with a new network and a new show and a start date that’s less than six months away, it seems like the perfect opportunity for Conan to leave discussion of the Leno-NBC ugliness behind him, and to remind the world that when it comes to the competitive, much-analyzed world of late-night talk-show hosting, he’s second to none: Hilarious, adventurous, inquisitive, and a good interviewer with a touch of aw-shucks sincerity. But now, after seeing the sneak peek into his 60 Minutes interview — not to mention reading how he ripped into NBC on his “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On TV Tour” — I’ve begun to wonder at what point his talk of NBC and Leno will cause his “Conan as victim” persona to eclipse his role as the host of TBS’ new, must-see late-night telecast.
It’s tricky, of course. If Conan didn’t talk frankly about the fiasco we would all be disappointed. And the guy certainly has every right to let the world know his side of the story. But as a fan of Conan the late-night host, I hope he takes his own advice, resists the cynicism, and at some point soon drops the smack-talk, leaving us to only contemplate his new gig hosting the TBS show. And if he brings along a turkey pen — well, that’s even better.
More from EW on Conan O’Brien’s 60 Minutes interview: