Oprah: Do you think you weren't given enough time to build an audience?
Jay: No, I was given enough time. You know, I got it. I'm a big boy. It didn't work. It's a TV show that got canceled. I'm actually surprised that this got this much attention. And it made me laugh when I would open the paper, and for the last six months, I've been in the paper every day.
Oprah: Well, part of the reason I think that you're on there is because—and it's so fascinating to me—that America has taken sides, and a lot of people are not on your side.
Jay: Yes, I understand that.
Oprah: And they're not on your side because they think that you have been selfish in this. Do you see in any way how you've been selfish? They think that you took the job away from Conan.
Jay: Well, it all comes down to numbers in show business. If you're getting ratings...I mean, think of this. This is almost the perfect storm of bad things happening. You have two hit shows—The Tonight Show, number one, and Conan, number one. You move them both to another situation, and what are the odds that both would do extremely poorly? Now if Conan's numbers had been a little bit higher, it wouldn't even be an issue, but in show business, there's always somebody waiting in the wings.
Jay: I never expected this to happen. People think you're behind the scenes pulling strings. There are no strings to pull. I have a show that's been canceled, so why would I have any power to go, "Oh, I want that." What happened was NBC came to me and they said: "Look, your show was down 14 percent. Conan's show was down 49 percent. We have a plan. We want to keep you. " Because I asked. I said, "Can I be released from my contract?" And they said no.
Oprah: This is your contract on the primetime show. When did you ask that, Jay?
Jay: I asked maybe a day after we got canceled. And I said, "Well, can I move on?" "No, you're still a valuable asset." I said: "You fired me twice. How valuable can I be as an asset?" "Oh, no, we want to keep you." And I said, "Okay." And they said, "Here's our plan..."