“That’s going to have to last me a while,” he said to wild applause.
In his final monologue, O’Brien made light of the situation — even mentioning the inevitable sequel to HBO’s original “The Late Shift” movie.
“Now that this mess is almost behind me – I just have one last request: HBO, when you make the movie about this whole NBC late night fiasco, I’d like to be played by Academy-Award winning actress Tilda Swinton,” he gagged.
“Leave the studio cold and empty and re-name it ‘The World’s Largest Metaphor For NBC Programming'” was about as rough as he got on the Peacock.
Turning to a new feature — seeing how much NBC money he can spend on the air — O’Brien went over the top, promising a “rare fossil skeleton of a ground sloth, spraying beluga caviar on an original Picasso.”
Of course, as most had begun to expect, the feature has been played for laughs all week. The sportscar and race horse from earlier in the week were loans, and the song rights weren’t expensive. And no, Friday night’s “ground sloth” and Picasso weren’t real — and they didn’t cost the Peacock $65 million.
A clip package highlighting the best of the past seven months was set to Cheap Trick’s “Surrender.” The clip included several scenes from the famed cold open that O’Brien used to launch his “Tonight Show” stint seven months ago (and which also was accompanied by “Surrender”).
The highlights piece ended with the line, “To be continued…”
After the first commercial break, O’Brien said he was required to give an exit interview to an NBC employee — and out walked Steve Carell.
“Yes, kinda, yeah,” O’Brien shot back.
“Would you consider working for NBC again in the future?” “I don’t know, can’t say at this time.”
Before leaving, Carell pulled out a shredder — and asked for O’Brien’s NBC badge.
First guest Tom Hanks came out wearing sunglasses and bearing two glasses of scotch.
“Around my house, they call this ‘Daddy’s Little Reward,'” Hanks said.
Turns out it was cream soda.
Hanks then led the crowd into a “CoCo” chant.
“In our house you will always be the host of the ‘Tonight Show,'” Hanks said. “If you can get there at about 10:45 — we’ve already moved a couch into the bedroom, there’s a little desk for you. You can work out your kooky bits, and honestly Rita and I will try to stay up for the entire hour.”
Hanks recalled hosting a 1988 “Saturday Night Live” episode and working with scribes O’Brien, Robert Smigel and Bob Odenkirk.
“You were such a talented group of kids,” he said. “I called you Manny, Moe and Jack. Let’s get the Pep Boys out to the house, let’s talk about a project…. You scared the living daylights out of my kids. ‘Who was that tall pasty-faced man? A big white wolverine came into the house, dad!”
“CBS? Sounds like a great network to me!” O’Brien said.
Following Hanks, Neil Young — who called to offer his support soon after news of O’Brien’s predicament broke — performed “Long May You Run.”
“Thanks for everything you’ve done for new music,” Young said to O’Brien.
Before bringing out final guest Will Ferrell, O’Brien — his voice slightly overcome with emotion — talked about his departure, and his state of mind through the sudden turn of events.
“Walking away from The Tonight Show is the hardest thing I have ever had to do,” he said. “Making this choice has been enormously difficult. This is the best job in the world, I absolutely love doing it, and I have the best staff and crew in the history of the medium.
“But despite this sense of loss, I really feel this should be a happy moment. Every comedian dreams of hosting ‘The Tonight Show’ and, for seven months, I got to. I did it my way, with people I love, and I do not regret a second. I’ve had more good fortune than anyone I know and if our next gig is doing a show in a 7-11 parking lot, we’ll find a way to make it fun.”
O’Brien also urged his fans not to be cynical — and put it all in perspective: “Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”
Then, with Will Ferrell on stage dressed as the lead singer from Lynyrd Skynyrd — and with Max Weinberg and the Tonight Show Band; Beck; and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons on stage (among others), O’Brien strapped on a guitar and joined them.
With that, the motley group performed “Free Bird.” (And yes, by the end of the song, there was cow bell.)
Credits roll — and with that, the way-too-short Conan O’Brien era of “The Tonight Show” came to a close.