Former The Tonight Show host Conan O’Brien sat down with CBS’ 60 Minutes for his first on-the-record interview since he left The Tonight Show and NBC in January. Topics covered included Jay Leno, NBC executives, Conan’s new cable TV show and his beard.

When asked why he left NBC, he said that the situation had become “toxic.” He left when it got to the point where he said to himself: “I’m not sure these people even really want me here.”

Though Conan had the support of thousands of die-hard fans who rallied behind him using Facebook, he was legally prohibited from appearing on television immediately after his departure, so he started a Twitter account and went on a national comedy tour. Referring to the tour he said, “There’s no better antidote to what I’ve just been through than to do this every night.”

The most striking moment in the interview was Conan’s hesitation when he was asked whether or not he believes that Jay Leno acted honorably during the NBC scheduling fiasco. “If I had surrendered The Tonight Show and handed it over to somebody publicly and wished them well, I would not have come back six months later. But that’s me. Everyone’s got their own way of doing things,” he said.

As for the beard, he said it was his “small victory.” “Okay, so I lost the tonight show,” he said, “but I’ll show them — I’ll stop shaving.”

O’Brien is returning to television this winter, hosting a new show on the cable network TBS. With a predominantly young audience, it’s an excellent demographic match, and the pressure to succeed with a broad audience will be greatly lessened as compared to hosting The Tonight Show on NBC.

Here’s the complete interview as it was aired on CBS.

For more entertainment coverage, follow Mashable Entertainment on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook

Reviews: Facebook, Twitter

Tags: 60 minutes, cable, cbs, celebrities, conan o’brien, jay leno, nbc, TBS, television, the tonight show, tv, video