Time Warp: Howard Stern Warned Conan O'Brien About Leno 3 Years Ago
By Marc Schneider Posted Jan 20th 2010 10:59AM
A long, long time ago -- three years in fact -- Howard Stern visited 'Late Night With Conan O'Brien' to warn the young host of the peril that lay ahead when he took over 'The Tonight Show' from Jay Leno. After expressing his joy at the then-fresh news of a deal to elevate O'Brien to 11:35, Stern asked: "Do you think that's really gonna happen?"
The NBC host jokingly gave himself a "40 percent" chance of it happening. Stern stuck it to him plain-like: "I don't see this guy leaving and letting you walk in. I'm concerned about you." To back up his concerns, Stern cracked that Leno "is a guy who stares at the wall ... and waits to go to work. He doesn't do anything but work."
Of course, Leno did relinquish the show last year, but crappy ratings and pissed affiliates, not to mention annoyed network execs, have sunk O'Brien. A deal to release him from the peacock's grasp is expected soon, and this could very well be his final week before Leno returns to his old job.
Stern was reportedly offered a guest spot on O'Brien's last night, but declined because he is based in NYC and 'Tonight' is shot in LA. The radio host has a long-simmering beef with Leno over stolen comedy bits and defecting announcers (Stuttering John left Stern for Leno).
The Conan-Jay drama began when NBC canceled Leno's 'The Jay Leno Show,' which aired at 10 p.m. But when Leno's new show flopped in the ratings and caused panic among local NBC affiliates who were losing lead-in viewers to their 11 p.m newscasts, NBC hoped to move Leno back to 11:30 and have Conan follow-up in the post-Midnight slot. Unfortunately for them, O'Brien wanted nothing to do with the switch and skewered the network in a statement.
NBC's Jeff Zucker told the New York Times this week that he's to blame for the mess. "At the end of the day Jay at 10 o'clock didn't work, and I take responsibility for that," Zucker told the paper.
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