I'm a late night TV and talk radio junkie -- and have a strange, sweet friendship history with Artie Lange -- so when a YouTube video made the rounds everywhere that showed him brutally predicting exactly what would happen to Conan O'Brien, I never forgot it.
I texted him last week when I was watching the overwrought front-page coverage of the new NBC transition with Jay Leno out (again) and Jimmy Fallon being feted as the new "Tonight Show" host and told Artie that he should give the media a new prediction -- since his other was so accurate.
I suggested that he give it to Page Six or some other gossipy outlet, but Artie being Artie (and not a press-whore like me), pretty much shrugged it off. Then he asked if I was going to the Friars Roast of Jack Black on Friday, and since he was now the third person to ask me, I decided it was a sign -- and fate was calling me to the New York Hilton for chicken dinner and filthy jokes. (Tomorrow I'll post the other interviews I did with attendees, from Gene Simmons to Aimee Mann to Bob Saget to Amy Schumer.)
So when I saw Artie on the red carpet before the roast on Friday, the very first thing I noticed was that he was with the lovely girlfriend I had spoken to before his suicide attempt a few years ago -- and I was thrilled to see them together. The two seemed very happy and in love, and damn it, that kind of thing touches my heart.
I asked if he had a chance to give his new "prediction" that I suggested to anyone, and he said he hadn't, so I figured I'd go all red-carpet YOLO and just asked him right then and there and get the item myself.
Because, honestly, anyone who accurately and freakily predicts a late-night sea change on TV like that deserves to be the official champagne-bottle breaker on the new host change. Here's what Artie had to say.
"Well I said to Conan, you should just take the money and not do the show," Lange said recalled of the awkward interview where he said straight to O'Brien's face not to do it.
His exact words: "I don't know, I think it's a bad move," and then: "You could've gotten $40 million for nothing, right? Wasn't that the deal?"
Lange was referring to what's known in the industry as the "pay or play" deal O'Brien had with NBC where if they were in breach of the contract to give O'Brien "The Tonight Show," then he would be owed that princely sum. And, as it turned out, after much vitriol and negotiation, O'Brien ended up sealing a new $45 million exit package to leave the show.
(For those interested in behind-the-scenes stuff, two of the main sticking points that led to the legal light-night shitshow: The fact that Leno's team had sealed a "pay AND play" deal that guaranteed he had to STAY on the air -- which is why when Leno's new 10 p.m. show was canceled, the network was left scrambling to honor its contract -- and the fact that reportedly Conan's lawyers did not guarantee the same provision that both Leno and Letterman had ALWAYS specified, which was that their show had to begin after the news -- which is how NBC could claim they were not in breach by wanting to move the show to a later slot, with Leno first.)
"Looking back," Lange reflected, "he should have taken that advice." It certainly would have prevented one of the biggest debacles in television history.
So does the former Howard Stern sidekick and current host of "The Artie Lange Show" foresee a similar disaster when Jimmy Fallon takes the reins, in the new deal positioning him to host "Tonight" -- with a gorgeous new studio in New York -- in Spring 2014?
"I think Jimmy should take the reins," Lange said. "It seems like a smoother transition."
Just then -- as red carpets often lead to A-list personalities bumping up next to each other as no big thing, the owner of Carolines on Broadway Caroline Hirsch walked up to Artie and me. I couldn't resist asking her for a prediction as well. Caroline said with a twinkle: "Oh, I think it'll be smooth this time. Real smooth."
When I joked that Artie now had to officially give the blessing since he called the Conan play before anyone else as being a bad move, he said with a sarcastic smile: "Yeah, I've got to give it the OK. Because now, I'm the person you've got to talk to."
So, what do you guys forecast?
Do you see the Fallon takeover as going smoothly and successfully -- or do you think there could be more drama on the horizon?
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