Conan O'Brien says he only allowed himself one joke — “but it was a good one”
Conan O'Brien took the lone shot at Jay Leno as late-night hosts said goodbye to the “Tonight Show” host who has led the show to two decades of ratings dominance.
“The Olympics start airing tonight on NBC, O'Brien said, near the end of his monologue Thursday. “That's right, NBC has the Olympics. It's a big deal. NBC will finally get to show somebody who's okay with passing the torch.”
He gave a thumbs up as his audience gave him an extended applause break.
“I allowed myself one, but it was a good one,” O'Brien said.
It was the lone bitter note from Leno's fellow late nighters. Even Jimmy Kimmel and David Letterman, both of whom have feuded with Leno in the past, found nice things to say about him.
“Congratulations on a wonderful run, and I'll tell you something,” Letterman said. “If I was Jay Leno and I was retiring, you know what I would do? I'd go out and buy myself a car.”
Kimmel tweeted: “Issues aside, 20 years at #1 is a remarkable achievement. Congratulations and best wishes to @jayleno on an incredible run.”
Arsenio Hall, who visited Leno on “The Tonight Show” Wednesday to suggest what he can do with his new free time, praised Leno as the “Michael Jordan of late night.”
“He's number one. They're getting rid of the number one guy,” Hall said. “That's like Michael Jordan — He's the Michael Jordan of late night. That's like somebody saying, ‘Hey Mike. Put your tongue back in your mouth and get out of here.”
He then asked his audience to applaud “the living legend of late night.”
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