Conan O'Brien's story seems more bitter each time he's asked about learning Jay Leno would precede his Tonight Show on NBC.
The Late Night host is quoted on his reaction to the news in tomorrow's New York Times. It's at least his third version of the story. Notice the subtle and not so subtle evolution:
Seaking on his show after Leno's 10 p.m. slot was announced, O'Brien said, "I've known about this for a while... I am thrilled. I am absolutely thrilled that Jay is staying at NBC. " OK!
In his first interview after the Leno announcement, O'Brien told the Times the move was actually a surprise: "I don't think any of us were expecting a Monday through Friday thing for Jay like that... And there was a period where everybody was just trying to figure out: what does this mean? ...After about an hour and a half I just started asking if I was still going to be getting the ‘Tonight Show With Johnny Carson' that I used to watch with my father in my living room in Brookline, Massachusetts."
In the new Times article, O'Brien basically retold the same story, in slightly different words. But for some reason he added 15 minutes to period of inner turmoil:
The move gave Mr. O'Brien pause for about 'an hour and 45 minutes,' he said. 'The 10 p.m. thing, Monday through Friday, I don't think that was something anybody necessarily saw coming.'
O'Brien isn't the only who has second guessed NBC's thinking. "I feel a little sorry for Conan," one industry source told the Times, echoing much of the chatter from the past three months.
O'Brien's comic friend Norm MacDonald even teased O'Brien on his own show last week, saying Leno got the better of the Late Night host (see clip up top). If O'Brien is owning up to more of his own doubt these days, maybe it's because he's gotten so much outside validation for those feelings.