January 18th, 2010
06:05 PM ET

Conan O'Brien fans protest outside NBC studios in New York

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Team Conan took their protests against NBC to the streets on Monday afternoon as around 100 people gathered outside of the network’s studios at 30 Rockefeller Center in equal parts protest and support group.

“Hey, hey, ho, ho, Jay Leno has to go,” a protester chanted from a penned off area on 49th street in Manhattan. “We want Coco the chin has got to go go.”

The Conan O’Brien fans mobilized on the Facebook page “I’m with Coco,” which has more than 300,000 fans and is run by Los Angeles artist Mike Mitchell and some friends.

Stand-up comedian Thomas J. Kelly, 33, who interned at Conan O'Brien's show 12-years ago was leading the crowd in their cheers, chants and songs. “I’m a fan of Jay Leno too,” he said, but frankly what they are doing to Conan at NBC is not nice.”

Since Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, plenty of people, like Chamam Perkovits, 24, had the day off work to come out and show support for the host. Perkovits carried a homemade sign that read, “End this Conan-Traversy.”

“People have told me all my life that I look like Conan O’Brien and I think that I will get more girls if I look like a host of the ‘Tonight Show’ than a guy with a show at 12:05,” Perkovits joked. “I also love Conan.”

O’Brien has typically done best in the ratings with young people under the age of 35, but 54-year-old actress Kelly Lincoln traveled to midtown Manhattan from New Jersey to show her support. Lincoln was wearing a Conan t-shirt and carried a poster designed by Mitchell that has become the unofficial placard of the O’Brien fight on the Internet that read, “I’m With Coco,” and featured the red-haired comedian in front of an American flag.

“I feel like this is more than about the jobs now. This just stinks,” Lincoln said, as she invited passersby, mainly tourists, to join her in the “Cone Zone,” a penned off area created by security for the protest. “I think all the good will people used to have for NBC is now gone.”

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  1. Zach Stevens

    I strongly encourage you all to BOYCOTT LENO!

    We need to show NBC that they cant just pay off people to leave, and expect to get what they want (which is their poor ratings back).

    NO ONE WATCH HIS SHOW! Then NBC will be so screwed they will never wish they did that. Leno will be gone in the next 6 years.

    January 22, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Shauna

    I have been a huge fan of Conan for many years. I have never been a Leno fan and will certainly not watch the Tonight Show if Leno is back on. I will follow Conan wherever he goes. He is clever, witty, fresh, and intelligent.

    It is not right what NBC is doing to Conan and I am very upset about. Stick with Coco!!!!!!!!!

    January 21, 2010 at 2:39 am | Report abuse |
  3. Rick

    Whether a fight between "millionnaires" or just another reason for people to take sides and "join causes" (on issues outside their experience and control), my personal reaction is one of sadness. I personally like Conan O'Brien's humor as well as the manner in which he has presented himself in the media and his negotiating positions on the franchise and on behalf of his staff. I inherently detest the faceless and mindless arrogance of corporate executives who ignore, at their own peril, the currents of the times they are in.

    Go Conan and go to Hell NBC!

    January 20, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. vicky

    Screw all the conan haters. I'll follow him where ever he goes.

    Cone bone all the way.

    January 19, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. flugel76

    A small group??? 420,000 and growing supporters on Facebook alone?? You consider that a small group???

    Seems like Jeff Zucker isn't the only one out of touch with reality...

    January 19, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. kookoo for coco

    Look, when Leno first took over from Carson, the Tonite show ratings plummeted...of course, no one could compete with Johnny, who was at his prime when he left. So, if ratings took a dip when Conan took over, that's perfectly normal. Also, remember, Letterman got in all that hot water during Conan's first few months? Letterman's ratings were higher due to scandal. Conan was doing fine in LA. It's ridiculous that they tried holding onto Leno. You just can't do that...you have to let go of the old to move on with the new. NBC just lost a real good thing in Conan...but Conan is going to do just fine without NBC.

    January 19, 2010 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Noah

    Leno has never been funny, and I personally have never forgiven him for how he elbowed Carson out of the job – and then didn't even mention the guy on his first show!

    I won't watch Leno ever again, but I will watch Conan, wherever he goes.

    I guess Letterman is the big winner after all these years???

    January 19, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Nick Marino

    honestly, i thought Jay's show at 10 was fine. i also thought Conan was a little underwhelming but not bad. the humor, to me, between Jay and Conan was about the same. Jay has his "here's what people think!" gags and Conan... well, i'm not sure what recurring gags he does anymore. the bear used to be great and the whole out of sync face / lips think was awesome too, but aren't those retired? anyway, it's hard to turn down 40 million but ethically that seems like the cheap way to go. and, to top it off, Jay did better plain and simple. it's not about "it's Conan's turn!" like this is some sort of elementary school kickball game. this is business! Jay is better business for NBC, so he gets his old spot back. if Conan was better business, it wouldn't be a problem.

    January 19, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Brandon

    Conan O'Brien is so not funny. He tries so hard it's painful to watch sometimes. I think Conan appeals to a more immature in your face type of Comedy, Which I pray is a very small demographic (18-23? ) And let's not forget about Conans sidekick Andy Richtner.....How did that guy ever get into show business. Numbers don't lie!!! Do you need help packing Conan?

    January 19, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Robert

    Conan sucked from day 1 at 11 30. He just is not funny. His stupid gyrations and facial expressions would be funny at a birhday party for a 10 year old.

    January 19, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jason

    I'm with Team Coco but why didn't NBC ever think of keeping the Tonight Show at the same time and inserting Leno in between Conan and Jimmy?

    January 19, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Kate

    @ Debra- I'm on team Conan too, but unlike you, I'm not as impressed that people chose to remember Dr. King by getting caught up in this tv drama. Protests are great, but Monday was an inappropriate day for it.

    January 19, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jay Rulz

    Given the fact that Conan lost to Letterman in his tenure on the Tonight Show, it looks to me that NBC made the right choice. The majority of 'Team Conan' are just a bunch of trouble-making contrarians who weren't there for him (in the ratings) when he needed it.

    January 19, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Scott

    I love Conan and hope he finds a home that appreciates him and doesn't have buffoon executives calling the shots. Late night talk shows are dying anyway, younger viewers aren't watching them anymore and they will slowly be phased out in the future.

    January 19, 2010 at 8:13 am | Report abuse |
  15. Debra R

    Wow! very impressed with the people who did this on their holiday. You are very dedicated fans! I'm on team Conan!

    January 19, 2010 at 7:17 am | Report abuse |
  16. Slappy

    Conan has trended the average age demographics about ten (10) years younger than they were under Leno. That should be an important consideration in terms of their strategy moving forward, but because NBC has created such a ratings debacle, they are willing to sacrifice their longer-term future for what they hope will be an immediate ratings win.

    I wonder what happens at NBC if Leno tanks at 11:35? What do they do then? Personally, I think Leno's time has passed, he hasn't been funny in years, and they should stick it out with Conan – but NBC has demonstrated poor decision-making for years, so this whole disaster shouldn't be any sort of surprise.

    January 19, 2010 at 6:57 am | Report abuse |
  17. MIkey

    I am a loyal Conan fan and will not watch Leno when he returns.

    That said, I totally agree that the Tonite Show has audience requirements that Conan's brand of humor can never deliver. Why was Leno able to carry the timeslot so handily all those years? Because the audience likes middle of the road, safe comedy-lite. MOST of America doesn't get Conan.Just like MOST of America doesn't get Jon Stewart.

    I know Conan wanted the show. But did anyone really think he could keep the audience that likes stuff like "headlines" and "Jay walking"? No. He needed to let the Leno audience go and cultivate his own. Ratings should have been expected to drop, then bottom out, then build. That takes more than 7 months and should have been in the plan all along.

    January 19, 2010 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
  18. A. Smith, Oregon

    I have enjoyed watching Jay Leno on the Tonight Show much more than when Conan O'Brien hosted the show. I will follow Jay Leno wherever he goes on TV and I will not watch Conan O'Brien wherever he ends up. He has milked his hair jokes to the nth. degree and simply has run out of life experiences and material. Instead, I will be watching Jay Leno and enjoying every minute of it.

    So long Conan O'Brien, don't let the door hit you on the head like the time you flopped on the floor to the loud applause of the crowd and banged your head!

    January 19, 2010 at 1:01 am | Report abuse |
  19. Penny

    @ Susan – Canada: Like I said, Conan has a massive group of followers who DON'T HAVE NIELSON BOXES IN THEIR HOMES. Most of his followers are young (read: not old) and don't have the ratings boxes in their homes (read: starter apartments). Older people have them. OLDER PEOPLE LIKE LENO.

    January 18, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Vann

    This whole NBC Conan/Leno debacle reminds me of the recent financial crisis where the top decision maker(s) can do whatever they want and stick it to the public when everythings else fail. Well, I guess the big corporation is giving us the middle finger again. Instead of taking full responsibility NBC shifts the blame to Conan, saying that his show has low rating. In my opinion Conan has been consistantly funny, since the beginning. I've been watching his show since the very first late night episode. Just for the record, I'll be watching other networks from now on. I guess in this case, NBC stands for No Body Care.

    January 18, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Susan - Canada

    @ Penny – Where was Conan's "massive group of extremely loyal fans" when he needed the ratings to keep the Tonight Show from tanking. The only reason he now has all of these fans, is because of the controversy going on and they feel sorry for him....I'd be willing to bet they won't watch him anymore on another network than they did on the Tonight Show...

    January 18, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Penny

    @ Mike: Conan doesn't have a "small group of extremely loyal fans" he has a massive group of extremely loyal fans, who don't have Nielsen boxes in their homes.

    January 18, 2010 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Alan

    I have enjoyed watching Conan O'Brien on the Tonight Show much more than when Jay Leno hosted the show. I will follow Mr. O'Brien wherever he goes on TV and I will not watch the Tonight Show when he takes the program back from O'Brien. Instead, I will be watching The Late Show w/ David Letterman.

    As for demographics, I am a male in my mid 50's, with a college degree and a six figure income.

    January 18, 2010 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Mike

    O'Brien has a small group of extremely loyal fans, but most people just do not find him very entertaining. He is not a 'bad' person. Broadcast network TV is just the wrong format for him, he needs to get on a cable channel that better targets his peculiar demographic. Economically, his brand of art just doesn't drive a business case that broadcast networks need to survive.

    January 18, 2010 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Ken Burch

    NBC has got to cut this nonsense out! Conan deserves a real chance, and Jay(who USED to be funny) has had his. Time for The Chin to Pack It In!

    January 18, 2010 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |

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