DJ Badger:  The News and the Journal

Entry One Hundred Nineteen.
Saturday, 2010.01.23, 2:55 AM CST.

The farewell to "The Tonight Show" from Conan O'Brien.
Current Mood:  Saddened.  Current scent:  None.

I posted a Journal entry here early last year regarding, among other things, the final episode of "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," which was set to precede his takeover of the mighty "Tonight Show" later in the year.  He took it over approximately seven months ago.

Well, recently, there were some bad decisions made by NBC.  They took Jay Leno from "The Tonight Show" and, instead of just retiring him, gave him his own prime-time talk show every weeknight.  It was terribly unfunny and it bombed.  "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" also lost a lot of ratings.  It could be said that the old Leno audience wasn't ready for the more offbeat (and better) brand of humour that Conan was serving.  It could also be said that "The Tonight Show" lost a lot of viewers because an hour of Leno followed by a half hour of local news was a crappy lead-in.

I won't go into much more detail, but NBC has now ended Leno's show and forced Conan out.  (They gave him the choice to move "The Tonight Show" forward a half-hour to wedge in an extra hour of Leno before him, and he declined, citing that it would destroy the legacy of a program that has come immediately after the local news for decades).

Leno will now his place back in "The Tonight Show."  They only let Conan have it for seven months.  It's one of the most sudden, heinous, and thoughtless moves I've ever seen from NBC.

Last night was the final episode of "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien."  Lanna and I tuned in and watched closely to see how Conan would handle his final episode after almost 17 total years of being part of NBC's late-night lineup.

His last comments on his show displayed a level of dignity and class that I'm not sure I could possess, if I were in his shoes.

Below is a transcript of his final speech:

Before we bring this rodeo to a close, I think a couple things should be said.  There has 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, tonight I am allowed to say anything I want...

[An audience member then laughed.]

Um, 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 have worked with NBC for over 20 years.  Yes, we have our differences right now and 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 have done together, and I want to thank NBC for making it all possible.  I really do.

[The audience applauded.]

A lot of people have been asking me about my state of mind, and I'll be honest with you:  Walking away from "The Tonight Show" is the hardest thing I have 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 will fight anyone 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... every comedian dreams of hosting "The Tonight Show," and, for seven months, I got to do it.  I did it my way, with people I love.  I do not regret one second of anything that we've done here.

[The audience applauded again.]

And yeah... and I encounter people when I walk on the street now who are just, uh, who 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'll find a way to make it fun.  We really will.  I have no problems.  And, I don't want to do it in a 7-11 parking lot.

[The audience laughed.]

But, whatever.  Uh, finally, I have something to say to our fans.  The 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, and the fact that people have traveled long distances and camped out all night in the pouring rain...

[The audience cheered.]

It's pouring!  It's been pouring for days and they're camping out to be in our audience.  Really, you...  Here's what all of you have done.  you made a sad situation joyous and inspirational.

So, to all the people watching, I can never, ever thank you enough for your kindness to me, and I'll think about it for the rest of my life.

All I ask is one thing, and this is... I'm asking this particularly of the young people that watch:  Please do not be cynical.  I hate cynicism.  For the record, it's my least favourite quality.   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.

[The audience applauded.]

I'm telling you.  It's just true.

As proof, let's make an amazing thing happen right now.  Here to close out our show are a few good friends, led by Mr. Will Ferrell...

At that point, the stage curtains parted to reveal a massive American flag, in front of which were Max Weinberg, the Max Weinberg Seven, Beck, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, and Ben Harper.  Will Ferrell was center-stage in a long blonde wig and beard, playing the part of an old Southern rocker who kept making out with his pregnant lady companion (played by his real-life pregnant wife) at various points during the performance.  Conan joined in on an electric guitar - and he could actually play it quite well.

They played a remarkable version of Lynryd Skynyrd's "Freebird."  That ended the show as well as a very special 17-year era.

Good luck to you, Conan, and thanks for the great advice.