Conan O’Brien at Dartmouth: What I Learned From Losing ‘The Tonight Show’ (Video)

“My first job as your commencement speaker is to illustrate that life is not fair.”

Last Updated: June 13, 2011 @ 10:31 AM

Conan O'Brien imparted some knowledge about getting and losing his dream job in a commencement address to Dartmouth University grads — but mostly he made them laugh.

"My first job as your commencement speaker is to illustrate that life is not fair," he said Sunday. "For example, you have worked tirelessly for four years to earn the diploma you’ll be receiving this weekend. That was great. And Dartmouth is giving me the same degree for interviewing the fourth lead in 'Twilight.' Deal with it."

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He added: “But don't get me wrong, I take my task today very seriously. When I got the call two months ago to be your speaker, I decided to prepare with the same intensity many of you have devoted to an important term paper. So late last night, I began.”

O'Brien turned serious, however, when talking about "The Tonight Show," the show he sought all of his career.

"It was the Holy Grail. And like many people, I thought that achieving that goal would define me as successful. But that is not true. No specific job or career goal defines me, and it should not define you," he said. "In 2000, I told graduates to not be afraid to fail, and I still believe that. But today, I tell you that whether you fear it or not, disappointment will come. The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality."

Noting that he was breaking "a taboo," he also quoted himself from his final "Tonight Show" sign-off: "Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen."