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Conan O'Brien talks Jay, NBC on '60 Minutes'

Conan O'Brien, right, in his Los Angeles home

Conan O'Brien, right, in his Los Angeles home last week talking to Steve Kroft in his first interview since leaving The Tonight Show. The interview appeared on "60 Minutes" Sunday, May 2, 2010. Photo Credit: CBS

Seeking no pity and almost certainly receiving none, Conan O'Brien met the press in the form of "60 Minutes" Sunday night for his first post-"Tonight" interview.

Bottom line: no surprises, though none were really expected. Even the beard was familiar.

He was gracious and self-deprecating, as always. There were no NBC jokes. Those are not allowed per his exit contract, which must also include a "Be nice to Jay, too" clause.

"Do you believe [Leno] acted honorably?" Steve Kroft asked.

Conan: Deep breath. Long exhalation. "I don't think I can answer that."

Deep breath. Long exhalation.

Bizarrely, inexplicably, there was not a single question about Fox, which could have been reduced to two words: "What happened?" Any answer - even a long exhalation - would have been newsworthy. Instead, Kroft wondered about TBS. Said Co, "I do not look down my nose at cable." No one else really does either, unless he had signed on to do public access. Still, Fox would have been optimum.

Kroft also didn't press him on the fact that NBC didn't actually fire him from "Tonight," which is what happens to most people who lose their jobs. Instead, the network wanted to push him to 12:05. Conan noted, "This environment [didn't] feel right."

"I went through some stuff. And I got very depressed at times. It was like a marriage breaking up suddenly, violently, quickly." He never really believed NBC would bring back a Leno-hosted show at 11:35: "I'm a paranoid person [but] that was a stretch even for me."

O'Brien's wife, Liza, offered this: "It was a shame, because it would've been great to see what he could've done if he had had their full support, and had some more time."

She's right. It would have been wonderful - despite what anyone says - because his "Tonight" was, in fact, a creative success. But he also walked with a fortune (about $32 million), fabulous press, a sold-out concert tour ("The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour"), and a new contract with Time Warner that is paying him roughly what NBC did, with also (reportedly) an ownership stake in his new program, to bow in November. And, he gets Fridays off.

"I'm doing great [and] I don't regret anything. I do believe . . . I think things happen for a reason. I really do."

He's right. Jay and NBC did him a favor after all.


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