Conan O’Brien’s Body Language Shows Emotional Pain, Hurt and Anger During His Interview on 60 Minutes


Former Tonight Show host Conan Obrien’s interview with Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes was was genuine  and open in terms of what he said and how he said it. There were no contradictions.

He was  honest and forthright  as his body language and facial expressions were congruent with everything he said.   As he openly shared his feelings, we could visually see the impact of what  losing the Tonight show in such an degrading manner did to him from an emotional standpoint.


Conan was not ashamed to share that he was depressed after the turn of events.

In describing  his depressed emotional state, he shared  that what happened to him felt  like a marriage that ended abruptly and suddenly, where  he quickly tried  to figure out what was happening,


Then  Conan revealed that  he  decided to go on tour – one of the things that was he was  not prohibited from doing in his departing  contract  with NBC. He said that doing the tour was therapeutic and made him feel better immediately.

As he spoke these words,  you could actually see  a visible and   immediate transformation in his facial expression and body language. Both his facial muscles and body muscles  suddenly became more relaxed . This was the first time during the interview that he looked like the old happy go lucky Conan O’Brien that we used to see each weeknight  when he was the Tonight show host.

What impressed the most  in terms of what Conan said about his going on tour,  was that he chose to not remain a victim of his bad  situation. Instead, he became pro-active and did something about it . This   made him feel better and helped him regain his self confidence and esteem.


Having written a best selling book called “ Toxic People” over 15 years ago, my ears usually perk up whenever I hear anyone  use the word TOXIC to describe a negative  interaction with someone.

So when Conan answered “ when it started getting toxic,” in response to Steve’s question as to when he decided to leave the Tonight Show,  I was impressed as well.

Once again  it shows how Conan did not engage in a “victim mentality.”  His leaving a  “toxic” situation and not looking back, showed that he had and had enough self worth to not allow anyone to treat him so disrespectfully.  It showed that he had the inner strength and the fortitude to “unplug”  and walk away from the situation.


Throughout  the interview Conan’s legs were apart , an  appropriate masculine body language, which indicates openness.  His posture was relaxed and arms were apart at the sides of the chair, thereby exposing his torso.

When he would gesture, he would often expose the palms of his hands which also  indicated an open stance with nothing to hide.  This body language was consistent throughout the interview.


There were several times when  Conan the  comedian was “on.” When asked about the  agreement that he signed with NBC, he joked to Steve that he keeps the agreement in his pocket so when anyone asks”  what’s  the deal with Jay Leno” he can pull it out of his pocket and read it.”

As a true performer, Conan, acted out  pulling the contract from his pocket and reading it which added to the humor and Steve’s laughter.


Conan was one hundred percept  honest and upfront throughout his interview until Steve brought up the topic of “getting screwed.” When that happened, there were multiple signals of deception that could be observed. He as clearly not telling the truth when he described what he says to fans who come up to him in gas stations and restaurants  and say  “Hey, you got screwed!

Conan then says “I tell them I didn’t get screwed it.   It just didn’t work out . “

But as Conan makes this statement , he is showing  many  signs of deception with his body language, facial language and the tone of his voice.

In terms of his body language, we see a shoulder shrug which is a sure fire signal of deception. His head cocked to the side also indicates that he doesn’t’ t  believe what he says. It also signals doubt, meaning he doubts that  his fan is buying his “politically correct” rhetoric.


Another interesting thing that happened when Conan said “ No I didn’t get screwed” was the sudden flash of anger across his face  that followed . He then looked away.

World renown facial language researcher, Dr.  Paul Ekman of Stanford University, was the first to discuss the concept of facial leakage. This is  where a sudden flash of emotion occurs, indicating a person’s true feeling a about a particular  situation they are discussing In Conan’s case the flash of anger reflected his true feelings, even though his calm and measured words said the opposite .

Leakage can not only occur facially, but can occur vocally as well, which  my research in the area of voice analysis has shown.

As Conan  said “I’m fine,” there is an angry sounding  edge to his tone.   His tone reveals that he clearly  knows he got” screwed:  and he is NOT fine at all about it!


Steve then says to Conan that Jay Leno also feels that he got “screwed.” We immediately observe facial language that indicates  genuine laughter, complete with crinkled eyes, raised cheekbones and a wide,  broad smile”

But  shortly afterwards, the laughter turns to anger. We notice that Conan’s body language begins to    close off as does his voice. There is a creakiness at the end of his statement which indicates that his laughter and happiness was not genuine after all.

Being a professional actor  and performer  Conan  was indeed able to fool us for a moment or two. In fact his laughter was so engaging and contagious that Steve  soon began  to join in on the laughter.

But the bulging vein in the middle of  Conan’s forehead said it all. It clearly said that Conan was actually  angry. His autonomic nervous system took over as his blood flow increased. That is why you see the engorged vein suddenly appear on Conan’s forehead.

As soon as Conan says”  Explain that to me,” he immediately flashes to an expression of  seriousness and anger.

In yet another attempt to appear to be joking around, he continues  by saying “ Jay has the Tonight Show and I have a beard and I’m  touring the city and  have an inflatable bat.”

With his serious expression, Conan is saying that this  is no joking matter.

Next, we see a flash of  intense  sadness wash over Conan’s face  as he actually  looks as  though he is about to cry.  Conan, then  acknowledges his false and insincere laughter by candidly revealing ” I’m laughing cuz crying would be sad.”

In making this statement , Conan is showing that he is completely vulnerable and genuine with regard to how he really feels about the situation.  His emotional state is openly  mirrored  by his facial expression


Steve then asks Conan  “ Has Jay reached out to you”? Suddenly we see that  there is an obvious muscle  tension in Conan’s  tight jaw movement. It  is a signal of hurt and upset as Conan continues with “  No, I don’t think I will be hearing from him.”

As he says these words, Conan looks up , indicating that he is attempting  to visualize and then choose his words carefully .  But what he says with his facial language, after speaking those  these words says even more.  His  pursing  down on his lips is a signal of anger .

It says that Conan doesn’t expect to hear from Jay, and that he  is angry  about  it. He is upset that his one time friend and  comedic colleague has not  yet reached out to him and will probably never do so.


Steve  then asks Conan  if he thought Jay acted honorably.

Conan looks down and inhales a huge breath of air. In doing so you can see his shoulders rising. This means that he is filling himself up with a reservoir lot of air in that he is gearing up for a lengthy communication about the topic.

But then he loudly exhales the massive amount of air he previously inhaled.  No doubt, he quickly realized that there is a contractual agreement in place and that he really can’t say all that he would like to say about the matter. He realizes that his  communication on the topic will now be  short and well thought out and within the confines of his agreement.


That is why he replied with “  I don’t think I can answer that.”  He is angry that he can’t say more  as we see him  looking down in anger once again pursing his lips. The lip pursing also  indicates that he is holding himself back from making any disparaging remarks and saying  what he really thinks about how Jay handled the situation. We also see a great deal of upset and pain in his facial expression as he is restricted from  spilling  out his true feelings.

Conan continue to look down and we see him biting his lip. Lip biting  often means that a person is holding  back and  and not saying what he really wants to say.

Silence can be deafening as was the case when Conan bided his time to carefully measure his words and formulate a  further response to Steve’s question concerning Jay’s honor.

Conan eventully  continues with “ I can tell you maybe how I would have handled it  and I how would do it differently .”  As he carefully speaks these words, he looks wide eyed and directly up  at Steve Kroft. This   indicates  that Conan  is once again ready to open communication-wise.

He continues, If I handed the Tonight Show over to somebody and wished them well , I would to have done what was done.” As he says the words “ what was done, ” there is no doubt that Conn must have been visualizing what was actually done to him by Jay.

You can suddenly  see how this situation  pains him as he furrows his  forehead and brow and displays a  scowl on his face.   This is an expression of anger and disgust ,which uncontrollably leaked out over Conan’s face .

But , then Conan soon regained  his composure  then as he says that  he would never have handled things that way. Using a controlled tone and concomitant facial expression he added .” But that’ s me . I guess everyone does things differently.”

The words he uttered were his  attempt to show that he would have taken the high road and that  Jay clearly did not do so.


In reading Conan O Brien’s interview on 60 Minutes his body language, facial expression, tones, and what he says indicates that he is still very raw and  feels very wounded .

He let everyone know that what happened had a serious affect on him to the point that he became depressed. However, he wasn’t going to let his depression stop him, Instead he became pro-active, went on tour and as a result, now feels a lot better.

There  was no mistaking  that Conan is still very angry about what happened and how poorly he feels he was treated by NBC, He is especially hurt   by the way he feels he has been treated by Jay. While his words may say one thing, his body and facial language and tone of voice leaked out  his true feelings.


14 thoughts on “Conan O’Brien’s Body Language Shows Emotional Pain, Hurt and Anger During His Interview on 60 Minutes

  1. Conan came out of that mess with a $30 million check. It’s hard for me to feel badly about his bruised ego regarding losing the Tonight Show when he left with the ability to do anything — or nothing — he wants for the rest of his life as a result of his exit from NBC.


    1. Wow, never in my life have I seen so many frivolous come backs of “He has money, why should I feel sorry for him?”

      Jesus Christ, people, you all apparently come from the thought bubble that “Money makes the world go ’round”, let me tell you, money can’t do SHIT! You can be the richest man in the world and want to commit suicide.

      Fact of the matter is, Conan didn’t want the money, he has money, what he wants and lives to do is a show, he’s an entertainer and he is designed to perform and do television. This is his vice, and after a company that he had dedicated himself to for over two decades decides to give him the shaft, I think he has a reasonably rational excuse for being upset, don’t you?


  2. Conan doesn’t want you to feel badly for him. That’s why he keeps saying he’s fine. Whether he is or not, he’s at least telling people he is, so they won’t feel sorry for him.


  3. Thank you for that analysis. I perceived that he was honest, and I am glad an expert can confirm that.

    @brstevens: I wonder how much your dignity is worth. It is not about a bruised ego…


  4. That was beautifully detailed!

    However, the huge vertical crease that appears in Conan’s forehead isn’t a sign of anger itself. It has appeared at other times when we know he wasn’t angry.

    @brstevens – NBC has been doing its best to blame Conan for what happened for months. He should have every right to be upset, considering their attempts to sully his name. This also about Conan’s dreams. And mine.


    1. It is NOT a verticle crease. It is a vein which surfaced due to increased blood flow. It was his autonomic nervous system taking over and it was indeed anger as indicated by his other body language tells and in wehat he was fdiscussingwhen this particular body language tell surfaced . He did not have this vein surface when he was not showing signals of anger and when he was calm and speaking openly.


      1. Oh, I see. It is indeed a vein.

        Although I’ve seen that view pop out before, at times when he wasn’t clearly agitated. Wish i had a picture…


  5. Here’s the thing, Conan is an artist and while the money is great and far beyond what most of us can fathom, it is just money. There is something more to an artist’s life and that is passion. That is what drives performers to perform.

    I am an actor and Co-Artistic Director of a theater company. I get paid to do what I love, but the truth is, I would and often have done it for free.

    He had his dream of many many years taken from him, why shouldn’t he be upset?

    You are right brstevens, Conan has made enough money to never work again, he is also using that money to pay his staff. But the fact of the matter is he NEEDS to perform.

    I sincerely hope you wake up every morning with the insatiable NEED to do your job.


  6. I think it is more about loving what you do then the money in this case. This person stayed with that company for 20 plus years. It is more then understandable how that would depress someone esp. after being ‘dumped’ publicly and in a relatively short period of time without warning. At least it seemed that way…


  7. NBC is stating that Conan lied over this exchange:
    Kroft: “They said that the — for the first time in history, ‘The Tonight Show’ was losing money.”

    Conan: “I don’t see how that’s, I honestly don’t see how that’s possible. It’s really not possible. It isn’t possible.”

    Do you feel that Conan was being honest?


  8. very interesting blog, it’s amazing how you can tell all that from body language. Can you also tell how people are through their words? Because I believe the first 2 people who commented have some serious anger issues if they feel the need to kick a genuinely nice, wounded guy like Conan while he’s down. It’s ok if people don’t like his comedy, but to insult and badmouth someone who had his dream taken away, who really deserved that dream, is so disrespectful.


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