conan-1.jpgconan-2.jpgI want to preface this post by saying I’m all for uncivil discourse, especially when it’s coming from comedians. But the battle for NBC’s “Tonight Show” between Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno hasn’t seemed that funny.

O’Brien is angry that NBC promised he could host the show at a certain time and then decided to put Leno back in the prime late night time slot. Leno is angry at David Letterman who’s been taking swipes at the big-chinned guy. And all three have been letting it all hang out on their shows, with O’Brien the most snide of them all.


Here’s a sampling: “83 percent of voters want me to stay at 11:35. Here’s the interesting part. When he heard this poll number President Obama asked, ‘how can I get NBC to screw me over.’”

Clearly the gloves were off, and O’Brien got a great parting gift for his snarky remarks — $45 million.

But the payout comes with one caveat — he has to promise to play nice, play nice when it comes to his former employer now, NBC.

“We wanted to give him a graceful exit. Hopefully he will be graceful,” Jeff Gaspin, chairman of NBC Universal Television Entertainment, told the Wall Street Journal.

I’m all for the little guy taking on the big corporation and winning. But it seems to me that NBC and O’Brien are not little guys and neither has acted with grace.

There are better ways to get what you want from an employer and surely most of us working stiffs would end up with a pittance if we made ultimatums or publicly ridiculed our bosses. O’Brien sent a public resignation/ultimatum letter to NBC last week and he was hailed by many.

I wrote about this in my MSNBC.com column and how workers need to think twice about taking out their anger in such a format, and I thought I included good points:

A resignation letter should be just that — a resignation, said Vince Holt, president of Management Recruiters of Mercer Island, Wash. It should be short and sweet, he added, and not a vehicle to tell managers what you think, make ultimatums, or try to get something out of your employer.

“That’s a dangerous game,” he said. “If I were NBC, I would call Conan’s bluff.”

The column sparked some angry emails from, you guessed it, O’Brien devotees:

What the hell kind of advice is this?! Thankfully, people who resign have much better options than the shallow, servile, effluvium you offered.
~ M.J.

These lame and weak columns full of common knowledge that anyone can glean off of the internet are starting to be as bad as spam… You even wrote a letter that was so basic and primary that my 11 yo could of wrote it …
~ J.M.

If I was Conan I would do exactly as he did. He looks good. Some other network will create a show for him, and he will attract an ever growing audience of those who know how management screws around with people. You sound like a loyal management sycophant. Fortunately Conan will live for another day.
~ W.H.

I’m sure Conan will live for another day. I have nothing against the guy. I just wonder how civility throughout our society is suffering because of these episodes.

I know the argument: “the man is keeping us down.” But does that mean we have to stoop to the man’s level?

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