Well, it’s done. Conan O’Brien has agreed to leave The Tonight Show for the sum of $45 million dollars. It’s a pithy fee when you consider that hosting The Tonight Show was Conan’s dream job. Most people don’t understand what it means to have a dream, or a life goal. And even fewer know what it feels like to achieve that goal after decades of hard work. And only the tiniest fraction of those people know what it’s like to taste the dream and, then, for whatever reason, walk away. Overall, the money isn’t even an issue.
No amount of money would allow me to walk away from my dream; every dollar would be soaked with disdain. And, with my heaping piles of hate-money, I would be very confused about what to do next with my life. Develop a new dream, I guess?
And, yet, some people think that $45 million is too much. They forget that $12 million is for Conan’s staff and he intends to pay them even more out of his own pocket. This is a hard fact to ignore, since it’s reported in nearly every piece written about this issue, but people don’t always read the articles that they choose to “comment” at the bottom of.
Angry comments like, “I wish I was paid $45 million to get fired from my job,” are littered around the internet, written by small people with dull, grey lives who gave up on their dreams long ago, to work awful jobs that they hate, to pay the debt accrued on things they could never afford. And, yet, these folks are still egotistical enough to believe their job at The Nausea Factory can be compared to that of The Tonight Show. They think a job, is a job, is a job. And you do it because you need the money.
The money is not the issue.
Conan’s run on The Tonight Show might have matched Jay Leno’s 2,089 episodes. And with payment of $33 million dollars, that’s only an average of $15,797 per episode. Conan would have made far, far more money to stay with the program.
To put this in perspective: Jay Leno’s salary at NBC is about $30 million per year. Hugh Laurie earns over $400,000 per episode of House, M.D. on FOX.
People treat those sums of money as if they are arbitrarily huge amounts demanded by elite white men. They’re not. Where do you think that money comes from? It comes from you– Every time you buy Snickers bars, and Nike shoes, and Advil, and Tide, and Ford trucks, and Miller Lite, and Domino’s Pizza, and Sony electronics. Anytime you buy a product that advertises on television, you are adding to the salaries of people like Conan O’Brien. Every time you Google, you put a fraction of a penny in some celebrity’s pocket. That’s American capitalism, Folks. If you don’t like it, change the culture. Or lay off the name-brand garbage, so, at the very least, you’re not a hypocrite. As I write this on my Apple computer, I have no problem with the amount celebrities get paid.
The money is not the issue.
Conan O’Brien has come into our homes since 1993, hoping to give us the best show he could muster. Five days a week, he was cranking out new material, working for your approval, not your money. And he wanted a chance to do more. A bigger studio, a better time slot, and a trademark name in quality– The Tonight Show— gave him the opportunity to entertain even more people. But, for all his trying, there were just too many factors against him.
After a lifetime of work, a man’s dream is dead.
I cannot think of a more horrific fate for any human being.