Conan OK with Letterman, not so much with Leno

A fan made guerilla marketing campaign for Conan thrust him into the spotlight and helped him sell out his tour shows across the nation.
A fan made guerilla marketing campaign for Conan thrust him into the spotlight and helped him sell out his tour shows across the nation. Mike Mitchell

Conan O'Brien says he got a phone call from David Letterman over the holidays. The CBS host wanted to make sure a year of late-night TV turmoil hadn't created a rift between them.

O'Brien told reporters Wednesday that he and Letterman have "always been good. I said he didn't owe me a phone call, but I appreciated it."

O'Brien wouldn't be so receptive to a call from Jay Leno, who preceded and replaced him as "Tonight" show host.

He says the reason is no mystery, noting, "We all know the story."

O'Brien said the experience of losing the "Tonight" show left him and his staff feeling like a band of pirates that stuck together through hard times. It's a dynamic he believes makes the show stronger.

O'Brien's new TBS show, called "Conan," began in November. He said the past year's upheaval has left him more willing to take chances onstage.

"I'm very appreciative," he said. "There's nothing like walking away from the `Tonight' show that makes you appreciative of being on the air and having a TV show. I think that feeling is coming through."

O'Brien's show and "Lopez Tonight," which follows it on TBS' lineup, both have an audience with an average age of 33, the youngest among the late-night talk shows.

"I like performing for children," he said. "I have a 7-year-old and a 5-year-old. That's a workout. Making them laugh brings me a lot of joy."

He said his comedy has an inherent silliness that a younger audience may appreciate. Reaching a young audience is usually a strength in television, but NBC was concerned that O'Brien wasn't expanding his audience beyond that.

He acknowledged some sadness at no longer being a part of NBC, and being disconnected with some people he spent a lot of time with. The Monday after his last "Tonight" show, he called his assistant so they could meet to discuss some business. She wondered: "Where?"

So they met in a store that sells pies.

"There's a whole body of work that I feel a little detached from," he said.

TBS is owned by Time Warner.

© 2011 The Associated Press.

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