Conan O'Brien may be putting on a brave face publicly, but two reports say that he teared up while sharing the news with his staff that he would not accept an offer from NBC to host the "Tonight Show" after midnight.
Nikki Finke — who also reports that Team O'Brien met with NBC executives Tuesday — quotes an insider:
When Conan read the statement to the staff, "he broke up. He began to cry," one of my insiders reveals. "Because for 17 years he was working towards The Tonight Show, and now he says he's prepared to walk away from it. That's an amazing thing. An amazing thing. But he takes very seriously the fact that The Tonight Show baton was passed to him."
The New York Post also reports that O'Brien teared up:
Conan O'Brien broke down in tears yesterday while reading to his writing staff his 553-word statement that he no longer wants to host the "The Tonight Show" if it's moved to midnight, an insider said....
At the closed-door meeting, a teary-eyed O'Brien told his staff that, at midnight, " 'The Tonight Show' isn't 'The 'Tonight Show' " and that he'd refuse to be part of it.
According to TMZ, Conan may have something serious to cry about: his contract never specified that he would host the "Tonight Show" at 11:35 PM.
TMZ reports that O'Brien representatives "never even asked for a guaranteed time period when they negotiated his contract." Jay Leno, in contrast, has a deal for "The Jay Leno Show" at 10PM and thus would require a new contract to move time periods.
TMZ adds that Conan's team is attempting to argue that the "Tonight Show" has an implied time period of 11:35 based on past history.
Conan, however, did not tear up during his monologue Tuesday, instead using the opportunity to skewer NBC with several jokes.
"My name is Conan O'Brien, and I may soon be available for children's parties," he said.
He also joked that NBC's new slogan is "no longer just screwing up primetime."
"When I was a little boy, I remember watching 'The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson' and thinking, 'Someday, I'm gonna host that show for seven months," he said.
"NBC says they are planning to have the late-night situation worked out before the Winter Olympics start," he added. "And trust me, when NBC says something, you can take that to the bank."