Conan Gives His Speech, I Give Mine
Last night, before the closing performance of “Freebird” featuring Will Ferrell and an all-star jam band, Conan O’Brien took a moment to speak directly to the situation, NBC, and his fans. I’ve transcribed it for you.
“Ladies and gentlemen, before we bring this rodeo to a close, I think a couple things should be said.
There’s been a lot of speculation in the press about what I legally can and can’t say about NBC. And – this isn’t a joke – to set the record straight…and this is true…tonight I’m allowed to say anything I want. And-no, it’s not a joke, but thanks sir.
Tonight I really am allowed to say whatever I want. And what I want to say is this…
Between my time at Saturday Night Live, the Late Night show, and my brief run here on The Tonight Show, I’ve worked at NBC for over 20 years. Yes, we have our differences right now, yes we’re going our separate ways. but this company has been my home for most of my adult life. I am enormously proud of the work we’ve done together, and I want to thank NBC for making it all possible. I really do.
A lot of people have been asking me about my state of mind. I’l be honest with you – walking away from The Tonight Show is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. 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. I would fight anybody who says I don’t, but no one would. 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 do it.
And I did it my way, with people I love, I do not regret one second of anything we’ve done here.
And I encounter people when I walk on the street now who just give me sort of a sad look. I have had more good fortune than anyone I know. And if our next gig is doing a show in a 7/11 Parking Lot, we will find a way to make it fun. We really will. I have no problems.
I don’t want to do it in a 7/11 parking lot, but whatever.
And finally, I have something to say to our fans. This massive outpouring of support and passion from so many people has been overwhelming for me. The rallies, the signs, all this goofy outrageous creativity on the internet. The fact that people have travelled long distances and camped out all night in the pouring rain…it’s been pouring for days! And they’re camping out to be in our audience!
Really. Here’s what all of you have done. You’ve made a sad situation joyous and inspirational. So to all the people watching I can never ever thank you enough for the kindness to me. I’ll think about it for the rest of my life.
And all I ask is one thing, and this is – I’m asking this particularly of young people who watch. Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.
I’m telling you, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you. It’s just true.”
And here’s where I speak. For myself, and not on behalf of fans, because I find that sort of thing to be a bit presumptuous. Besides, some fans might be jerks, and I don’t want to be held accountable for all the jerkity things they do.
I first became aware of who Conan O’Brien was when I was 11 years old. He had just been made host of Late Night, a mantle he inherited after David Letterman (a childhood hero of mine) left the network.
I was always a night owl, and as such I would always stay up late to watch late night television. I had my own television in my room, and I can recall nights where I’d turn it down as low as possible and nearly stick my ear to the headset so as to not be caught by my mother up at a wholly unreasonable hour for a child.
I immediately fell in love with the show, its writing, and its presentation. There was something about the humor that spoke to me. To this day, it continues to speak to me. I can’t tell you why I have such a clear memory of The Gaseous Wiener engaging in a battle to the death with Upside-Down Willy, but I do and it’s endured throughout these years while far more important situations and memories have dissolved into the ether.
I can recall being in 5th and 6th grade and recounting these skits to a gang of blank stares. Without getting too much into the story of my life, I had an unhappy childhood and adolescence. Some of it had to do with circumstances beyond my control, but much of it is due to various issues and difficulties that I’ve only in the past few years begun to understand and address. However, if in a sea of blank stares I got one that understood the humor of Late Night with Conan O’Brien, I had a new friend and a reprieve from the general unhappiness of my early years.
I followed O’Brien wherever he went, and was to the moon when I first heard the news about him hosting “The Tonight Show.” We all know how I went down and I’ve made my position abundantly clear, so I won’t even touch it. I just want to say that Conan O’Brien is one of the few men in his or any industry that I’ve strived to be like, and what he said last night only solidified it.
So thank you, Conan. Keep doing what you want to do, keep being who you want to be, and bring that awesome staff with you wherever you go. We’ll follow.