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Conan’s Last ‘Tonight Show’: Says Emotional Goodbye And Thanks NBC; Neil Young Performs Fitting Tribute Song

I may have a bit of a bias, as I worship the music of Neil Young, but his extended version of “Long May You Run” was the perfect song to close Conan O’Brien‘s Tonight Show finale (although, it was the next to last song — the final number was a misguided rendition of “Freebird” led by Will Ferrel). Young’s performance –solo with only his harmonica, an acoustic guitar and a spotlight– was touching and oddly poignant. He then thanked Conan for everything he has done to promote new music. It reminded me of how good Conan’s late night show really was in the best of times.

The searing tribute seemed all the more appropriate when, in his final monologue, Conan took the high road, thanking NBC instead of bashing it and calling for an end to cynicism:

Walking away from The Tonight Show is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. 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 7 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.

And finally, I have to say something to our fans. The massive outpouring of support and passion from so many people has been overwhelming. The rallies, the signs, all the goofy, outrageous creativity on the internet, and the fact that people have traveled long distances and camped out all night in the pouring rain to be in our audience, made a sad situation joyous and inspirational.

To all the people watching, I can never thank you enough for your kindness to me and I’ll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask of you is one thing: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism- it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere.

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.

The finale, as expected, aired to huge ratings. It’s pretty cool that he ended this whole late night battle on such an optimistic note. I grew extremely tired of the negative and intense “I’m With Coco” campaign, as well as the fact that nobody was acknowledging how truly fortunate Conan has been in his career. I stand by my opinion that he’s not just not suited for the commercial, middle American Tonight Show (blame NBC Universal president Jeff Zucker for orchestrating that idea). Let’s face it: Conan is rich, famous, well supported in Hollywood and will “run” a long time. Albeit on another network, but still a long time.

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