In his first interview since reaching an exit agreement with NBC last January, Conan O'Brien tells 60 Minutes' Steve Kroft that he would have left NBC before he did what Jay Leno did to him.
"He went and took that show back, and I think in a similar situation, if roles had been reversed...I know me, I wouldn't have done that," O'Brien says. "If I had surrendered The Tonight Show and handed it over to somebody publicly and wished them well--and then...six months later. But that's me, you know. Everyone's got their own, you know, way of doing things."
The interview airs Sunday, May 2, on 60 Minutes. It was taped last week in Los Angeles.
O'Brien tells Kroft that he decided to leave NBC because the "relationship" was clearly "toxic."
"That's really how it felt to me...and I started to feel that I'm not sure these people even really want me here.... I can't do it."
O'Brien is in the midst of a nationwide comedy tour, which kicked off earlier this month as TBS announced that it had signed the comic for a late-night program set to bow in November. And although O'Brien's representatives negotiated a pay-out in excess of $32 million from NBC, the episode clearly still smarts.
"I have not resolved all my issues. I am mostly very happy," he says. "I love this tour, it's the most thrilling thing I've done in my career. And so I'm in a really great place in a lot of ways. But I'd be lying if I said I don't-- have my moments of everything, you know, anger, disappointment-- frustration and just confusion."
O'Brien also refuted public statements from NBC executives that The Tonight Show lost money during O'Brien's abbreviated stewardship of the program -- a first for the storied franchise.
"I honestly don't see how that's possible. It's really not possible. It isn't possible," he says.
O'Brien is precluded from appearing on television before May 1, per his exit deal with NBC, which also stipulates that he cannot publicly disparage his former employer. Pieces of the interview will be available on the 60 Minutes web site Sunday after 8 p.m.