You can't keep a good man down.
Conan O'Brien didn't turn his final hour as host of the Tonight Show into a bitchfest, despite the fact that his finale came "a decade too early."
Instead, the long-limbed funnyman graciously thanked the network he's called home for two decades before he takes its money and runs far, far away from NBC, which let him test-drive the storied franchise but ultimately decided it wanted its old car enthusiast back instead.
"The terms of my settlement say that I can't host another show for seven months," O'Brien reminded his audience Friday. "So next week, look forward to the Andy Richter Show with his sidekick, me!"
There's also Oprah's offer to consider...
Oprah Winfrey is heading to L.A. to interview returning Tonight Show host Jay Leno for her Thursday show, and she has extended an offer to O'Brien to participate as well. (Better yet, put it on pay-per-view and get ready to rumble!) No word yet on whether he has accepted.
That would be something, but for now, we have to make do with the small-screen moments already behind him before another network snatches up the Emmy-winning Harvard grad for the remainder of his career.
"As I set off for exciting new career opportunities, I just want to make one thing clear to everyone listening out there: I will do nudity," he said during his final monologue.
(And FYI, HBO, when you make a Late Shift-style movie about the second-rockiest Tonight Show transfer in history, O'Brien would like Tilda Swinton to play him.)
He also offered up a few suggestions as to how NBC can put the $50 million studio it built for him barely a year ago to good use, including:
Then it was on to his NBC exit interview, conducted by Steve Carell ("Would you describe your experience at NBC as positive, very positive, or extremely positive?") and a diet cream soda toast with Tom Hanks, who first called Conan "CoCo" seven months ago.
But O'Brien also had some kind words for his now former bosses at NBC, many of whom weren't in any position to wield power over him back when he was a young lad writing for SNL.
"Yes, we have our differences right now and yes, we're going to go our separate ways," O'Brien said, his voice growing husky. "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."
Wonder how much he got paid to say that. (We have respectfully chosen to ignore O'Brien's request that we refrain from being cynical.)
It was hard to keep the waterworks off, though, when O'Brien showed a picture of his staff and continued to expound on what hosting the Tonight Show, albeit for such a brief time, meant to him.
"Making this choice has been enormously difficult. 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," he said.
"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-Eleven parking lot, we'll find a way to make it fun."
O'Brien spent the last few minutes of his abbreviated Tonight Show run jamming on guitar while a Skynyrd-channeling Will Ferrell took the lead on "Free Bird."
'Cause Conan's free as a bird now, and this bird you cannot change.
(Originally published Jan. 22, 2010, at 8:15 p.m. PT)
Guests Tom Hanks and Neil Young couldn't make the afterparty because they were due to appear at the Hope for Haiti Now telethon. Peep the highlights from the all-star benefit and find out how you can help right here.