What Really Went Down During the Conan vs. Leno Brawl: Juiciest Quotes From 'The War for Late Night'

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Leno and O'Brien, Post-War

On Leno's work ethic: Jay intended to settle back in and stay busy doing shows for the foreseeable future, but he swore he was open to considering a true end date now, though one he could pick at his own discretion -- not NBC's. He cited what he called the Midwestern model: put 20 or more years into a job, get to 63, 65, or so, and that's retirement time. ... He even volunteered to try on a plan he had always opposed: opening up some nights to allow guest hosts to replace him -- a way for NBC to identify potential new host prospects. This kind of talk was totally new for Jay, who more often talked of working until the lights went out -- literally. As in: "I'm Scottish; we die in the mine."

On how the whole mess haunted O'Brien months after the dust settled: But still, sometimes, in the middle of the night, when the house was quiet and the bed was warm, Conan would lie awake, sleep impossible, the replay machine running in his mind, generating scenes wilder and more stunning than anything his always blazing imagination could ever have conjured. Liza [O'Brien's wife] would wake and watch him for a while, just lying there, staring blankly. And then Conan O'Brien would softly say: "What the f*** happened?"

On what O'Brien wants to say to Leno: "I know you think you've won, but you have no idea what you've lost."

On the task ahead of O'Brien now: "Can Conan kill Jon Stewart?" one of Conan's old NBC associates asked. "With intent -- I mean, can he stand over the body? because, you know, that's what he has to do now. And we know Jon can definitely kill Conan."

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