Conan O’Brien Unpacks How He Feels About First Return To ‘Tonight Show’ In 14 Years

The comedian was handed the late-night show’s reins in 2009, but only for seven months before a contractual dispute.

Conan O’Brien revisited his old stomping grounds Tuesday for the first time in 14 years.

The former “Late Night” host returned to his former NBC Studios home in Rockefeller Center on Tuesday for the first time since exiting the network in 2010 after a contractual dispute — and told “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon that “it’s weird to come back.”

“I haven’t been in this building for such a long time, and I haven’t been on this floor in forever,” O’Brien told Fallon, adding: “You have strange memories. I mean, I was here for 16 years doing the ‘Late Night’ show before we went to L.A., right across the hall.”

O’Brien helmed “Late Night” for 18 seasons from 1993 to 2009, with reported hopes of his hosting gig on “The Tonight Show” keeping him put. He ultimately did replace Jay Leno as host in 2009, but only for seven months — when NBC reinstated Leno’s contract.

“All these memories came flooding back to me,” O’Brien told Fallon.

“And the first thing that will hit you, and it will hit you, too, because one day — you’ll have this show as long as you want it, but — when you’re 98, you’ll move on, and someone else will be in this studio,” he continued. “When someone else is in your studio, it feels weird.”

O’Brien famously moved to Los Angeles after negotiating a $45 million agreement with NBC in 2010. He signed a contract with TBS later that year and hosted “Conan” for 11 seasons before retiring in 2021, but will soon make his way back to television with a new travel show.

O'Brien recalled Tuesday that he used to host his "Late Night" show "right across the hall."
O'Brien recalled Tuesday that he used to host his "Late Night" show "right across the hall."
Todd Owyoung/NBC/Getty Images

Coming back to 30 Rock with other hosts at the helm, however, still apparently doesn’t sit right with the comedian.

“So I walked in, and I said, ‘Who’s in my old studio?’” O’Brien said. “And they said, ‘Kelly Clarkson.’ And I love Kelly Clarkson. Who doesn’t love Kelly Clarkson? But still I felt like, ‘It’s not right! It’s blasphemy! They should have burned it to the ground!’”

His new travel series, “Conan O’Brien Must Go,” premieres April 18 on Max.

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