For the first time since his final episode of "The Tonight Show" in January, comedian and late-night personality Conan O'Brien appeared on television in a legally sanctioned interview with Steve Kroft on CBS' "60 Minutes" on Sunday. A bearded O'Brien spoke at length about his unceremonious departure from NBC, his feelings on former and current "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno, his ongoing comedy tour and his upcoming show on TBS.
"I went through some stuff, and I got very depressed at times," O'Brien said, describing his mental status over the past several months. "It was like a marriage breaking up suddenly, violently, quickly. And I was just trying to figure out what happened."
In order to overcome the difficulties surrounding his job loss, O'Brien quickly formed a Twitter account with support from Andy Richter and other former colleagues. He also launched the Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour as a means to keep himself relevant, occupied and satisfied.
"When we started putting this tour together, I started to feel better almost immediately," he said of the tour, during with he performs a variety of parody songs, including a memorable rendition of "On the Road Again" focusing on his eagerness to "have [his] own show again."
O'Brien said that even at his most paranoid, he never imagined that NBC would restore Leno to the 11:35 p.m. time slot. Once NBC began pressuring him to make a decision about whether or not to stay with the talk show, O'Brien felt he had no choice but to walk away.
"From my perspective, it felt like they never really gave him the job," O'Brien's wife, Liza, told "60 Minutes" of her stance on the situation. "It felt like they lost their nerve to really make a change and that was too bad. It was a shame, because it would have been great to see what he could have done if he had their full support and had some more time."
O'Brien said he hasn't heard from Leno since leaving NBC, adding that if he were in Leno's position, he would not have reclaimed "The Tonight Show." "If I had surrendered 'The Tonight Show' and handed it over to somebody publicly and wished them well ... I would not have come back six months later," he said. "But that's me, you know. Everyone's got their own, you know, way of doing things.
"Here's what I can say — I'm happy with my decision," O'Brien said of his feelings toward Leno. "I sleep well at night. And I, you know, hope he's happy with his decision."
O'Brien doesn't believe that he was "screwed" by NBC. "I didn't get screwed — I'm fine," he said. "It's crucial to me that anyone seeing this [interview], if they take anything away from this, it's that I'm fine. I'm doing great. I hope people still find me comedically absurd and ridiculous. And I don't regret anything."
For now, O'Brien is exhilarated by his in-progress comedy tour and also has his currently untitled talk show on TBS to look forward to. While some spectators were initially surprised by O'Brien's decision to sign with TBS as opposed to a broadcast network, the comedian argued: "I do not look down my nose at cable, and I think anyone who does isn't paying attention to television these days. Because it is — this world is changing very quickly."