On Thursday night, Conan O’Brien hung up his mic after nearly three decades of hilarious late-night comedy. I mean, who can forget the masturbating bear, La Bamba, Max Weinberg, “In the Year 2000,” Triumph the Insult Comic Dog’s sketches, the Walker Texas Ranger lever, and last but certainly not least, Conan’s string dance (and razor-sharp wit). On TBS, the fiery-haired comic welcomed Jack Black, who sent him off in style with a heavy metal version of Sinatra’s “My Way.”
And over on ABC, Jimmy Kimmel also had some kind words to say about his fellow host (and pal) saying goodbye to the late-night arena.
“I also wanted to congratulate Conan O’Brien on 28 years of very, very funny late-night television,” offered Kimmel. “Conan wrapped up his show on TBS tonight. You know, before Conan, I didn’t even know bears could masturbate.”
Then, Kimmel gave one last fuck you to Conan’s Judas, Jay Leno.
“Anyway, here’s to Conan and Andy Richter and everybody involved with that show. We look forward to whatever you have planned next at HBO Max,” he said, adding, “And I also want to say, congratulations to Jay Leno on his new time slot at TBS.”
As you surely recall, NBC famously promised The Tonight Show to Conan during contract negotiations all the way back in 2004, assuring him that he’d take over in 2009. When the time came, instead of going to a different network, Leno accepted a primetime slot ahead of The Tonight Show. However, when both Leno’s odd variety show and The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien failed to attract the desired ratings, NBC brass moved Leno back to The Tonight Show slot at 11:35 p.m. and Conan to 12:05 a.m. Instead of going to bat for Conan, Leno booted him from The Tonight Show spot after only seven months on the job. With NBC in breach of contract, Conan ultimately settled with the network for $45 million, and—following a seven-month TV ban that NBC worked into his payoff—debuted Conan on TBS.
Kimmel was one of Conan’s fiercest defenders, and absolutely ripped Leno to shreds on his own show.
“I think the best prank I ever pulled was, I told a guy that five years from now I’m gonna give you my show, and then when the five years came, I gave it to him and I took it back almost instantly,” Kimmel said to Leno’s face on his show, later adding, “We have lives to lead here! You have $800 million, for God’s sake, leave our shows alone!”
Leno’s been salty about it ever since.