Gothamist is still excited about the prospect of Conan O'Brien being the new Tonight Show host - though we'll have to wait until 2009 for it to happen. Since we ate up the Letterman-Leno saga when Johnny Carson stepped down from the Tonight Show, we've been obsessed with this news and found this tidbit from Bill Carter's NY Times article fascinating:

But the people involved in the negotiations said that Mr. O'Brien's representatives had been completely satisfied that NBC's commitment was real. They said that the contract Mr. O'Brien signed yesterday included a multi-million-dollar financial penalty if he did not get the "Tonight" show, a penalty payment so substantial that the network surely had no intention of ever having to pay it, according to people involved in the deal.

Carter was on the Today show yesterday saying that it was a little risky for NBC to do this. He also questioned Leno's "willingness to do this" because Leno is a notorious workaholic (he's still works in the clubs on the weekends) and noted that O'Brien is more conceptual, whereas Leno is a monologue guy, suggesting that O'Brien may test new material in the next couple years to get ready for 11:35PM. More: Carter thinks O'Brien will leave NY for LA, which means Gothamist needs to organize some websites, petitions, and a letter writing campaign. An NBC source says there was interest to refresh the Tonight Show, which is why they went with Conan...and no argument from us - The Tonight Show is hokey. Yes, Middle America loves it, but we enjoy Conan's antics better.

Carter reports on the TV business for the NY Times and wrote a book about the Leno-Letterman fight, The Late Shift. In our opinion, it's the best book about issues in current state of television - money, talent, and ego. And in today's paper, Carter analyzes the decision to give Leno a five year good-bye. The NY Daily News' TV critic, David Bianculli, who had complained about NBC giving the Tonight Show's 50th Birthday the short shrift the day before, thinks that NBC made the right decision. And after the jump, NBC's press release of Conan's statement last night:

NEW YORK -- September 28, 2004 -– On tonight's "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," Conan reacted to yesterday's announcement that he will take over the Tonight Show in 2009.

After his monologue, O'Brien crossed to his desk and said the following:

"Some of you probably saw this in the newspaper today. It was announced yesterday that I guess I'll be doing this show for – how many more years, Jeff? [executive producer Jeff Ross] 52 more years? I'll be doing this show for about four and a half more years, and then I'm going to take over the Tonight Show here on NBC."

After a round of applause, O'Brien joked, "Huuuuge mistake."

"This is a huge thing for me. This is something I've dreamt about for a long time. I think people in comedy only can dream about something like this. I am incredibly humbled and thrilled to get this amazing opportunity and I did want to give my heartfelt thanks to everybody at NBC that made this possible and particularly to Jay Leno.

Jay has been a big supporter of mine, a good friend to me for eleven years when I first showed up at this network. He's been incredibly kind and gracious about the whole thing. He's a class act. And so to everybody at NBC but particularly Jay Leno – a huge thank you and I hope I can live up to that challenge, but I have some time to figure it out.

In the meantime, there's a lot that I'd still love to do with this show; a lot of things we still want to try and I'm looking forward to doing that. We're going to be here for quite a while still, but to everybody thank you very much – it's very cool."

After another round of applause, O'Brien joked about what he could and couldn't do on an 11:30 show – "I don't think at 11:30 I can jump around and go (Conan hisses like a cat). Yes I can!"

O'Brien also joked that his hair would go even higher at 11:30 – and jokingly demonstrated it to the crowd.

Before returning to his "Actual Items" comedy bit at his desk, O'Brien joked, "I think they're changing their minds in Burbank."