"Dear Internet," tonight was the final episode of Conan O'Brien hosting "The Tonight Show" on NBC. When an intern from the show said on the phone this morning that folks had camped out overnight to try to get standby tickets for the taping, it was hard to feign surprise.
The encouragement for Conan, and objection to his departure, had found a strong following on the internet; with viral campaigns, people assembling at NBC's gates to show their support, nationwide rallies and more. The comedian easily showed in his final moments why he was deserving of such adoration, signing off with a sincere message condemning cynicism, praising kindness, and expressing genuine gratitude for his success. His full statement is included below.
The show started off with a goof on NBC, featuring Steve Carell from "The Office", as himself, representing the network to conduct Conan's exit interview. "Would you describe your experience here at NBC as positive, very positive or extremely positive?" Carell deadpanned. Boos resounded from the audience when the segment ended with Conan's company ID being shred.
Neil Young performed a touching rendition of his 1976 song "Long May You Run." It included such apt lyrics as, "Although these changes/Have come/With your chrome heart shining/In the sun/Long may you run."
After his gave his farewell to the audience, he accompanied actor Will Ferrell on stage for a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird." In addition to Conan unbuttoning his shirt, losing the tie and picking up a guitar himself, the song was also performed with a backing back featuring Ben Harper, Beck, and ZZ Tops' Billy Gibbons.
Conan's speech, in its entirely, is as follows, with the video below:
"Before we end this rodeo, a few things need to be said. There has been a lot of speculation in the press about what I legally can and can't say about NBC. To set the record straight, tonight I am allowed to say anything I want. And what I want to say is this: between my time at Saturday Night Live, The Late Night Show, and my brief run here on The Tonight Show, I have worked withÂ NBCÂ for over twenty years. Yes, we have our differences right now and yes, we're going to go our separate ways. But this company has been my home for most of my adult life. I am enormously proud of the work we have done together, and I want to thank NBC for making it all possible.
Walking away from The Tonight ShowÂ is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Making this choice has been enormously difficult. This is the best job in the world, I absolutely love doing it, and I have the best staff and crew in the history of the medium. But despite this sense of loss, I really feel this should be a happy moment. Every comedianÂ dreams of hosting TheTonight Show and, for seven months, I got to. I did it my way, with people I love, and I do not regret a second. I've had more good fortune than anyone I know and if our next gig is doing a show in a 7-11 parking lot, we'll find a way to make it fun.
And finally, I have to say something to our fans. The massive outpouring of support and passion from so many people has been overwhelming. The rallies, the signs, all the goofy, outrageous creativity on the internet, and the fact that people have traveled long distances and camped out all night in the pouring rain to be in our audience, made a sad situation joyous and inspirational.
To all the people watching, I can never thank you enough for your kindness to me and I'll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask of you is one thing: please don't be cynical. I hate cynicism -- it's my least favorite quality and it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen."
Conan O'Brien thanks fans, NBC, in his farewell speech: