The Truth Behind Conan's $6.3 Million F*ck You Sketches
This afternoon, during his final Tonight Show taping, Conan O'Brien will strap on a jet pack and blast through the ceiling of his $15 million studio in Universal City as Max Weinberg plays him out with a jazzy rendition of Billy Joel's "Say Goodbye to Hollywood," not to be seen again until September 1. Still, he won't go before delivering $6.3 million in pointless production costs to NBC -- the equivalent of staging two, ten-foot tall middle fingers covered in Swarovski Crystal on his stage. That's if you believe Conan; if, on the other hand, you thought it was completely implausible that the Tonight Show actually bought the world's most expensive car and the 2009 Kentucky Derby-winning horse (after all, who would keep them?), then you were correct in your suspicions.
During the past two nights, Conan has mischievously declared, "Until NBC yanks us off the air, we can pretty much do whatever we want, and the best part about it is that they have to pay for it." As the audience clapped and cheered wildly, Conan unveiled his spite purchases. The first, a Bugatti Veyron, was dressed as a mouse and playing the Rolling Stones classic, "Satisfaction." The second, presented last night, was the 2009 Kentucky Derby-winning horse, wearing a mink Snuggie and watching restricted NFL Superbowl footage. Conan estimated the total for both gags (including licensing fees and additional fees for when NBC reruns the episodes) at $1.5 and $4.8 million, respectively.
Even though NBC seems to operate in the lawless Wild West when it comes to Tonight Show hosting abilities, it does have budgets for its late night programs, and any cost exceeding that budget would have had to be approved by the network. If for some reason the Tonight Show had actually found the cash to buy the car, the only way producers could guarantee racking up $1.5 million worth of damage would be if they supplied each audience member with a bat, welcomed everyone to whack the car into an unrecognizable pile of metal, and then dumped the Bugatti's oily corpse into Leno's bed.
But the Tonight Show didn't have that option because they merely borrowed the 2006 model car for free from the Petersen Automotive Museum, a fact confirmed by the museum itself yesterday. Had the show actually paid to rent the vehicle for the day, it would have cost approximately $25,000. As for the Rolling Stones track, a New York-based entertainment lawyer, Steve Gordon, told ABC News that the Tonight Show's current music licensing agreement would have allowed "Satisfaction" to be played for a live or time-delayed performance at no charge. If the episode is repeated (which is unlikely), NBC might then have to pay anything from $25,000 to $50,000. If the segment was available on NBC's website, the network would also have to pay a similar or additional fee, perhaps explaining why it isn't available online.
Like the Bugatti, the Kentucky Derby winner was likely also on loan last night. No word yet on the cost (or availability) of mink Snuggies.