Joan Rivers on Conan O'Brien: 'He's Not That Funny and Would Have Ended Up a Tonight Show Failure'
Before the Jay Leno Show premiered in September, Joan Rivers used a few public appearances to slam Johnny Carson's successor's move into primetime: "I think it's brilliant that Leno is at 10 p.m. because America can get bored more easily and go to sleep earlier." But when it came to ConanGate last week and NBC's mishandling of the Tonight Show, the comedienne, who has her own complicated history with late night, was conspicuously quiet. Until Vanity Fair caught up with her at Sundance.
In Park City to promote her documentary, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, Rivers sat down with Vanity Fair West Coast editor Krista Smith and offered her own analysis of ConanGate:
"Luckiest thing that ever happened to [Conan]. He's not that funny. The numbers were going down. The [Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien] would have ended up a failure and let go and they would have put Jimmy Fallon in his place. What happened was, he is now the guy that was hurt, he is the good guy that did not want to ruin the integrity of the Tonight Show, he's walked away with $40 million, not tragic, and every other station now wants him for late night. It's such a win for this guy!"
Instead of lobbing another below-the-belt insult at Leno, Rivers assessed the obstacles in Leno's future:
"[The ConanGate situation] is very negative for him. I think people got a good look at him and realized that he ain't funny. What's funny at 11:30 when you're tired and want to go to sleep -- you don't want to be annoyed in a way. You can fall asleep to Jay Leno and it doesn't matter because you didn't miss anything. It's comfort TV. At 10:00, you were like, 'Wait, this guy isn't funny! What am I doing? Who is this guy?' I think that was negative and also, all the rumors that he's not being liked very much came up. It all surfaced. He ain't this wonderful, warm, sweet, lovable guy. He has a very small Christmas card list."
Joan Rivers, famously got her first big break when Johnny Carson invited her on the Tonight Show. She guest-hosted through the early 80s and then burned her Tonight Show bridge by leaving to headline the short-lived Late Show Starring Joan Rivers.
· VIDEO: Joan Rivers Thinks Conan Lucked Out and Leno Isn't Funny [Vanity Fair]