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Carson Daly Returns To Late Night After “Near-Death Experience”

Lost in all the Conan O’Brien/Jay Leno NBC late night drama was how it would affect the late, late night host Carson Daly.

Well he’s back, tonight, with a new Executive Producer (Stewart Bailey, formerly of The Daily Show), the same unique post-studio style, and a star-studded first week of Oscars-related guests (including Eli Roth, Giovanni Ribisi and Jeremy Renner). Coming off some great ratings during Conan’s last week (tied with Jimmy Kimmel in the 18-49 demo), Mediaite talked to Daly about his “near-death” late night experience, the jabs from other late night hosts, the “new” MTV and more.

Mediaite: You have a new EP and obviously there’s an all-new NBC late night lineup. But your show has been changing over the last year or two in general. What will your show be like when it comes back?

Daly: Well when Jimmy Fallon came on the air and took over for Conan, when Jay Leno was on there, it was going to be three late night shows that were in front of us. Three traditional guys wearing suits, telling jokes, sitting at a desk, interviewing people and we just felt like we wanted to really do something different. We did a special week where I was completely out of the studio, a new music week. And we just loved the way it felt. We shot it obviously with no audience, with a single camera, out in the streets and it immediately put me back to some of the stuff I did at MTV, and it just felt way more comfortable and the response to it was really good. So we just decided at that point that we would move forward and ditch the studio, and adopt this. Then the late night stuff happened and we were preempted for the Olympics. We have a new executive producer whose work I really love and who personally I met and got along with really well. We had this long talk about the history of Last Call and the new stuff we were doing, and Stewart was really into the new format and had a lot of ideas. And so we’re trying to launch the show, taking the idea of doing something new and bring it to the next level of that. We’re kind of hitting the reset button on March 1 and just continuing down that path of trying to be different.

“Being like the caboose of NBC late night, I sort of know my place at the network, and felt like I really had no business chiming in on it. So I just kind of laid low and let it all play out.”

Mediaite: You talk about the location shooting, and we’ve seen some of the guest list for the first couple weeks, with the Oscars as a big focus. What are some spots viewers will see in the first couple weeks?

Daly: We’re still kind of shooting right now. A little bit of everywhere. Jeremy Renner who’s up for best actor in The Hurt Locker is a guy who in his spare time flips homes. So we were like, ‘Hey can we tag along with you?’ and we went to this house he’s flipping and kind of squatting it actually. And just talked to him about The Hurt Locker there. So it varies from that type of thing to Giovanni Ribisi and I just sat down at this place Cinespace in Hollywood which is kind of this multimedia club and sat in a booth and rapped out. It’s just all over, which means I sit in traffic all the time.

Mediaite: You mentioned it before, the whole late night situation going on before the Olympics. What did you think about all the attention it brought to late night?

Daly: Well it was big news, and it became great fodder for all the shows. And typically when something like that happens, being like the caboose of NBC late night, I sort of know my place at the network and felt like I really had no business chiming in on it. So I just kind of laid low and let it all play out and really was just excited to get back to shooting new shows. There was a scenario where we would have been pushed off the schedule that didn’t happen and we’re just excited to get back. My whole thing was really just to sit quietly and let it all play out.

Mediaite: You seem to joke about it in the new ad, talking about a “near-death experience.” Was the situation that if Conan had taken the 12:05…

Daly: Yeah, well the schedule would have changed. It would have been Tonight Show from 12:05-1:05, Fallon from 1:05 to 2:05 and that would have pushed us off the schedule. That was a scenario that was in play. It felt like our fate was 50/50. And it just worked out that we’re back on. And thank God.

>>> NEXT PAGE: Daly on the Letterman and Kimmel jokes, the “new” MTV and new media.

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