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As comedians battle, out come their claws

Wham! Pow! Crash! Two of the world’s top comedians, Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien, had a furious fight over the 11.35 pm slot on US television. Leno won and gets the slot from March 1. What I found really shocking about this incident was how widely it was reported. It was in newspapers around the world. It knocked the Haiti earthquake off the top of TV news headlines. NASA space-probes broadcast the story to remote parts of the galaxy.

And there was much emotion! The TV showed people weeping for loser Conan O’Brien and his joke-writers, who were given US$45 million to stop working. What?! If the media feels a desperate need to pay someone to stop working, choose me. I will stop working for considerably less. In fact, if you’re patient enough, I will probably just stop working anyway.

Now your humble narrator has no opinion on which comedian is better, since I read about the fight before seeing either in action. But one thing intrigued me. As professional comics, did they laugh their way through the fight?

I got hold of videos of their recent shows to find out. Shocking truth: both Leno and O’Brien turned into vicious bitches having a catfight (to mix metaphors). And so did a third comedian, David Letterman. Here are the ten cattiest remarks during the fight.

1. Conan envisages a new career in blue movies: "In the movie I’d be having sex with a beautiful woman and just as we’re about to climax, I get replaced by Jay Leno."

2. Leno, trying to sound noble, says there is no reason to blame O’Brien for what happened. Letterman says the advice is useless "because NO ONE DOES".

3. O’Brien fails to be subtle when giving his views on his bosses: "NBC is run by brainless sons of goats who eat money and crap trouble."

4. Leno digs at O’Brien: "With the all the controversy going on here at NBC, actually, ‘The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien’’s ratings have gone up. They’ve gone UP. So: You’re welcome."

5. Letterman says Leno "represents traditional American values. Like killing Indians because you want their land."

6. Conan portrays his departure as if he and the company are lovers breaking up: "I knew it was official this morning when NBC dropped off all my CDs and picked up its lava lamp."

7. Letterman says he is not taking sides, but "Leno always turns up at the scene of the crime."

8. Leno fights back at Letterman’s dirty extramarital secrets, by saying: "Letterman has been hammering me every night. You know the best way to get Letterman to ignore you? Marry him."

9. Leno, not wanting to seem like a company man, also pokes fun at his bosses, saying that the rain that day was poorly timed because "today was the day NBC was supposed to burn down the studio for the insurance money."

10. Conan gets in a dig at Leno and NBC, suggesting they are heading for disaster: "Leno says he’s staying on the Titanic."

Who won and who lost? All three ended the fight clutching multi-million dollar pay packets. On celebrity planet, there are no losers.

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