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It’s one more “Tonight” for Conan.
Hours after inking a $45 million deal to part ways with NBC, outgoing "Tonight Show" host Conan O’Brien vowed Thursday to “have a lot of fun on television” for his final two nights with the network.
“This was not our first choice; this was not our eighth choice,” O’Brien said in a monologue. “I’m determined to make the best of the situation."
O’Brien began the show to extended applause and fans chanting his name. He would end it by singing a special ode to “the best audience in the history of television.”
“I am Conan O’Brien, future Donkey Kong champion,” the lanky red-haired comic said out of the gate. “I’m going to get so good at that game.”
O'Brien joked that he knew his “separation agreement” with NBC was official when the network “dropped off all my CDs and picked up its lava lamp.”
Earlier, Jay Leno said on his show that he expected to return to the helm of “Tonight” – the show he formerly hosted for more than a dozen years until ceding control to O’Brien last year -- after the Winter Olympics on March 1.
"I have chosen to stay on the Titanic,” Leno joked. “I don't believe the iceberg is that big, the biggest ship, this ship will never sink.”
Also on Thursday, The Washington Post reported Leno had been tapped to deliver the keynote speech at this year’s White House Correspondents Association dinner. The invitation came weeks before NBC’s planned line-up shuffle became fodder for late-night comics across all networks, according to the paper.
Meanwhile, over at “Tonight,” O'Brien responded, as he has for nearly two weeks, to the latest media coverage of his negotiations with NBC.
The Wall Street Journal, which first broke news of O’Brien’s deal with the Peacock Network Thursday, reported that the agreement includes a clause that forbids O'Brien from bad mouthing the network when he leaves.
"We wanted to give him a graceful exit," Jeff Gaspin, chairman of NBC Universal Television Entertainment told the Journal. "Hopefully he will be graceful."
O’Brien riffed that many other terms of his exit contract have yet to be reported -- and fired a few more salvos at his bosses.
Among the stipulations:
O’Brien also reprised a gag from Wednesday that for his final days with NBC he would make the network pay by unveiling really expensive comic bits.
The latest example: “Say hello to 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird wearing a mink snuggie. He’s watching restricted NFL Superbowl coverage,” O’Brien quipped, while standing next to the champion equine.
Total price tag for the "character": $4.8 million.
O'Brien continued to trot out a list of high-profile celebrities to close out his final shows.
On Thursday program, Pee Wee Herman "re-enacted" O’Brien’s network negotiations by using plush toys and Robin Williams sang an expletive-laden NBC-mocking “Irish-ditty” as he pranced on the stage while jabbing his middle fingers in the air.
“You just undid a week an a half of legal wrangling,” O’Brien observed afterward.
Musical guest Neil Young, actors Tom Hanks and Will Ferrell, the first O'Brien-era "Tonight" guest, have been booked for the late-night host's final show on Friday.
The program follows a special Haiti-edition of "Dateline" that will take the place of Leno's prime-time show.