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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Free Bird

"Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get."

Last night, Conan O'Brien ended his all-too-brief stint on The Tonight Show with a joyous celebration. It was a wonderful show. Honest, real, heartfelt, surprising, and of course, very, very funny. It was amazing television, and an amazing celebration of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. It marked both an end that came much too soon to Conan's era of The Tonight Show and an end to a career Conan had with NBC that lasted over twenty years.

How Conan chose to go out - having the time of his life performing "Free Bird" on guitar with Will Farrell, Billy Gibbons, Beck, Max Weinberg, and friends - is something I'll probably never forget.  The performance, and indeed, his entire final show, including guests Tom Hanks (the man who coined "Coco"), Steve Carell, Neil Young, and his video package of moments from the last seven months set to Cheap Trick's "Surrender," was some of the best television I've ever seen.

When Conan briefly put comedy aside and spoke his classy, heartfelt final words to the audience, it really stuck. Thanking NBC for the last 20 years and his fans for their outpouring of support over the last two weeks, Conan urged young people to not be cynical, work hard, and be kind.  

Conan hosting The Tonight Show infused the venerable franchise with youth, vitality, innovation, silliness, and a sense of potential for the future.  On a personal note, though it was only for seven months, it meant a great deal to me to have a Tonight Show that I could call my own; one that spoke to the generation I'm a part of the way Johnny Carson symbolized his generation and David Letterman did the generation that followed. I'm glad I can say I watched every episode of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien without fail. Conan O'Brien is my Johnny Carson.

Conan will be all right. Can't wait for his return and to join him in once again having a lot of fun on television.

His closing remarks on The Tonight Show:

Before we end this rodeo, a few things need to be said. There has been a lot of speculation in the press about what I legally can and can’t say about NBC.  To set the record straight, tonight I am allowed to say anything 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 to go 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.

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. 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.

And finally, I have to say something to our fans. The massive outpouring of support and passion from so many people has been overwhelming. The rallies, the signs, all the goofy, outrageous creativity on the Internet, and the fact that people have traveled long distances and camped out all night in the pouring rain to be in our audience, made a sad situation joyous and inspirational.

To all the people watching, I can never thank you enough for your kindness to me and I’ll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask of you is one thing: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism — 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.  As proof, let’s make an amazing thing happen right now.

"To Be Continued..."