"A lot of papers are reporting that I am now legally prohibited from saying anything negative about NBC," the all-but-officially outgoing host of The Tonight Show said last night. "So good night, ladies and gentlemen, it's been a great show!"
"Luckily, they're not saying I can't sing anything negative about the network," Conan O'Brien clarified, before launching into a clearly heartfelt verse: "Morons, incompetent morons. These people are morons. La-dee-dee-dee."
Still, NBC's loss has quickly become Craigslist's gain. After putting The Tonight Show up for sale last week, Team CoCo has taken to the trading site yet again—albeit this time to the Casual Encounters section—offering Conan himself for some "nighttime recreation."
"Tall, slender redhead available for nighttime recreation," the genuine ad reads. Among the features potential playmates can look forward to: "VERY Caucasian," "drapes match the carpet," "can go a whole hour (with scheduled breaks every 7-10 minutes)," and "not afraid to take two people at once, and then a musical guest."
And, of course, there is a time clause.
"NOTE: If you want me to perform after midnight, it'll cost you!"
We wouldn't dream of it. And neither would some would-be employers who have already heeded the call.
Last night, O'Brien ran through a list of some bona fide job offers he has already received, inviting fans to register their vote for which he should take up on the show's website.
Which means soon (like, sooner than September), viewers may be able to get their Conan fix up and down their dial. O'Brien has been offered gigs as an IRA terrorist on Sons of Anarchy, as the host of Jewish Life TV, as the morning-show sidekick at a Fargo news station, as the headliner in a porno called Conan the Bang-barian, and, the pièce de résistance, as a spats-sporting twinkletoes.
"This is real," he said. "I've been invited to compete on Dancing With the Stars."
String dance freestyle, anyone?
Meanwhile, it wasn't only late-night hosts who were forced to talk about NBC's calamitous misfortunes last night, as NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker, aka the man responsible for this mess, came out of hiding and waded into the mire with Charlie Rose.
And then proceeded to spin for all he's worth—which probably isn't much these days.
Proving he was even more disconnected from the audience than expected, Zucker, who claims he's received death threats over the switcheroo, defended his decision to unseat O'Brien and reinsert Jay Leno in the Tonight spot, saying he showed "guts" and "leadership" in making the tough call.
"Leadership is about taking chances and taking risks," he said. "And also, leadership is about acknowledging when they don't work.
"They don't all work out. Nothing tried, nothing gained."
Zucker did admit defeat on one point, however: Removing Jay from the show in the first place.
"Obviously, in hindsight, you know, perfect information leads you to that conclusion—that it was a mistake. And I think it's the sign of a leader to step up and say, you know, when something's not working, to have the guts to reverse it."
Guts, or a lack of them, seems to be a key word in the scheduling snafu. Just last week, Dick Ebersol, the chairman of NBC Universal Sports, who presumably wouldn't feel the need to weigh in on a comedy matter, publicly slammed both O'Brien and David Letterman, whom he apparently thought were taking the Leno-bashing a bit too far.
O'Brien and Letterman, he said, were "chicken-hearted and gutless to blame a guy you couldn't beat in the ratings."
Well, Dick, if there's one group of people you can expect a comeback from, it's comedians. Particularly when they have a nightly platform that's never been hotter.
Enter David Letterman.
"I've known Dick Ebersol since the late '70s…All of a sudden, Dick Ebersol feels he's got to get in there and help Big Jaw. What is this? How did this happen?...It's completely unnecessary. He should be out there picking out sweaters for Bob Costas. Leave us alone; we're having fun.
"This is what he said: He's calling me and Mr. O'Brien 'chicken-hearted and gutless.' I can't speak for Conan O'Brien," Letterman said. "For the sake of the discussion, yes, I'm chicken-hearted, and yes, I'm gutless. But these two characteristics have nothing to do with the current situation.
"I'm telling jokes and making fun of Jay Leno over and over and over, relentlessly and mercilessly, simply for one reason. And that is: I'm really enjoying it."
As is the audience.
Get everything we have on the late-night mess.