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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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Mike should be a PR person or a spin are reading Lettermans book. Jay didn't say anything about Johny retiring even Johny said in a interview before his death that it was his own personal assit who leaked it. Check your facts!!! Read Johny's bio! As for the jokes about Jay wanting out of his contract this year, he was not sure about if he could get any work or if NBC would hold him to the "NO COMPETITION CLAUSE"! that means he can't go to another network...DUH!!! See he has a 2 year deal like COCO and a 5 year "NO COMPETITION CLAUSE" But I guess that is OKAY for COCO but not for JAY!!!! IDIOTS!!

1648 days ago


Zucker screwed this up big time. NBC is a joke and needs a corporate overhaul. Something's not working over there and it needs to be fixed ASAP

1648 days ago


What a bunch of hooey Leno is just trying to whitewash his own reputation, he knew exactly what was going to happen from the beginning.

1648 days ago


"Leno knew what was Happening"? and you know this how? And if he knew then why didn't COCO know? and if COCO knew, why did he not do anything to stop it? You know nothing other then your pissed that COCO is a NO NO!!! Watch for him ON FOX!!! or will he take over for that will be fun.. Letterman fans and you morons going at it! turn about it fair play!! You are too blame cause you didn't watch the show bozo!!! POOR COCO..35 MILLION!! POOR much do you make an hour?

1648 days ago


I think this was GENIUS on Leno's part. Personally, I think he means what he says but even if he doesn't, the ball is now back in Conan's court and he has no choice but to basically volley a nice shot back to Leno. I think this just puts the focus all on NBC (where it belongs) and not on Leno, of course. Brilliant play!!

1648 days ago


What an EGO!!! What makes him think that people ARE blaming Conan for this??? Jay Leno had a nice run on the 'Tonight Show'. Let's be REAL, he was NEVER EVEN CLOSE TO BEING A 'JOHNNY CARSON' & never will be. Those were huge & impossible shoes to fill anyway. He was funny & 'fresh' at one time but those days are long gone & his time has passed. If he resumes his old place as the host of the 'Tonight Show' it can only go DOWNHILL FROM THERE. He's not current, hip, 'fresh', or whatever you want to call it but I'm sure most people get what I'm trying to say here. Times is always moving forward & that always calls for 'CHANGE'. Conan brought that 'change'. You can't reverse 'TIME' & everything has to change; you can't 'reverse' time & this is exactly what NBC would be trying to do by putting Conan in & then replacing him with Leno or any other 'former' host for that matter. I just don't think you could do this successfully on ANY show.

It's just sad that Leno, with all the money, cars, & extravagant lifestyle that his years in showbiz has afforded him, just can't realize & accept this & bow out gracefully. Jerry Seinfeld made the comment when he announced that his show would be entering it's last season, that he wanted to go out when he was on top. I thought at the time that that was an incredibly brilliant move, career-wise. Too bad Leno just doesn't 'get' that because right now all he seems as 'desperate' & in the long run I think this is how people will end up remembering him:(

1648 days ago


I don't see how Conan's people (or Conan personally) can complain that he wasn't given enough time to build an audience. He has been in the job for about 7-8 months isn't it. Minimum of 1/2 a year. Most of us in the real world don't get that long to show that we can cut it in our job. He either has it or he doesn't. It's not like he was an Unknown when he took the job. He's been on the air in some capacity for quite a while now. If anything moving to the earlier spot should have brought more viewers and it obviously didn't, ergo, bring back the guy with the better ratings...

1648 days ago


All Leno had to do was say "No" to the offer to go back to 11:30. He pretends he didn't realize how this would humiliate O'Brien and force him to show the dignity that Leno couldn't muster and say "No". So Leno displaces O'Brien to get his old show back. Why couldn't Jay Leno have asked, "What if I went on after O'Brien?" Not likely. NBC has lost this viewer 24/7. How's that for a timeslot?

1648 days ago


NO ONE CAN EVERY BE JOHNNY..NEVER!! Not even COCO!! EVER!! Now lets gets something clear..Jay was NUMBER 1 in late night less then a year ago...LESS THEN A YEAR AGO!!! So 8 months ago the Tonight show was Number one and had been for YEARS!!! now to dismiss that is just..well stupid! Cause your pissed and you didn't watch COCO is your fault!You didn't watch EVERY NIGHT and now look!! SO you try to knock down what was just 8 months ago as if it were ten years ago. No matter if you like him or not, success is success. Rosie can go kiss a carpet!!! She is still pissed over the old tonight show and has an ax to grind. She is a bitch anyway!

1648 days ago


All Leno had to do was say "No" to the offer to go back to 11:30.

Read more:

HE HAS A NO COMPETITION CLAUSE STUPID...HE CAN'T WORK until he get released from it!!! GOD WHAT A BUNCH OF INBREED RETARDS. That is why they wanted COCO to move back 30 mins so they could keep they ho's and if you really watched the Tonight show you would know that. I watch it more then most of you do!!! I wanted them both but no!! COCO has to be a BABY!!! should be a man and stop working...what??!! yeah that is what made this country great!!!

1648 days ago


JAY HAS A NO COMPETITION CLAUSE!!! HE can't just say NO!!! Dumbass! That is why they asked coco to move back 30 mins. when he refussed all hell broke loose. Now COCO will be off air for a while. NOW if JAY said NO (DUH!) he would be off air and out of work for upto 5 years and at his age that would be the end. So you have the right to tell him to! NBC could have just let JAY WALK!!! nope!! they refused...SO JAY IS AT FAULT and your a MORON!!! NO COMPETITION CLAUSE!!!

1648 days ago


We love you Jay! None of this is your fault, we've known it all along.

1648 days ago

All your base are belong to us    

What Jay says makes complete sense to me.

I still prefer Jay for the Tonight Show than Conan with his puerile antics.

I saw today that Conan wants to take his TV properties/inventions with him: Triumph the talking insult dog, and The Masturbating Bear.

Uh...huh... Conan should be on G4TV.

Welcome back Jay.

1648 days ago

Bobo Frog    

What a lying, phony, sack of crap.

But many Americans are dumb, as even Jay proves through Jaywalking....and just as they believed Bush...many of those same morons will believe Leno.

1648 days ago


Finally, the truth. Thank you Jay Leno.

1648 days ago
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