Conan O'Brien

NBC Photo: Dana Edelson

Just what can we expect from Conan O'Brien next?
—Geegee, via the Answer B!tch inbox

Well, Conan O'Brien has signed a very pricey deal that pretty much requires him to put the string dance on hold, at least, until Sept. 1.

Statements on Conan's $45 million exit from NBC have been vague, but we're looking at an eight-month period where Conan probably won't be able to launch his own show.

So what can Conan do during that time? Can he even make a phone call to make a date to discuss discussing a new show? It's possible...

...but not probable.

First off, don't be surprised if Conan crawls off to Connecticut, where he has a lovely home; apparently he's been known to attend local block parties and inns while in town, and if there's ever been a time when he should be taking a break, it's now.

But he likely won't.

O'Brien's manager, Gavin Polone, is telling the press that his client is pretty much raring to start a new TV show forthwith. For the record, Polone said, "While we have had expressions of interest, we have not had any substantive conversations with anybody."

But O'Brien "wants to get back on the air, doing the show he's doing now, as soon as possible."

And that takes time. You can't just wake up on Sept. 1 and decide to go on the air Sept. 2. You need to make sure you can still retain all your writers (O'Brien reportedly has about 15; I have none) and that Andy Richter hasn't gotten offers for a show of his own, which would be justifiable.

But does O'Brien's exit deal allow him to get that process started? Probably, attorneys tell me.

"It really depends on the actual agreement," says Angela Agrusa, partner at the law firm Liner Grode Stein. "But generally speaking, Conan's lawyers aren't going to let NBC restrict him from doing what he needs to do. They probably just don't want him on the air until after Sept. 1."

Attorneys say O'Brien's exit agreement probably doesn't prevent him from making guest appearances or performing in live shows, just from hosting his own gig on TV.

The only other probable restriction on Conan would be in the realm of promotion; NBC likely wouldn't want Conan promoting himself or any new project for a while, Agrusa says. (Maybe that's why, when I contacted Conan's publicist, I was told there would be no statements issued today.)

That isn't to say you won't get any Conan news.

"What I suspect is that they have a general [noncompete] deal in place, but they haven't hashed out all the details," Agrusa speculates. "He may also be keeping quiet to protect his own interests, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were a lot more details about this deal or future projects leaked over the next week or so."

Don't stay away from us for too long, Conan; Team Coco needs you.


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