Conan: Leaving “Tonight” Made Me Depressed

Ex-"Tonight Show" host speaks out on "60 Minutes"

Conan O’Brien says losing his “Tonight Show" hosting gig felt like a marriage was being broken up but that touring the country has cushioned the blow.

“I got very depressed at times,” O’Brien told CBS’ "60 Minutes,” on Sunday, speaking out for the first time since January, when NBC reportedly paid him $32 million to walk away from the network.

O’Brien said it would take a “long time to process" the events of the last year.

“The first day that I woke up and was no longer the host of ‘The Tonight Show,” I remember the first thought I had was ‘I am not shaving,’” the red-haired comic recalled. “[The beard] was my small victory.”

O'Brien said he started to feel better “almost immediately” once he started planning his “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television” tour.

But it's clear feelings still run raw on the subject of his ouster.

O’Brien said he has yet to talk by phone to Jay Leno or NBC head Jeff Zucker.

When reminded that Leno said both comics had been “screwed” from the late-night shuffle, O’Brien laughed.

“How did he get screwed again?” O’Brien said. "Explain that part to me. I'm sorry. Jay's got ‘The Tonight Show.’ I have a beard and an inflatable bat. And I'm touring city to city. Who can say who won and who lost? I'm laughing 'cause crying would be sad."

O’Brien said he couldn’t “get inside” Leno’s head to judge whether the comic had acted admirably by returning to the helm of “Tonight” after his primetime show failed.

“Here's what I can say,” O’Brien offered. “I'm happy with my decision. I sleep well at night. And I, you know, hope he's happy with his decision.”

O’Brien said he also wished network suits well, even though he couldn't envision "drinking beer and singing old Irish fight songs” with them.

He said he decided to walk from NBC when he sensed negotiations had turned “toxic.”

While he said he understood it was cheaper for the network to buy him out rather than send Leno packing, O'Brien took issue with those who argued his own low ratings did him in.

“I think for anyone to say that the results were in after six months, that doesn’t ring true to me,” O'Brien said.

His wife Liza was more direct in her criticism of the network.

“It felt like they never really gave him the job,” Liza O’Brien told “60 Minutes.”“They kept him with the company. It felt like they lost their nerve. That was a shame.”

Still, the famously self-deprecating comic said he wanted people to take away that he’s now “doing great” and excited about his return to the airwaves on TBS later this year.

“I hope people still find me comedically absurd and ridiculous and I don’t regret anything,” O'Brien said. “I do believe, and this might be my Catholic upbringing or Irish magical thinking, but I think things happen for a reason. I really do.”

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