As part of his $45 million severance deal with NBC, Conan O’Brien is prohibited from appearing on TV until May 1. But May 2? That’s a whole other story. On Sunday, “60 Minutes” (7 p.m., CBS) will air the first interview with the deposed late-night host since his ouster from “The Tonight Show.” And even though he’s also prohibited from criticizing NBC or Jay Leno, O’Brien manages to get his digs in.
Excerpts from Conan’s interview with Steve Croft were released Thursday. Of Leno’s retaking of the show, O’Brien says: “He went and took that show back, and I think in a similar situation, if roles had been reversed, I know — I know me — I wouldn’t have done that. If I had surrendered ‘The Tonight Show’ and handed it over to somebody publicly and wished them well, and then . . . six months later. . . . But that’s me, you know. Everyone’s got their own, you know, way of doing things.”
So what would he have done in a similar situation? “Done something else, go someplace else. I mean, that’s just me.”
O’Brien stands by his walking away from NBC: “No, I don’t regret anything,” he says, “not one decision I made.” He describes coming to a sobering realization during the late-night fiasco: “I think this relationship is going be toxic and maybe we just need to go our separate ways. That’s really how it felt to me . . . and I started to feel that I’m not sure these people even really want me here.”
Don’t feel too sorry for Conan though. Earlier this month, O’Brien signed an insanely rich deal with TBS to start a late-night show set to debut in November. “I sleep well at night,” he says. “I’m fine. It just didn’t work out.” In the meantime, O’Brien is taking his comedy/musical stage act around the country (he was in San Francisco last week).
And speaking of his new show, it sounds like Conan might be without his longtime band leader, Max Weinberg. In an online interview, musician/producer Al Kooper lets slip that Weinberg has apparently not been offered a contract for the TBS show, citing time conflicts between filming and playing with Bruce Springsteen (Weinberg’s the longtime drummer with the E Street Band.) Not only that, but it’s being reported that Weinberg is seeking to replace Kevin Eubanks on — gasp! — “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno. He’s been conspicuously absent from O’Brien’s traveling stage tour.