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Tonight Show Ratings Bump? How About a Thank You for Jay!

Two can play at this game. (Well, really, including Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, George Lopez, et al, it's been more like eight, but...)

Jay Leno had a few choice words for Conan O'Brien tonight, approximately 24 hours after his redheaded successor spread some of the NBC-late-night-debacle blame in Jay's direction.

"In other TV news, Sarah Palin has signed with Fox News to be a correspondent," Leno opened Thursday's monologue. "Fox says if she does a good job, they'll sign her to a long-term contract. And if it doesn't work out, they'll just blame Leno.

"With all the controversy going on here at NBC, actually," he continued, "The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien's ratings have gone up. So, you're welcome!"

Touché, Jay. Touché.

NBC has yet to weigh in on what the heck is going on over at the Peacock zoo, other than to reveal its winter/spring prime-time schedule—which, in case you hadn't heard, will be without The Jay Leno Show, starting Feb. 12.

Lucky for us, Conan's willing to address some of the latest rumors...

"There's a rumor that NBC is so upset with me, they want to keep me off the air for three years. My response to that is, if NBC doesn't want people to see me, just leave me on NBC," O'Brien said during his monologue after introducing himself as "NBC's employee of the month." 

But that's just a rumor. (EW.com is reporting that a new deal to bring Leno back to 11:35 p.m. would include some sort of stipulation that would prevent O'Brien from leaping right to a competing network.)

"This is absolutely true," O'Brien offered. "I received a letter from the adult film company Pink Visual offering me a role in one of their porno movies. In the movie I'd be having sex with a beautiful woman and just as we're about to climax I get replaced by Jay Leno."

But "no matter what happens," he continued, "it's been a real honor to sit in the same chair as Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, and Jay Leno."

With all the late-night kerfuffle, it's been easy to forget about the silent victims of this crisis. And we don't just mean Jimmy Fallon.

Even Conan's wingman Andy Richter, who's apparently in the hole after dropping $400K on a bar mitzvah for his 9-year-old Lutheran son, couldn't keep quiet any longer.

"So, TV, whatever you've got, I will take it," said the desperate sidekick. "You want me on one of those celebrity rehab shows? You name the drug and I will get hooked on it tomorrow!"

(Originally published Jan. 14, 2009, at 5:56 p.m. PT)

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