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Conan O'Brien Says he Won't Host 'Tonight Show' After Jay Leno

By Nicole Bode | January 12, 2010 8:39am | Updated on January 12, 2010 5:04pm

By Nicole Bode and Jim Scott

DNAinfo Associate Producers

MANHATTAN — Conan O'Brien is not laughing anymore.

The red-headed comedian released a statement Tuesday saying he will not host NBC's "Tonight Show" if the starting time is moved back to 12:05 a.m.

"For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news," O'Brien said in his statement. "I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn’t the Tonight Show."

O'Brien's statement comes after two days of turmoil at the broadcasting network since it announced it was moving "The Jay Leno Show" to the vaunted 11:35 p.m. time slot in March.

Comedian Conan O'Brien signed a contract six years ago that said he would take over as host of the
Comedian Conan O'Brien signed a contract six years ago that said he would take over as host of the "Tonight Show" in June, 2009.
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American Forces Press Service/John J. Kruzel

Both O'Brien and Leno skewered NBC brass on Monday night.

O’Brien led his show with a riff at the audience’s overzealous applause.

“Ladies and gentlemen please, you keep that up and this monologue won’t start till 12:05. Then where would we be?” O’Brien quipped.

“I’m Conan O’Brien, the new host of Last Call with Carson Daly,” he added.

Leno also took a few jab at NBC management on Monday.

“I take pride in one thing. I leave NBC prime time the same way I found it — a complete disaster," Leno said in his first time on-air since the network confirmed they were ditching his 10 p.m. show.

“See, my people are upset, Conan's people are upset, Hey, NBC said they wanted drama at 10, now they got it …  every body's mad,” he said, sending the audience into hysterics.

NBC is reportedly considering is splitting the “Tonight Show” slot in half, and giving Leno from 11:35 p.m. to just after midnight, while O’Brien reportedly will get bumped back to an hour-long show starting at 12:05 a.m.

That would mean former Saturday Night Live comic Jimmy Fallon’s show pushes back to 1:05 a.m., according to several published reports.

O'Brien expressed concern in his statement about the fate of Fallon's show if the moves come to fruition.

"If I accept this move I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot," O'Brien said in his statement Tuesday. "That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.

Funnyman Jay Leno, whose fate at NBC is in question.
Funnyman Jay Leno, whose fate at NBC is in question.
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Flickr/Simon Davison

O'Brien shot down reports that he was jumping ship and had already began talking to other networks.

"There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next," O'Brien said in his statement.

The NBC nightmare started back in 2008, when the network decided to put Leno into the 10 p.m. slot, opening the door to O'Brien to take over at the “Tonight Show.”