Coco's Classy Exit
There's one more chapter to be written in the Conan-Leno saga - where Conan ends up next - but otherwise, this long and sordid story came to an end tonight with Conan O'Brien's last episode as host of "The Tonight Show." And I must say, Conan's farewell speech at the end of tonight's show was one of the classiest, most gracious things I have ever witnessed. He said some very kind things about his 20-year association with NBC, and was far more generous than I think I could have been in a similar position. I mean, talk about loving your enemies. These guys changed everything about his life, giving him only money when he already had that but ripping up emotions and families, and did the same to dozens of his friends, and yet he stays classy. I was expecting f-bombs and middle fingers like we saw from Robin Williams last night, and yet it's almost Biblical, the way Conan passed up on revenge. He kept the focus on the positive, was visibly emotional and on the verge of getting choked up, and gave only good advice to young fans and upbeat things about his own position in life. Here he is, encouraging his younger viewers (people like me) not to get cynical at a time when few have more reason to be cynical than he. If anyone's got a right to be cynical in the entertainment business, it's Conan O'Brien, and yet he's the one saying chin up. What class.
I know some of my more cynical readers - those readers that are still left after my long stint of no real blogging, anyway - will say of course he was positive, he's getting over $30 million. I reject that position. It's a position that says money is the only thing in life that matters and anyone who has money should be happy. BS. Money can't buy happiness, and all that - sappy but true. The fact is, here is a man, a human being, who after 15 years of chasing it, was finally given his dream job. He and dozens of other people, people not a tenth as rich as he, uprooted their families and their lives across an entire continent only to have the rug pulled out from under them. NBC rogered them, and rogered them hard. Jeff Zucker rogered not only them, but their young children, and Jay Leno did too. I don't care how much money you're getting, that's a tough emotional state for the human psyche to be in, and my hat is off to Conan O'Brien for being such a class act through it all.
Since I started watching late night in high school, it's been a toss-up for me between Letterman and Conan, and lately I've been digging CBS' Craig Ferguson, but with that speech I think Coco may have won me over. What a fundamentally decent thing to do; I do believe his farwell will live in the annals of entertainment history. And also, Conan, Will Ferrell, and ZZ Top rocking out to Free Bird? Awesomeness. Pure awesomeness.
I'm looking forward to whatever Conan winds up doing on Fox (one presumes that's what will happen), and am hoping against hope it comes on 30-60 minutes before Letterman so can catch both monologues.
Once the video is embeddable, I'll post it, but for now watch it at Huffington Post and read CNN's transcript here:
"There has been a lot of speculation in the press about what I legally can and can't say about NBC. To set the record straight, tonight I am allowed to say anything 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 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.
"Walking away from the "Tonight Show" is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Making this choice has been enormously difficult," O'Brien continued. "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. But despite this sense of loss, I really feel this should be a happy moment. Every comedian dreams of hosting the "Tonight Show" and, for seven months, I got to. I did it my way, with people I love, and I do not regret a second. I've had more good fortune than anyone I know and if our next gig is doing a show in a 7-11 parking lot, we'll find a way to make it fun.
"Finally, I have to say something to our fans. The massive outpouring of support and passion from so many people has been overwhelming. The rallies, the signs, all the goofy, outrageous creativity on the Internet, and the fact that people have traveled long distances and camped out all night in the pouring rain to be in our audience, made a sad situation joyous and inspirational. To all the people watching, I can never thank you enough for your kindness to me and I'll think about it for the rest of my life. "
Although O'Brien did not end up winning the late-night battle, he remains optimistic about his future, he said, and hopes his fans do the same.
"All I ask of you is one thing: please don't be cynical. I hate cynicism -- it's my least favorite quality and it doesn't lead anywhere," he concluded. "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.