Very few things in this country galvanize public opinion like someone trying to mess around with people's preferences in the bedroom.
We're talking, of course, about what they watch on late night television. And NBC found that out a few months ago when Conan O'Brien, the newly installed host of "The Tonight Show," quit after the network announced it was going to push "The Tonight Show" into tomorrow, and to give its traditional time slot back to O'Brien's predecessor Jay Leno. It triggered a lot of bad publicity for NBC, an outpouring of public support for O'Brien, and some of the best late night jokes in a decade.
O'Brien walked away with a $32 million settlement and a new cable show, and NBC did its best to push him into oblivion, legally prohibiting him from saying anything false or disparaging about the network, and from giving interviews or appearing on television - until now.
If you're wondering what happened to Conan O'Brien and what he thinks about all of this, you are about to find out.
"So what's with the beard?" correspondent Steve Kroft asked O'Brien.
"That first day that I woke up and was no longer the host of 'The Tonight Show,' I remember the first thought I had is 'I am not shaving.' And that was my small victory, you know. 'Ok, so I lost the Tonight Show but I'll show them, I'll stop shaving,'" he replied.
"This has been quite a year," Kroft remarked.
"Yeah. That's it. We're done. This was a lot of fun. This year has been, is still incomprehensible to me. The amount of stuff that's happened in my life in the last year is…it's gonna take me a long time to process it," O'Brien said.
After leaving 'The Tonight Show' in January and hanging out at his home trying to figure out what he was going to do with the rest of his life, he decided the best therapy would be to get out of the house and back to work.
He assembled a lot of his old staff, opened a Twitter account, and began planning a nationwide comedy tour - something that he had never done before, and one of the few things he was allowed to do contractually.
Kroft met up with him in Seattle.
"You must have been miserable for the last couple of months," Kroft remarked.
"I went through some stuff. And I got very depressed at times. It was like a marriage breaking up suddenly, violently, quickly. And I was just trying to figure out what happened. When we started putting this tour together, I started to feel better almost immediately. And then there is almost no better antidote to what I've just been through than to do this every night," O'Brien said.
"Doing this tour though, this is a huge milestone for me. This is the first time anyone has paid to see me… oh they've paid to make me go away," O'Brien joked.
The "Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour" has boosted his confidence, kept him relevant and provided an outlet for him to explore his anger, disappointment, and anxiety with mostly self-deprecating humor.
"My own show again! I just can't wait to have my own show again. I'd even take a primetime show that's on at 10; anything to have my own show again," he joked.
After 40 performances in 32 cities in the U.S. and Canada, the tour will wind up next month at Radio City Music Hall in New York, right next door to NBC's corporate headquarters where this whole late night fiasco was cooked up.
Less than one year after Leno handed "The Tonight Show" off to O'Brien, NBC decided to cancel Leno's disastrous prime show and move him back into his old time period at 11:35 p.m. Eastern. Conan's "Tonight Show," which was losing badly in the ratings to David Letterman, was to be bumped back to 12:05 a.m. the next morning.
"Was in the back of your mind that 'Look, if I don't do that well, they can just pop Leno back in'?" Kroft asked.
"I'm a paranoid person. And I think I'm the kind of person that can come up with lots of negative scenarios. But I remembered thinking that seemed like that was a stretch even for me," O'Brien said.