How do you get back at a boss who wronged you? How about spending more than a $1 million of your boss's cash before you head out the door?
That was outgoing "Tonight Show" host Conan O'Brien's apparent strategy Wednesday night when he unveiled his show's newest character, the "Bugatti Veyron Mouse," a $2 million Bugatti sports car adorned with fake mouse ears and whiskers. The car's debut on the show was accompanied by the sound of a master recording of the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction."
O'Brien, who will host his last episode of "The Tonight Show" on Friday, cheerfully claimed that featuring the car and the classic song on the show would cost NBC a total of $1.5 million.
O'Brien will be replaced with former "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno, whose 10 p.m. show is being canceled after lagging ratings and complaints from NBC affiliates who said Leno's show provided a weak lead-in to their late newscasts.
"The good news is until NBC yanks us off the air, we can pretty much do whatever we want and, this is the best part, we can do whatever we want and they have to pay for it," O'Brien explained before introducing the car. "So for the rest of the week we're going to introduce new comedy bits that aren't so much funny as they are crazy expensive."
When it comes to the bit's price tag, however, the comedian may have been off by $1 million or so. New York-based entertainment lawyer Steve Gordon says that existing agreements between NBC and music licensing companies would allow the "Tonight Show" to play "Satisfaction" at no additional cost for a live or time-delayed performance.
If the show were to be rerun, he said, NBC might have to pay $25,000 to $50,000 for the song's use to its owner, Abkco, which owns much of the Stones' early work. If a clip of the song were used on the Internet, he said, a similar or greater fee could apply, assuming Abkco allowed permission for its use.
As for the Bugatti -- O'Brien called it the most expensive car in the world, and he's likely right. Car research Web site Edmunds.com lists the price for the 2009 Bugatti Veyron model at $1.99 million.
But the show didn't actually shell out any money to put an earlier model of the Bugatti Veyron on air. The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles told ABCNews.com that it lent the show its 2006 Bugatti Veyron for free.
The show "contacted us and we decided it might be a good thing to help out," said museum information and marketing manager Chris Brown.
The car -- which, like the 2009 model, is valued at roughly $2 million -- had been in museum storage most recently but it is now back on display.
"Being we are as close as we are to Hollywood, we do like to have vehicles on the silver screen and small screen on display," Brown said. "To have a car like this that's recently been on TV, it's a good thing."
Even if "The Tonight Show" had to pay for the car, the price for its temporary use could be in the five-figure range. Luxury car rental service Beverly Hills Rent-a-Car, for instance, charges $25,000 per day for the rental of a Bugatti Veyron.
After weeks of wrangling between "Tonight Show" host O'Brien and NBC, the network today announced that it and O'Brien are officially parting ways.
"Under terms of an agreement that was signed earlier today, NBC and O'Brien will settle their contractual obligations and the network will release O'Brien from his contract, freeing him to pursue other opportunities after September 1, 2010," NBC said.