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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.


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Jay has 175 people working for him. Unlike Conan he choose not to quit and throw scores of people out of work because NBC was treating him like crap.

1687 days ago


oh no my coco is really bozo!! what do we do? Well he should coulda and woulda!!! Oh Johnny where are you when we need you? COCO would have demanded you retire too!!!

1687 days ago


Everyone keeps saying Conan is throwing all his staff members out on the street, as if they're not going to be taken care of. I sincerely doubt that after bringing all of them from New York to LA, that Conan is going to simply forget about them.

In the case of Jay Leno, though, seems like Jay's PR guys are working overtime.

Team Coco

1687 days ago


HA HA HA "Jay's PR guys are working overtime" no they are playing catch up!!! COCO's PR guys have been in OVERDRIVE for a month!!! WHAT ME GIVE UP 30 MINS for the guy who GAVE me the TONIGHT show!! NEVER!!!!! ITS ALL MINE!!!

1687 days ago


First off i enjoy both Conans and jays show. That being said, I don't understand why people are saying no one is blaming Conan because thats not true Conan fans are blaming Jay and Jay fans are blaming Conan. So the comment Jay made about not blaming Conan was directed at his fans. (I think)

Thats just my take on the whole thing i could be wrong.

1687 days ago


What a phony. He got what he wanted, and now he wants to look all humble and innocent. Jay is a creep.

1687 days ago


I didn't really hear Jay say "don't blame Conan" (and nobody with a brain was blaming Conan anyway). On the contrary, it sounded more near the end that he was saying Conan is the bad guy here. Obviously Jay was trying to turn the tables for damage control. What is sad is that he will probably get by with it, because now Conan is not allowed to say anything bad about Leno and NBC; he can't have a rebuttal unless he want's to risk losing his settlement. And Jay just altered history; I just rewatched his 2004 speech where he happily promised the show to Conan.

1687 days ago


What a weasel. He's trying to make himself seem like a victim because he knows that people are starting to blame him for what happened to Conan.

1687 days ago


So who is the JERK here? Leno ever say anything bad about COCO?
When Leno's show got in trouble did coco offer to help? Remember COCO said "This man is the reason I am here" so when he had a chance to give Leno a 30 min slot till he hung it up, did he? NO NO NO NO!! SO who is the JERK HERE!!!

1687 days ago


Oh come on. No one gets to Jay's level in the industry by simply being a "nice guy." 'Golly gosh darn, I don't have my own manager I'm just a workin' stiff who does what NBC tells me which is why I took their word that everything was okey-dokey with Conan to take over the 11:30 spot.' Please. that was the biggest crock and I'm not a Jay hater. It's just that we know these hosts are smart & savvy about their careers and their shows and what Jay describes couldn't POSSIBLY be reality. silliness.

1687 days ago


COCO supports will find anything to bitch about and they make stuff up. The long and short is that if you were there for COCO he would have not gotten his butt kicked by Letterman!!! SO YOU ARE TO BLAME!!!! So when COCO signs off for the last time and if you didn't watch every single show..YOU ARE TOO BLAME!!!!!!! SO SHUT UP!!

1687 days ago

a long time Leno fan!    

(watch the tmz video and you'll see why...)

I LOVE JAY LENO!!!!!!!!!! He's honest, straight above board, genuinely funny and FANTASTIC-IL-ICIOUS!!!! In case you haven't figured it out,.... I LOVE JAY LENO! Hip hip hooRAY, he's here to stay!!!!!!!!!

1687 days ago


I think it's hilarious that someone who's a supporter of Jay called out the Conan fans for their comments when commenter Mike is spewing gibberish left right and center. Example:

"oh no my coco is really bozo!! what do we do? Well he should coulda and woulda!!! Oh Johnny where are you when we need you? COCO would have demanded you retire too!!"

And as for "gracefully stepping aside for Jay" or whatever phrasing you want to use - the Tonight Show isn't the Tonight Show the next day - it's the Tomorrow Show. And if Jay was as concerned as he says he is here, he would have kept the integrity of the show, and he certainly wouldn't have agreed to do what NBC says which was screwing Conan. He's really just doing whatever he's told, regardless of consequence.

You can paint the picture that he's loyal to his crew, but notice how many times he wanted out of his contract - which would leave his entire crew jobless? Multiple times in that monologue he tried to get free of NBC, but he mentions his crew once and suddenly he's so much better than Conan because he cares so much more.

And let's not forget how Jay got the spot in the first place. Who's agent was it that started the rumors that Carson was retiring? Was that Conan O'Brien's? Hmmmm

1687 days ago


I got a great title for the next TMZ HEADLINE COCO Supporters let COCO down in the end!!! Lets face it you just didn't watch the show and that is the bottom line. Complain all you want, you didn't watch the show!!! Only since the late night fighting has his ratings been any good...YOU DIDN'T WATCH THE SHOW...NO ONE DID!!!! HE got Half the ratings of LENO and got stomped by Letterman and beat by even Kimmel at times...KIMMEL for godsake!!! I BLAME YOU!!!

1687 days ago

Clayton Bigsby    

I hate to admit it, but I believe you Leno. But I still hate you! Go CoCo!

1687 days ago
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