Here’s a partial transcript from the end of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" yesterday when she had Jay Leno as her sole guest. In this portion of the interview, Oprah brings up the question of why Leno just didn’t walk way from NBC after the network canceled his 10 pm show. It’s a question she had asked him earlier in the show as well. You can find a complete transcript of the show at AllYourTV.com.
OPRAH WINFREY (Recorded Voice-Over set to video footage of Jay and Conan): We asked viewers to weigh in on the Jay versus Conan controversy. About
80,000 of you responded to our Oprah.com poll. When asked whose side are you on,
Jay’s or Conan’s, a staggering 96% of you said Conan. And 94% of you believe Jay
should not go back to "The Tonight Show."
Winfrey (now talking directly to Leno): Honestly, you know, we’re not like friends talking all the time but I think over the years we’ve developed a friendly relationship. So many people
were against you. We did an Oprah.com poll, and there were so many people who
were on Conan’s side, that I started asking like do I have it wrong? Am I
missing something here? Because the way I understood it is the way that you’ve
LENO: Right, right.
WINFREY: So the fact that so many people seem to feel that you are being the
WINFREY: …who–that’s why I’m asking you the questions, who stole Conan’s dream?
That’s why I keep, you know, hammering on is there a part of you that feels that
you should have just retired?
LENO: Well, like I say, to me, being retired seemed like the selfish thing
LENO: You walk out and say to the 170 people that work here, "Listen, I
don’t want to get my reputation ruined, I don’t want anybody talking bad about
me. So I’ve got enough money, I’m going to leave. You people can all fend for
yourself." I mean to me, it’s sort of a team effort. Everybody’s in it here
together, and as long I’m working, they’re working and that seems to make sense
Is it a little selfish in that I still like being on TV? Oh, sure. But,
you know, the minute you can’t do the job, they do tap you on the shoulder and
tell you to leave. I mean, nobody is around who can’t do the job because you’re
gone, you’re gone in a half a second.
WINFREY: Did you feel bad for Conan at any point?
LENO: I did, I felt really bad for Conan. I think it’s unfair, but TV is not
fair. I thought it was unfair for me.
WINFREY: You felt that for Conan, but you didn’t think you caused–you were the
LENO: No, I wasn’t the reason. The reason was the ratings.
WINFREY: Mm-hmm. Do you have regrets?
LENO: Oh, yeah, I do have regrets. I regret that it wasn’t handled better.
I’m just not sure what I could have done differently.
WINFREY: Lots of people say you could have walked away.
LENO: Again, by walking away, that is an ego decision. That is me going,
"No, goodbye, everybody, you know something? I’m fed up with this. You-all fend
for yourselves. Good luck finding jobs, I’m out of here. To me, that’s the ego
decision, not the other one.
WINFREY: Is it, really?
LENO: Oh, yeah, I think so, I think so. Like …
WINFREY: How is it an ego decision for you to say I’ve done it, I’ve done "The
Tonight Show," I’ve tried it prime time, that didn’t work. Thank you, NBC. I’ll
take my paycheck and go."
LENO: If I was going to do it that way I would say maybe after these two
years of being on the air, I would tell my staff, "One year from today, it’s
WINFREY: But you could have done what–do you think now you could have done what
Conan did? When they came in and said your prime time show’s canceled, you say
okay, you owe me two years, because that’s what you said at the beginning.
LENO: Right, right.
WINFREY: You were guaranteed at least a year.
WINFREY: Two years if you were successful.
WINFREY: Pay me out, pay out my staff. You could have done that.
LENO: I could have done that, but I didn’t. They offered me my old job back.
WINFREY: Right, I get that.
LENO: Which is the dream job. I said okay.
WINFREY: Is there a bigger lesson in all of this?
LENO: The key is not to be bitter and I think Conan said it best when he
said don’t be cynical.
WINFREY: Mm-hmm. And yet you said earlier you haven’t called him?
LENO: It’s not the right time, because I’m not sure what I would say right
now. Let some time pass and I would hope we can talk again.
WINFREY: Will you have him on your show?
LENO: I would love to. I don’t know whether he would do it or not. I think
he will have a successful show on Fox or somewhere else.
WINFREY: Wherever he goes.
LENO: And then we will all compete again and may the best man win.