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.


  • David Poland says:

    Pretty sure they borrowed a horse... but not Mine That Bird...

  • Anonymous says:

    Can someone that actually watches Conan, understands sarcasm, and doesn't undermine the readers intelligent write a proper article? Thank you, Captain Obvious. Thank you for pointing out that 1 of 152529 of what Conan says for humor shouldn't be taking literally, especially a skit.

  • Mike says:

    uhhhh no shit? it's called comedy. meaning: its a "joke". Hope you didn't spend too much time researching this 😛

  • Anonymous says:

    I am a Conan fan, and I have to say that after everything he has done on his shows, this is probably some of his best work. Like another poster noted: No, I didn't believe for second that NBC bought either a Bugatti, the KD winner, Superbowl footage, or the license to a Rolling Stones song. But I am glad that there are authors like this one to remind me that as long as there are .001% of stupid people who DO believe this, there will be arrogant, oblivious writers who believe they are actually contributing something of profound significance by "revealing" what was obvious to everyone else.

  • Ben says:

    Hi Anonymous,
    Your intelligent is not in question. However, would you be so kind as to explain to us how the sketches were sarcastic?
    Thank you.
    PS. Oh, and I will pass on your thanks to the Captain if I see him. Or... should that remark not be taking literally either?

  • Craig Eliot says:

    Hey, Conan, how about just donating the money to Haiti????

  • don says:

    hey conan how about donating that bugatti to me 🙂

  • MG says:

    You know, now that I think of it, I don't think the Masturbating Bear is even a real bear!
    Keep up the good work exposing these frauds! I bet this exposé might even lead to Conan losing his NBC show....

  • gordon sumner says:

    While I'm a fan of Conan, I tend to think its all just showbiz baloney.
    I can just here NBC exects and Conan behind closed doors going..."the ratings are going thru the roof. Conan, your doing great with the whole slamming NBC stuff."
    He tells the audience its expensive cause thats what they want to believe and he's in on the con.
    He's walking away with tens of millions. Please Conan, don't cry poverty. People, no need to feel sorry for him. He makes in one year what most won't see in their lifetime

  • eddiewalls says:

    Isn't 'Coco' special?
    1. 'Coco' had MONTHS to plan an expansion of his viewing base; grab some old Leno viewers; and didn't/couldn't do it. Not that NBC shouldn't have demanded an expansion of his base' probably didn't.
    2. Gets away with $30+ MILLION. Maybe he could send a bunch of that to poor, hungry kids in the USA.
    3. 'Coco' goes back to 'gonna get NBC' with a childish stunt. Send THOSE $ to hungry kids and families.
    4. What a stroke; and I'm supposed to feel sorry for him?

  • Rain soaked in SoCal says:

    O'Brien simply is irrelevant. He's never been that funny and he's not as smart as he thinks he is. His jokes and bits are sophomoric, at best. Great for a night of binge drinking with frat boys...but doesn't work for people who don't feel the need to laugh at old routines just to 'fit in with the boys'. O'Brien is all about O'Brien.
    Let's not forget that he FAILED at his job...ratings dropped and he stuck up his nose at a new time slot. He obviously thinks he's the last great late show MC. Get real, there are a plethora of late-night shows's a business. Hello!

  • mark o says:

    I couldn't believe Jay endorsed O'Brien to begin with. Maybe because of his that all important 16-21 immature male demographic. Whatever it cost NBC to get that loser off the air is worth it. May he make it big as a late night dishwasher at Denny's. After 15 years, the new crop of late night viewers would be wowed by real talent like Arsenio (OMG, I'm a white southern boy too!).

  • Lucy says:

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  • Marcos El Malo says:

    I'm really not in the habit of watching any late night TV, so I don't really care all that much. But man, the astro-turfing is crazy! Doesn't NBC realize how obvious they're being? Or, now that a deal has been reached, did they just forget to call off the dogs? Or maybe they're hoping this astro-turfing will "go viral" and promote Leno's "big comeback"? I am starting to suspect the last possibility, as it fits he typical NBC stuffed shirt's cluelessness.

  • teamconan says:

    why are jay's supporters always so stupid?

  • List of Supremely Retarded and Gullible Individuals:
    Eddie Walls
    Rain Soaked In Social
    Mark O
    It's okay. Jay Leno is coming back soon. His straightforward and predictable jokes will excite your 5 brain cells more convincingly.

  • Ed Stone says:

    I'm a dyed in the wool Leno fan and generally was pretty cool on Conan. He is talented and often funny, but I didn't care for much of his stuff. That said, I thought the last two shows were very entertaining. I wish he had made a gesture of saying something positive about Leno -- Leno complimented Conan the other night -- but I can understand feeling are high right now.
    I wish Conan all the best and am sorry to see him leave NBC. His show worked at 12:35, not as well at 11:35. I am sure that this fall he will turn up on television with a solid show his fans will enjoy.

  • Duncan says:

    The Truth Behind The Sketch: It Was A Sketch

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