"I knew it was official this morning when NBC dropped off all my CDs and picked up its lava lamp," O'Brien joked on the show Thursday night.
After weeks of late-night controversy, played out publicly in the media, O'Brien will hit the door after seven months as show host with a reported $33 million payout to pave the way for former host Jay Leno to reclaim the seat at the beginning of March. O'Brien's staff is expected to receive $12 million in the severance package.
"I have to return the Etch A Sketch my contract was written on," O'Brien told his audience.
The settlement also allows O'Brien to return to the airwaves for another outlet as early as Sept. 1, 2010, although there has been little indication of where he'll end up.
The Fox network has been O'Brien's most vocal would-be suitor, but, O'Brien manager Gavin Polone said, there are no formal talks. There are "other possibilities" beyond Fox, he added, but the News Corp.-owned company is "certainly a terrific network."
Since word of the shift became public, O'Brien has been relentless in taking jabs at NBC during his show, which could soon change. The exit package is said to include a "nondisparagement" clause that would prevent O'Brien and NBC from saying negative things about one another for a set period of time.
Suspense has been building over how O'Brien will spend what is expected to be his final night at NBC. He joked on Tuesday's show that he was "just three days away from the biggest drinking binge in history."
"I am determined to make the best of the situation, so ladies and gentlemen here's the plan," O'Brien said Thursday to a roaring audience. "Tonight and tomorrow night we are going to have a lot of fun on television."
The show announced that Friday's guests would be Oscar-winner Tom Hanks and comic-actor Will Ferrell, who was O'Brien's first guest when he made his "Tonight Show" debut in June.
Hanks, who was originally slated to appear on the show Tuesday night, posted a message on his Twitter page about the upcoming appearance: "Flag on me with CoCo tonight! Going on Friday's Big Show. What WILL happen? Tune in. Hanx."
Nostalgic fans who will never see the show live can still buy tickets on eBay, where one Arizona watcher listed a "Tonight Show" ticket supposedly autographed by flame-haired O'Brien for $6,000. As of Thursday afternoon, no one had bid on it.
How do you get back at a boss who wronged you? How about spending millions of your boss's cash before you head out the door?
That has apparently been O'Brien's strategy during his final two shows in which he introduced the Bugatti Veyron Mouse, a $2 million Bugatti sports car adorned with fake mouse ears and whiskers Wednesday. Thursday's new character was far more expensive: 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, wearing a mink Snuggie and watching restricted NFL Super Bowl footage.
"That's going to cost a pretty penny ... total pricetag: $4.8 million," O'Brien said gleefully.
O'Brien claimed Wednesday that featuring the Bugatti and the classic song "Satisfaction" on the show would cost NBC a total of $1.5 million.