Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Conan's Last Words

For those oblivious, or ambivalent, here are Conan's Last Words as the Tonight Show host.

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.

His line, "Nobody in gets exactly what they thought they were going to get." sent my brain off to the They Might Be Giants lyric from Don't Let's Start, "Everybody dies frustrated inside and that is beautiful."

I view this statement as amazingly inspirational and moving.  It was touching and honest, and way nicer than NBC deserved.   Nice guys do win, because Conan is loved and Leno/NBC are loathed.  God forbid Leno is opposite Conan, because Conan will destroy him in the ratings.  The main reason Letterman never consistently beat Leno was the view that he was an ass.  And yes Letterman can be an ass, but that works for him.  Look at Letterman's incidents with Madonna, Paris Hilton, and Drew Barrymore, only an asshole could have made those moments possible.  Only someone who persistently needle someone backstage could set up those types of incidents.  Magic of that nature takes more than 5 minutes to work.

Conan is not Letterman.  We found this out very quickly during Conan's first week on Late Night, and some people freaked out over this.  But Conan is a different beast altogether, especially in the world of show business.  He is honest, sincere, intelligent, and nice.  He is the Anti-Leno.

Look at his last act as Tonight Show host.  He was one of 20 guys playing guitar and gave the spotlight over to Will Ferrell.  He was most comfortable in that moment as just someone contributing to an amazing scene, and it was awesome.  "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."    He knew it was and was happy to have been a part of it, and to have helped plan and conceive it.  He will always be a writer, and his ego is fueled by the laughs, he does not care who says the line as long as the words he wrote get the laugh.  Form follow function, ego follows results.

I'll move onto to another personality aspect that gets viewed as negative, pride. Conan's display of personal and professional pride was outrageous.  He stood up for himself without taking anybody else down.  And he took his show to the next level while under a great deal of stress and pressure.  We have all been through tough work situations, but few of us have done as well as he in these situations.  He displayed a great deal of pride by making sure he gave everything he had in his last few weeks, before he knew it was his last few weeks.  I hardly ever display that much pride at work ever.  And that is why I can't find a job I like and why he's getting a big fat Go Away Check.

Conan is a rare combination of Pride, Intelligence, Humor, and decency, not just in the cynical corporate world of Show Business but in life.  He went out with a bang, and had fun doing.  Most importantly that bang he went out with was not disrespectful to anyone, it was just him doing his job to the best of his ability.  I am fairly sure that NBC earned from Conan more than his completely severance package during his last two weeks on air.

I know I have struggled in my life with burnt bridges.  And most of my justification is that the damn bridge was on fire from the other end.  Well the right way to deal with that is to let them burn it, wait for them to try and cross it again, then say no.   Instead of my tactic, which is to see a bridge on fire and light it up from my side.

Big Kudos to an amazing creative mind.  not just someone to laugh at, but someone to respect.  In this age of idolatry and fallen Idols, Conan is legit.  See you son my friend.    And thank you for inspiring me.  "Have fun on TV" is the best mission statement ever, and you nailed it.
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