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Jay Leno -- 'Don't Blame Conan'

1/18/2010 9:59 PM PST BY TMZ STAFF

Jay LenoJay Leno just finished his monologue tonight where he addressed the Conan O'Brien situation head-on, saying that in 2004 NBC didn't have faith Jay could remain #1 in the ratings.

Jay explained that NBC execs came to him five years ago and told him they wanted to give "The Tonight Show" to Conan because he was getting other offers. When Jay pointed out he was #1 in the ratings, Jay said the exec told him, "We don't think you can maintain that."

Leno said the network guaranteed him two years on the air. He said the network knew he'd get killed during the main TV season, but thought he'd excel against summer re-runs.

Jay said when the network approached him about doing a half-hour show at 11:35 PM, he was hesitant but said getting beat in the ratings humbled him.

He asked the network exec, "Do you think Conan will go for that?" The exec said yes.

Leno repeatedly complemented Conan, calling him a "gentleman" and saying, "Don't blame Conan O'Brien."

At the end of the day, Leno said, neither of them were delivering the ratings they should have been.

272 COMMENTS

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Previous 15 Comments | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14
196.

Diane    

Jay is a class act. I hope that Conan will follow suit.

1648 days ago
197.

yvette    

The real Story is Zucker and Conan were college buddies. Zucker wanted Conan on the tonight show and Jay decided to retire because five years ago, NBC would not give him a new deal with the “Tonight Show”. In order to prevent Jay from moving to another network Zucker/NBC give Jay his own show and didn’t expect Conan’s ratings to TANK so low. Now it’s all a mess so yes you must blame Zucker and Conan.

1648 days ago
198.

david    

ANDY SAMBERG FOR TONIGHT SHOW/LATE NIGHT!!!!

1648 days ago
199.

Freelols.com    

Here's the problem, Jay. They're not blaming Conan...they're blaming YOU.

And Milli Vanilli's blaming it on the rain.

1648 days ago
200.

Better Than You    

Jay is in total damage control mode, but I personally can see right through his BS.

1648 days ago
201.

Moxy    

About a week too late, Jay. Trying to save face now won't fly with the people who are already riled up over this whole thing.

1648 days ago
202.

andrwm507060    

@#6 follow suit? Did you not read Conan's letter that came out the other week? That was class.

1648 days ago
203.

J C    

Stop one party rule and liberal fascist power grab of US economy.
Vote Republican!

1648 days ago
204.

juniper    

conan turned the tonight show into a roach-coach he looks like an insect with those beady eyes and to all the celebs on tonight dont forget the o f f spray for rodents

1648 days ago
205.

Cameltoe Annie    

THE SUITS HAVE ADVISED JAY LENO TO (A) MAKE NICE WITH CONAN, AND (B) DEFLECT/FOCUS-OUR-OUTRAGE TOWARD THE NBC-U SUITS. Why? Because they know if we continue to hate/blame Jay, the Tonight Show ratings (when Jay returns) will be abysmal!

DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE! CONAN'S RATINGS BLEW BECAUSE (A) NBC KILLED HIS LEAD-IN HOUR OF DRAMA, AND (B) REPLACED IT WITH AN **EXACT** REPLICA (ie, monologue-/interview-format) OF THE TONIGHT SHOW TO LOWER INTEREST IN COCO'S SHOW!!

Always,
Cameltoe Annie

1648 days ago
206.

Janet    

It's Tiger's fault. Everything's Tiger's fault. After Tiger, it would be Conan the barbarian's fault for cutting his nose off to spite his face.

Tiger! Here kitty, kitty, kitty!

1648 days ago
207.

matt    

Leno & Zucker have both ruined their reputations & they will both be a joke in this business. Who would ever trust either of these jackasses after this crap?

Business is based on contracts and trust & both of these have been dismissed.

Conan is the future & he will come out on top after the dust has settled.

Conan rocks!

1648 days ago
208.

Zippy T. Pinhead    

Good thing that Zucker idiot didn't work for Ford. Because that would mean he wouldn't think the Mustang could remain #1, so he would have stopped producing them 10 years ago, and replaced it with the new red-hot styled Thunderbird. HaHaHaHaHa, Nice work fool.

1648 days ago
209.

hmmm    

I love Jay and I grew up with him hosting hte tonight show. The hell
with NBC for dumping Jay like that for Balding Conan. I only find
Conando funny when I'm stoned off my arse from smoking marijauna. You
have to be high to think Conando is funny. The string dance is
hilarious after a couple of joints. Go JAY! He still has his hair
and conando is bald!

1648 days ago
210.

yvette    

Zucker at Harvard University, served as President of the school newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, during his senior year. As President of the Crimson, Zucker encouraged the decades-old rivalry with the Harvard Lampoon, headed by future NBC colleague Conan O'Brien. Conan O'Brien was a writer for the Harvard Lampoon humor magazine. During his sophomore and junior years, he served as the Lampoon's president. Again, at that time, O'Brien's future boss at NBC, Jeff Zucker was serving as President of the rival The Harvard Crimson.

1648 days ago
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