Rosie O'Donnell: 'My Job Is to Be Funny'

1:02 PM PST 07/29/2011 by Marisa Guthrie
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

O'Donnell says she decided to go to OWN in part because she had seen "NBC throw Conan [O'Brien] under the bus."

BEVERLY HILLS – Oprah Winfrey is banking that the one-two punch of Rosie O'Donnell and repacks of her syndicated talk show will energize OWN.

The Rosie Show and the Own Your Life, the repackaged version of more than 4,500 hours of Winfrey’s syndicated show, will bow in October in primetime. Winfrey will host Own Your Life creating “the worlds biggest classroom” and using reruns of Oprah as “a teaching tool, repackaged and re-hosted in ways that can teach people how to live their best lives.”

The goal, said Winfrey during a brief appearance at the Television Critics Association press tour here, is to “magnify the potential and deepen the potential of that library.”

O’Donnell offered her own take on how she fits with the OWN brand.

“I think that the reason for my success is that I am really not aspirational. I am inspirational in that the people at home feel like they can really relate to me,” said O’Donnell. “I am really more the audience. Nobody is really at home saying, ‘God if I could only be Rosie O’Donnell: an overweight lesbian who yells to much.

“I think Oprah who is the height of aspiration and inspiration recognizes something in me that is germane.”

STORY: OWN Announces 'The Rosie Show,' 'OWN Your Life' Premiere Dates

That relatability, said O’Donnell, resonates in today’s media universe where fans can (or at least think they can) connect with celebrities on Twitter and “reality” television is heavily manipulated. But on a more practical level, added O’Donnell, she just wanted to work.

“My mom died at 39 so I was going to make all my success and retire at 40,” said O’Donnell. “And guess what? I did that. And then I finally realized, well crap I may live, so I needed a plan for act two.”

O’Donnell said although she harbored desires to join forces with Winfrey at OWN, she was very close to signing a deal for a new syndicated daytime show.

“When Oprah announced that she was leaving [her talk show] all the people who usually call my agent called. You know how agents really care about what you want to do as opposed to the finances. So they were thrilled that I wanted to go to basic cable.”

“It was right at the time when NBC had thrown Conan [O’Brien] under the bus…. taking 15 years of service and treat it as if it was nothing,” continued O’Donnell, adding that the incident sapped her “desire to align myself with a major corporation.”

The Rosie Show will begin with a comedic open, though not a typical late-night monologue. She’ll have celebrity guests and involve her guests and the audience in games with small prizes, stressed O’Donnell, not Oprah-sized prizes.

Some of the celebrities she’s got her eye on include actor-writer Russell Brand and singer-songwriter Adele. “I think she’s epic and gorgeous and fantastic so positive for women in every way,” said O’Donnell.

“What I’m hoping to do and what I think I will do is make an entertaining enjoyable show where…the whole family can sit down and watch,” said O’Donnell. “My job is mostly to entertain and be funny.”

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