May 3, 2010 / 2:39 AM / 9 years ago

O'Brien says tour best cure for "Tonight" debacle

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Comedian Conan O’Brien said he was depressed after NBC ended his short-lived stint as “The Tonight Show” host and brought Jay Leno back, but that his current nationwide comedy tour was an ideal antidote.

Talk show host Conan O'Brien hosts the 54th annual Emmy Awards in Los Angeles September 22, 2002. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

“I got very depressed at times,” O’Brien told the CBS television news program “60 Minutes” in his first interview since leaving NBC in January.

Saying he “went through some stuff,” O’Brien compared the “Tonight Show” fiasco to being “like a marriage breaking up suddenly, violently, quickly.”

Speaking with CBS in Seattle, O’Brien said he started feeling better “almost immediately” once the tour started taking shape after an “incomprehensible” year.

“There is almost no better antidote to what I’ve just been through than to do this every night,” he said.

But returning to more typically irreverent form, the newly bearded comic said not shaving was “my small victory.”

“So I lost ‘The Tonight Show,’ but I’ll show them, I’ll stop shaving,” he declared.

Leno had hosted the “Tonight Show” for 17 years before moving to his new “The Jay Leno Show” in an earlier time period each night. But NBC moved Leno’s new show to a late-night period, pushing O’Brien’s “Tonight Show” to a later start time after only seven months.

The change caused a storm of bad publicity. O’Brien openly criticized NBC on its own airwaves saying, among many things, NBC had caused the “destruction” of the “Tonight Show.” He eventually left with a $45 million severance deal.

He said on “60 Minutes” that while he thought of himself as “a paranoid person,” he really never thought they would bring Leno back, thinking “that was a stretch, even for me.”

O’Brien said he had not heard anything from Leno at all and didn’t expect to. Asked whether he thought Leno had lobbied to return, he said he didn’t know.

As to his future, with a new show starting in November on cable network TBS, O’Brien said anyone who looks down on cable “isn’t paying attention to television these days,” adding “the world is changing very quickly.”

Writing by Chris Michaud, editing by Philip Barbara

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