So I've distilled my thoughts on the Conan versus Jay saga after having watched Conan's interview on 60 Minutes. If you don't know what I'm talking about, well, just move along, nothing to see here.
Conan is bitter. I get that. Most comedians his age probably coveted the job of The Tonight Show host, and he got it. He was on top of the world. Then it all came crashing down. Promises had been made that were now broken and he was devastated. To top it all off, it was someone he considered a friend that was doing this to him.
But wait. He also said in the interview he realizes that NBC's part in this was "just business." Sure, there were relationships there that are now dead as a result, but he understands. But on the topic of Jay all he could really say is "that's not something I would have done" regarding Jay being willing to take back The Tonight Show.
This is where I get confused. NBC had two people under contract. It doesn't sound to me as if Jay had a choice in the matter. NBC decided they wanted Jay back in that time slot, and they offered Conan his same role (and The Tonight Show label, I believe) to move back thirty minutes. Conan refused and NBC decided to buy him out of his contract. But what did Jay's contract even say on the matter? Jay's contract is huge compared to Conan's, and any buyout is estimated to have needed to be well in excess of one hundred million dollars. Conan's buyout was $32M.
THIRTY-TWO MILLION DOLLARS. And he's bitter. And he realizes it was a business decision. And he thinks Jay shouldn't have accepted the job. But what if Jay's contract didn't give him that choice? Maybe Conan knows the details of Jay's contract, but it seems unlikely.
But here's my thing...Conan isn't as funny as Jay. Okay, that's my opinion. But I'd bet you anything that if we could measure "funny" across the board, Conan just isn't as funny as Jay to most Americans. They can't relate to him as easily as Jay "the car guy" Leno. The ratings are one measurement, and Conan's show fell behind Letterman. And that's all NBC cares about at the end of the day, and that's no secret to anyone in the business.
So my thing here is this: Suck it up, Conan. You got handed a $32M check. You'll live comfortably off that if you do no more work in your life. You will work, because you're funny. But sadly, you're not as funny as Jay. That's life. Move on. Be happy 60 Minutes felt like taking a stab at NBC, because otherwise you're not nearly relevant enough to make that show on your own.