Conan O'Brien: Divorce from NBC is Ugly and "Crazy Expensive"
If you can't beat them and you are leaving anyway, why not spend all their money?
That seems to be Conan O'Brien's philosophy this week as he embarked on a series of skits and extraordinarily expensive props to put on the appearance that he intended to blow through the Tonight Show budget in one week.
On Wednesday he trotted out a Bugatti Veyron, a rare and pricey sports car that costs as much as some private jets. O'Brien unveiled the Bugatti Veyron, showing the million dollar car embellished with mouse ears and whiskers. O'Brien claimed to have purchased the sports car.
Last night, he upped the ante by bringing out Kentucky Derby winning racehorse Mine That Bird adorned with a mink "Snuggie" and by showing restricted Super Bowl footage. This "crazy expensive" skit, he claimed, cost NBC $4.8 million.
But did O'Brien really spend millions of NBC's money? Our sources reveal the Bugatti is owned by Bob Petersen of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles and was loaned to the show for free. Conan did authorize to pay for its transportation costs to and from the show. It is already back at the museum where it may end up being moved to the Hollywood Wing, where important cars from movies and TV are displayed.
Likewise, the identity of the racehorse and the authenticity of the Super Bowl footage has since been disputed. As our sports-loving friends at FanHouse point out, that footage was actually a 1984 USFL game between the Tampa Bay Bandits and Houston Gamblers. A quick look at the horse on the Tonight Show and at Kentucky Derby winner reveals that while the two share some markings including a white smudge on the forehead, they are not the same animal. Mine That Bird is a bay with a darker mane and a smaller white marking than the horse that appeared on the Tonight Show (which was a chestnut). And while it is hard to tell from a television screen if the horse is wearing real fur, the thinness and drape seem to indicate that the horse is not adorned in real mink.
To be sure, there were some costs involved with the jabs at NBC. Our sources say that O'Brien may have actually purchase the rights to use the master copy of the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" which played while he unveiled the Bugatti. O'Brien claimed the skit cost NBC $1.5 million in expenses to air, which includes securing the royalty rights for the music. This may explain why, as Mashable reported, the network took down the clips of the Veyron sketch from Hulu and NBC.com to avoid fees associated with replaying the song each time. The clip remains on YouTube.
O'Brien's antics became more fantastic since he put "The Tonight Show" up for sale last week on popular website Craigslist offering a barely used show "guaranteed to last for up to seven months." The posting was later pulled but Conan used the ad as a launching off point for what he called "crazy expensive" comedy bits.
What set O'Brien off was a decision NBC made earlier this month to move "The Jay Leno Show" to the "Tonight Show's" slot at 11:35 pm beginning in March, and shift O'Brien's show to 12:05 am. Leno, who's show is floundering in its current 10:00 pm slot, is supportive of the decision. O'Brien, on the other hand, is outraged. O'Brien is livid that he passed up "far more lucrative" offers to have the opportunity to take over "The Tonight Show" in June 2009. "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."
O'Brien only has one more chance to pull another fast one off on NBC. Earlier this week, the comedian reached a deal with NBC to step down as host of the "Tonight Show", reportedly pocketing a $32 million payout, with his staff receiving a severance package worth another $12 million to $13 million. He is prohibited from going back on the air until September of this year. O'Brien's final show as host of the "Tonight Show" will air this evening. What should Conan trot out tonight? We're hoping for some serious bling. Maybe he'll wear Lil John's record setting crunk necklace or something similar.
We'll see what he has in store for us.