Conan O’Brien was given honor Friday as The Insider‘s “Best Celebrity of the Day”. His final Tonight Show last week was watched by 10.3 million people, his strongest ratings since his debut last summer. After two decades of late night with NBC, Conan is now a “Freebird”, but also a rich bird, as he and his staff was awarded an estimated $45 million once he was out of his contract with the network; Conan received $33 million, while the crew gets $12 million.
Conan began his career with the Peacock as one of the writers for Saturday Night Live, which then went from Late Night with Conan O’Brien to his albeit short term as the new host of The Tonight Show for less than an year. However, when he spoke to Oprah on Thursday, Jay Leno stated that he was forced to leave the franchise by NBC in 2004 to make way for Conan to step in and succeed. Yet, the network didn’t want to lose him, which led to the development of The Jay Leno Show.
According to Jay, his primetime show didn’t work out for the same reason Conan didn’t work out on The Tonight Show: dismal ratings. During his chat with Oprah, Jay said he thought about calling Conan, but due to the late night war and the backlash over his return, he wanted to wait until things cooled down. Jay even told Oprah that he’d like to have Conan back on The Tonight Show, but unsure if he’s willing to do it.
With Jay returning to The Tonight Show March 1, Conan has the opportunity to either help fill the late night void on FOX or find an better niche on cable with Comedy Central. Well, we won’t know where in the world Conan O’Brien will be after September 1.