PASADENA, Calif.—Rosie O’Donnell put herself squarely in the Team Conan camp Thursday, ripping Jay Leno for—as she sees it--forcing his way back into NBC’s Tonight Show timeslot.
“I think he’s forgotten his roots, who he is and what stand-up comedy is about,” she told critics following this afternoon's HBO press tour session.
Earlier, O’Donnell lashed out at Leno, suggesting the car buff “flattened" Conan O'Brien's tires before handing over the keys to The Tonight Show.
“Graciousness has never been his No. 1 quality,” she said of Leno, urging the 59-year-old comedian to “let go and grab whatever the next rung is.”
O’Donnell praised O’Brien as “a fantastic talent. Seventeen years he gave to that network. They really did a disservice to him and shame on Jeff Zucker and really shame on Jay Leno.”
NBC Universal chairman Zucker is rumoured to be pulling strings behind the scenes in closing a deal that will see Leno re-take NBC’s 11:35 timeslot once the Winter Olympic Games are finished. Zucker was the chief NBC programmer when a deal was struck in 2004 to have O’Brien replaces Leno five years later as host of The Tonight Show.
So what happened to that plan, O’Donnell wanted to know. “Five years ago, he was told he was no longer going to be the host." Even fabled New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath," she pointed out, was eventually told "you’re not going to be the quarterback any more.”
Asked if she would want to follow O’Brien on Fox if the late night talk show host winds up there, the always outspoken O’Donnell said, “That’s like asking would I like to vacation in Haiti,” she said. “Now wouldn’t be the time.”
On a lighter note, O’Donnell was asked if she’d like to appear on the breakout Fox series Glee. She had a recurring role on executive producer Ryan Murphy’s previous series, Nip/Tuck.
“In a heartbeat,” says O’Donnell, who even has a scenario all planned out. “I would like to have a competitive cheerleader team against Jane Lynch (Glee villain Sue Sylvester). “And maybe she and I fall in love and have a torrid affair…I don’t know.”
O’Donnell was at press tour to promote A Family is a Family: A Rosie O’Donnell Celebration, set to premiere Jan. 31 on HBO.