Conan: I'm 3 Days From "Biggest Drinking Binge in History"

Negotiations reportedly hit snag over "Tonight" staffer severance deal

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Conan O'Brien referenced frustrations with negotiations.

    Conan O’Brien says his “Tonight Show” hosting days are numbered.

    “Hi, I’m Conan O’Brien, and I’m just three days away from the biggest drinking binge in history,” the late-night comic said to open his monologue on Tuesday.

    As he has for days, O’Brien again joked about his likely exit from NBC and jabbed at network execs on his show.

    “Some papers are reporting that I’m legally prohibited from saying anything bad about NBC,” he said. “For example, I am not allowed to say things like: ‘NBC is headed downhill faster than a fat guy chasing a runaway cheese-wheel.’

    “But nobody said anything about speaking in Spanish,” he added, before getting in a dig in that language.

    O’Brien fired his latest salvos hours after The Associated Press reported negotiations with NBC had hit a snag.

    The main sticking point involved ensuring severance deals for O’Brien’s "Tonight" staff and crew, a person familiar with the talks told The Associated Press Tuesday.

    “It’s been a busy day for me today,” O’Brien said on his show. “I spent the afternoon at Universal Studios’ amusement park, enjoying their brand-new ride, the ‘Tunnel of Litigation.’”

    NBC fired back in a statement, saying "it was Conan's decision to leave NBC that resulted in nearly 200 of his staffers being out of work."

    "We have already agreed to pay millions of dollars to compensate every one of them. This latest posturing is nothing more than a PR ploy," the network said.

    A spokesman for O'Brien declined to comment.

    So far, negotiations have yielded a proposed deal that could pay O'Brien more than $30 million for leaving NBC and "The Tonight Show," allowing Jay Leno to return to late night from his soon-to-be canceled 10 p.m. show.

    The proposal also would allow O'Brien, who would exit "Tonight" less than a year after taking over from Leno, to start work on a competing network as early as fall. But he would be barred from making NBC the butt of jokes, according to the AP.
    Speculation that the Fox network might court O'Brien for a late-night show when he leaves NBC prompted a monologue joke Tuesday.

    Listing things he might do with "all my new free time," O'Brien concluded with "Make a big move to Fox. Megan Fox."

    O'Brien asked to be released from his contract, which has about two-and-a-half years left, after rejecting NBC's plan to push him and "Tonight" to 12:05 a.m. EST to make way for a half-hour show with Leno at 11:35 p.m.

    The network, hit by poor ratings for its prime-time experiment, "The Jay Leno Show," and for O'Brien's "Tonight," was trying to keep both comedians on board.

    O'Brien has seen his viewership jump in recent days. His Monday night Nielsen Co. rating, according to preliminary figures, was up 67 percent in total viewers over the previous fourth quarter average and up 80 percent among advertiser-favored young adults.