Conan O'Brien struggled to be his funny, sunny self after his shocking January ouster from The Tonight Show after just seven months. (NBC asked O'Brien, 47, to step aside to make room for Jay Leno, returning to the late-night hit after his own prime-time show tanked.)
"I felt like I'd just been in a car accident," O'Brien admits in the new Rolling Stone of his mindset after his final show. "Like a crazy mix of elation, anger, sorrow. Confusion was a big one," says the comic, whose new TBS show Conan debuts Nov. 8.
Andy Richter, O'Brien's sidekick, adds that the premature end of the show "was traumatic for Conan."
O'Brien's wife Liza Powel says that the star was at his lowest in mid-summer, after he'd wrapped a comedy tour. "Those weeks after the tour, where not much was going on, Conan was miserable," she tells the mag. "That was when he was the most depressed."
"I hated to see him in such a state of tension and unhappiness," she adds. "It was very painful for him to let go of this hallowed ground that he'd finally got a chance to stand on."
Powel and O'Brien have two kids together -- daughter Neve, 7, and son Beckett, 4 -- and she confesses it was odd seeing her husband with so much time on his hands.
"He was in the house all the time," she recalls. "I said, 'This can't last – it'll drive us crazy!' Literally every 10 minutes, he'd poke his head in the room and say, 'I don't wanna bother you, but do you know where the Band-Aids are?' 'I don't wanna bother you, but do you know how to use the phone?' He was so sweet about it, and I felt like such a jerk. But seriously, I almost rented an office for him."
The Nov. 11 issue of Rolling Stone (check out his death-defying cover shoot) hits newsstands this Friday.