Dave Opens Own Wallet To Pay His Staff


EXCLUSIVE: I've just learned that David Letterman and his producers yesterday morning announced to his Late Show staff that they will be paid through the end of the year even though the show isn't on the air during the writers strike. letterman.jpg"Dave's not doing this to get good press, which is why it hasn't been reported for almost two days," a source tells me. "This is really significant because, as opposed to all of the other shows, this money comes out of Dave's own pocket." When Late Show stopped making new episodes last week, CBS ceased paying Letterman's production company on November 5th. And, in case you were wondering, Dave owns Late Show while Jay does not own The Tonight Show as Johnny Carson did. (FYI, earlier this month, a news report claimed Jon Stewart had made a similar offer to pay his staff through the holidays, but then his rep said it was untrue.)

Yes, Worldwide Pants employees are getting paid. However, most of the technical crew for the Late Show and Late Late Show are CBS employees, some of which are non-staff but per diem, even though they work on regular basis. These employees (at least in Los Angeles) have been on the street since day 1 of the strike. CBS does not want to pay them. They're like the bastard child nobody wants to claim.

Just a reminder that striking Late Show writers Eric Stangel, Justin Stangel, Bill Scheft, Steve Young, Matt Roberts, Tom Ruprecht, Jeremy Weiner, Lee Ellenberg, Joe Grossman and Bob Borden have begun a blog about the writers walkout. (Here's an LA Weekly column I wrote about Letterman, Dave The Brave.)


  1. Happy to see you go, Tired of Political Middle Fingers

    When faced by facts, folks like you obfuscate them by turning on the snark, and turning up your volume which unfortunately works on the uneducated

    Incidentally, Letterman is a mid-Westerner from Indiana who earned every penny, unlike Bush. Even Bush’s father doesn’t approve of his Iraq war decision.

    Do you want a country in which you cannot criticize your president .. hmmm .. sounds a bit Communist, Mother Russia-ish. How American are you?

    Great article, Nikki.

    Comment by ontheinside — November 14, 2007 @ 2:29 pm

  2. I love David Letterman.
    Always have.
    Always will.

    Comment by e — November 14, 2007 @ 2:30 pm

  3. The best.

    Comment by Mike — November 14, 2007 @ 2:30 pm

  4. If he is not doing this to get press, why do we know about it, at all? I am not knocking him for this, certainly, and it would be nice for the other multi-millionaire showrunners and creators to do the same for their hard-working support staffs they owe a lot of their success to. But I am sure that if he wanted this to stay a secret between him and his staff, it would have been a secret between him and his staff.

    But, now that this is out, if only the others mentioned above followed his example.

    Comment by Anon — November 14, 2007 @ 2:36 pm

  5. I have an enormous amount of respect for Mr. Letterman.

    Comment by supernova8610 — November 14, 2007 @ 2:43 pm

  6. Not surprised. He’s not exactly a fan of the big studios and he has a history of fighting that goes back to a comedians strike against the Improve and Comedy Store in the late 70s.

    On the other side of the coin, Craig Ferguson was pretty adamant about going on without writers and actually said that he hoped he could prove the show would work without writers, so when the strike was over he wouldn’t have to hire them back.

    Guess that’s not going to happen because today the show found out Dave is shutting it down.

    Comment by DA in LA — November 14, 2007 @ 2:50 pm

  7. Well at least he’ll have some good PR going for him when he comes back to work in a few weeks.

    Comment by nice — November 14, 2007 @ 2:55 pm

  8. I knew there was a reason I LOVE DAVE!! :0)

    Comment by MomofPJ — November 14, 2007 @ 3:00 pm

  9. What a cool guy.

    Comment by Fangirl — November 14, 2007 @ 3:07 pm

  10. I’m a writer. Dave Letterman is a friend to writers and not a dumb person. He sees very clearly what’s going on and knows what’s at stake. He sets a great example for folks like Ellen D. by doing the right thing because that’s what his heart tells him to do. If Ellen were thinking with her heart, she’d be right there with big Dave, standing behind her writers and supporting her staff as we enter the holiday season. Kudos to Dave.

    The longer the conglomerates give the WGA to think about it, the more everyone, not just writers, is starting to see that the resids from internet are probably a ton of stinkin’ money. Otherwise, why would the congloms take this road to protect what they call ‘their share’ of 100%?

    Stay strong writers. It could be a long haul but in the end we’ll get a fair deal. Our leaders are doing the right thing and more and more folks are starting to see who the bad guys are in this story.

    And thank you, David Letterman.


    Comment by outsidelookingin — November 14, 2007 @ 3:12 pm

  11. The shine is off of these late night hosts. Well, whatever shine was left. We’re consistently told how witty guys like Stewart, Colbert, and Letterman are, but without the truly creative men and women behind the scenes who put the words in their mouths, they can’t perform.

    It’s clear that they don’t have what it takes to write monologues and funny skits that pepper their shows. It’s also clear that they evidently can’t even conduct an interview without someone else writing the questions for them.

    Here’s the the writers - you guys and gals are needed. In he meanwhile, I’ll watch my DVDs of classic tv shows and classic movies, and just weather the storm. Doubtful I’ll be coming back to the sardonic empty suits who have demonstrated they just don’t have what it takes.

    Comment by Vinnie Vegas — November 14, 2007 @ 3:35 pm

  12. Aww, Dave you so rock! You make this Hoosier proud. Note to Ellen, this is the way you support your staff And the strike at the same time.

    Comment by rebelqueen — November 14, 2007 @ 3:37 pm

  13. Kudos for Dave! He’s the best. Someone is finally looking out for the crew.

    Now if only the rest will follow his lead. Even if they are only helping out the crew for an extra few weeks, it makes a big difference.

    Comment by #1fan — November 14, 2007 @ 3:44 pm

  14. It should be noted that Dave owns THE LATE SHOW while Jay does not own THE TONIGHT SHOW as Carson did. Jay’s logo is slapped on the end.

    Jay has already told his staff everyone will be taken care of and not to worry but I think they’re confused as to what that means exactly.

    Comment by late night — November 14, 2007 @ 4:08 pm

  15. .

    Dave’s a class act. Not only is he backing up his writers and taking care of his staff, but if it were up to him nobody would even know about it.

    So many writers look up to Dave. Now you know another reason why.

    Comment by A Writer — November 14, 2007 @ 4:09 pm

  16. ANON wrote, “If he is not doing this to get press, why do we know about it, at all? I am not knocking him for this, certainly, and it would be nice for the other multi-millionaire showrunners and creators to do the same for their hard-working support staffs they owe a lot of their success to. But I am sure that if he wanted this to stay a secret between him and his staff, it would have been a secret between him and his staff.”

    If Dave’s staff is anything like the other shows, and I’m sure it is, there are over 100 people who work there. That means this was announced to 100 people yesterday morning who were worried about their jobs. Good news travels fast. I’m sure those people were quite excited and relieved. The surprising thing is that this took as long as it did to reach the public. Thanks for spreading some good news Nikki.

    Comment by A writer — November 14, 2007 @ 4:19 pm

  17. Letterman is the best in the business. None of the other latenight guys will ever match his charisma.

    Comment by Lucas — November 14, 2007 @ 4:29 pm

  18. He has agrred to pay his writers until the end of the year. At this point it seems 100% that the strike goes that long.

    So the real question is: do his WGA writers cash the checks he is passing out when he is back on the air.

    Comment by Ted - Non Writer — November 14, 2007 @ 4:39 pm

  19. That’s awesome! Craig Ferguson is a dick, but Dave is the man! Thank you Dave!

    Comment by Anon — November 14, 2007 @ 4:41 pm

  20. What a guy! Dave is first class! I hope the strike ends soon. I miss him!

    Comment by Aanya — November 14, 2007 @ 4:42 pm

  21. Dave is the best. I have always preferred him and his show to Jay and I never understood the ratings advantage of Jay. This is just another reason for me now to continue on the same preference path.

    Comment by James in Minneapolis — November 14, 2007 @ 4:54 pm

  22. He is the best. class act all the way.

    Comment by juanoi — November 14, 2007 @ 5:05 pm

  23. Let’s face it…Dave GETS it. He’s a businessman and he he’s done VERY well, thanks for asking. He understands that the internet pot of gold needs to be shared with those who make it all possible. The writers.

    God bless ya Dave. And Craig can check out tomorrow..nobody would miss him at all, except that overnight Master control operator.

    Comment by BriteBlonde1 — November 14, 2007 @ 5:41 pm

  24. Re: Vinnie Vegas,

    I’ve heard that same argument before. However, I think it is unfair. First, I’m under the impression that Leno, Letterman, etc., are members of the WGA, therefore, even if they wrote their own material, they would be breaking the strike. Also, even the funniest person alive would have trouble writing an hour of material for an hour show, 5 days a week. Finally, “It’s also clear that they evidently can’t even conduct an interview without someone else writing the questions for them.”- Have you seen these shows before? Clearly Leno is not having someone right questions for him, and if he does, then he needs to get new writers because he’s one of the worst interviewers I’ve ever seen. And Letterman surely doesn’t have people writing for him. He is a great natural interviewer. Most importantly, are you suggesting they just go out and do hour-long interview sessions minus the monologues and comedy bits? Isn’t that what everyone is crucifying Ellen for? You just sound like a bitter, horribly uninformed person. Maybe instead of “going to the classic DVD’s” you could read a book or a newspaper. Might do you some good.

    Comment by RMS — November 14, 2007 @ 5:56 pm

  25. #

    If he is not doing this to get press, why do we know about it, at all? I am not knocking him for this, certainly, and it would be nice for the other multi-millionaire showrunners and creators to do the same for their hard-working support staffs they owe a lot of their success to. But I am sure that if he wanted this to stay a secret between him and his staff, it would have been a secret between him and his staff.

    But, now that this is out, if only the others mentioned above followed his example.

    Comment by Anon — November 14, 2007 @ 2:36 pm

    Still waiting on your point, Anon.

    Mr. Letterman did a kind & noble thing. I’m very happy to know about it. So what if he didn’t want it to stay secret, for any # of reasons (sending a msg to the AMPTP, for example)?
    If 1 of his staff decided it was too nice a gesture to remain secret, is that a problem?
    If you’re truly not knocking him, then rejoice in this gentleman’s kindness & respect for, as you said yourself,”their hard-working support staffs they owe a lot of their success to” .


    Comment by Anonymous — November 14, 2007 @ 5:57 pm

  26. Dave has always run his show in New York by the letter. Never tried to get a SAG guy to say fewer than five words to avoid a larger payment. Never tried to skirt around union rules when dealing with actors, crew or staff.

    This money comes out of his own pocket. When the strike ends, the guild should honor him.

    Now do you see why it was important to chastise Ellen?

    Comment by Anonymous — November 14, 2007 @ 6:03 pm

  27. Someone should chart out the paths that former Dave-writers have taken. Then… you’ll see Dave’s true influence on TV. Pretty impressive.

    And don’t forget, “Raymond” was a Worldwide Pants deal.

    Dave rules.

    Comment by BJS — November 14, 2007 @ 6:19 pm


    Comment by Dilio — November 14, 2007 @ 7:19 pm

  29. Sounds good doesn’t it Seth MacFarlane, James Brooks, Shawn Ryan, Levitan & Lloyd, Martin & Schiff, Joel Surnow, Aaron Sorkin, David E. Kelly, etc.

    Comment by No Xmas Gift for you! — November 14, 2007 @ 7:35 pm

  30. Dave’s also paying Ferguson’s entire staff. You rock Dave!

    Comment by Anon — November 14, 2007 @ 8:02 pm

  31. What the hell is Sorkin supposed to do? Pay his ex-crew on Studio 60 for making them work on such a crappy show?

    Comment by cONFUSED — November 14, 2007 @ 8:22 pm

  32. The shine is off of these late night hosts. Well, whatever shine was left. We’re consistently told how witty guys like Stewart, Colbert, and Letterman are, but without the truly creative men and women behind the scenes who put the words in their mouths, they can’t perform.

    If I’m not mistaken, all three of them are also members of the Writers Guild, since they’re all also writers on their shows.

    The reason they “can’t perform” is because they’re standing with their union, nothing more, nothing less.

    Comment by David L — November 14, 2007 @ 8:48 pm

  33. Ted–he’s not just paying his writers, he’s paying the whole staff plus Ferguson’s staff. Out of his own pocket. Which makes the greedy bastards at the networks who are unnecessarily laying off staff look even worse.

    Comment by Anon — November 14, 2007 @ 8:58 pm

  34. God, it is so awesome that Dave is so filthy rich that he can afford to pay his entire staff, for the rest of the year, without putting much of a dent in his lifestyle.

    While others may or may not follow, rest assured, they won’t be sacrificing much in either case.

    Comment by sjd — November 14, 2007 @ 9:04 pm

  35. David Letterman is the best thing on late night television. He will be on top as long as he wants to be there. Leno, on the other hand, simply isn’t funny or clever. He is still coasting on Johnny Carson’s fumes.

    David Letterman’s comedy is whacky but he comes from the gene pool of all the greats. He knows how to do the double take, he knows when to acknowledge when things have gone south, he knows how to both create and deal with absurdity. When he laughs, it seems genuine, not schtick.

    He seems like a decent person who sees a problem and is motivated to act and do a decent thing. I’m not surprised he acted to take care of his writers. I’ll watch him as long as he is on the air.

    AND, he is welcome to be a part time resident of my state of Montana.

    Comment by taylorbad — November 14, 2007 @ 9:07 pm

  36. It’s very kind of Dave to continue supporting all his white, male writers. It would be even nicer if he hired females and minorities.

    Comment by Sad truth — November 14, 2007 @ 9:26 pm

  37. Dave is the epitome of class! YOU makes us proud!

    Comment by goldenbean — November 14, 2007 @ 9:36 pm

  38. I have watched Letterman since Johnny left us and if everyone will remember Dave was Johnnys choice to replace him. Maybe because Johnny knew just what kind of guy he was. Kudos to you David Letterman and just think how proud Harry will be of his dad in the years to come. You certainly know how to teach by example.I just wish more people would take heed.

    Comment by Barbara — November 14, 2007 @ 10:00 pm

  39. He’s paying his crew through the year because he’s coming back in the new year if the strike’s still on. Just like he did last time…sit out a while, then get back on the air. Wonder if you guys will be nominating him for president, or attacking him like you are Ellen?

    Comment by think people — November 14, 2007 @ 10:01 pm

  40. Dave is the man!

    Comment by davelover — November 14, 2007 @ 10:12 pm

  41. It’s nice of Dave to continue supporting his white, male writers. It would be even nicer if he had some female and minority writers to support.

    Comment by Midwesterner — November 14, 2007 @ 10:13 pm

  42. This just confirms how cool Dave is. It is no surprise that his staff thinks so highly of him.

    Go, Dave!

    Comment by Header — November 14, 2007 @ 10:18 pm

  43. I’m a huge fan of Dave-and this is yet another reason why. And to the WGA-much love and power to y’all. Stay strong.

    Comment by TC — November 14, 2007 @ 10:32 pm

  44. now the truth comes out. jay leno doesn’t care about his staff. he NEVER promotes from within and does not even bother to learn his employees’ names. Now he’s not paying his people, unless he’s goaded into it now by Letterman’s move.

    Letterman treats his people much better.

    Comment by Jerrysuperfly — November 14, 2007 @ 10:33 pm

  45. Yeah, well, nobody else is paying their crews or anyone else at all, thinkpeople, so you expect us to jump all over the only person who’s putting himself out there? “How dare you, how dare you do the right thing and go over and above everyone else, you bastard!!!!” We’ll see what happens in the new year. sad truth, I don’t know about minorities but there are plenty of women producers etc. on that show, it’s not just writers who are getting paid.

    Comment by Yeahwell — November 15, 2007 @ 12:05 am

  46. Dave L. makes me proud of what REAL American values are. Unlike W43 and his crony corporate money-grubbers, who place money, power and profit above life and ethics.

    In our current system, corporations are beholden to stockholders, so it’s partly the system’s fault, but little value is placed on quality of life. Only profit. It’s so stupid and short-sighted.

    America could learn so much from Canada, Europe and Asia on this point.

    Comment by Snowpuppy — November 15, 2007 @ 12:50 am

  47. Dave, I love your show, and now know you are as great a guy as I thought………..no matter what you may say!
    God Bless You,

    Comment by Cranberry — November 15, 2007 @ 6:18 am

  48. RMS-

    EVERYTHING on the Letterman show is scripted, yes, down to the interview questions.

    The writers write the monologues, all the jokes, gags, commercial lead ins, etc. Dave reads these right off the cue cards. The interviews are set up beforehand by the talent coordinators. The pre-interview questions (and answers) are on his little blue cards that end up “smashing” through the window. Obviously he ad libs alot, too.

    I was an intern on Late Night many moons ago. One of the best jobs I ever had. Dave usually involved the entire staff (sans interns :( ) for everything, including sending all of them out to LA for the Emmys.

    Good luck to the writers!

    Comment by enrico palazzo — November 15, 2007 @ 6:42 am

  49. don’t you think it fishy that Rove leaves the horses ass’ house, then suddenly we see discord among the dems and the public, we see the very important voices of letterman and stewart silenced at a time when their rhetoric is crucial before the next mock election…we see more crooked repubican officials gaining more authority and wealth at our expense…when are the good guys going to wake up?!!!!

    Comment by Chay Berry — November 15, 2007 @ 7:35 am

  50. Jerrysuperfly,

    that is not true. jay is a very decent, generous, nice guy. and he does know the names of people on his staff, including lower level which he sees out all the time and says hello. once he gave everyone bonuses out of his own pocket based on how many years they’d been at the show, for some that was a huge dollar amount. jay is closer to his writers because he spends more time w/ them.

    Comment by late night — November 15, 2007 @ 7:46 am

  51. Dave is a good man! Don’t hold your breath waiting for Jay Leno to follow his lead.

    Comment by Will Teullive — November 15, 2007 @ 7:56 am

  52. I think Dave Letterman is doing a wonderful thing, but I have to admit that the strike really makes me mad to begin with. I know this comment will anger my fellow writers, but I’ve been there before so I know what I’m talking about. What’s going to happen is the strike will eventually end, writers will get a slightly larger profit, but the studios will hire less writers. So a select few will get a raise, but the rest will get the boot. I’ve seen it time and time again…the union strikes, they think they win something in the end, but the big businesses aren’t stupid. They’re not going to cut into their profits to pay some “stupid” writers. The strike is only hurting writers. It should have been solved years ago when they renegotiatated and lost the VHS and rerun compensation. It’s all about the bottom line now, and big business is not going to sacrifice it in order to pay some writers. I’m sorry, but until this society changes where big business has the upper hand in most everything (think oil profits, folks), not much is going to be achieved.

    Comment by I will get skinned alive for this — November 15, 2007 @ 8:02 am

  53. Dave has charisma, all right. I laugh at his stuff as though I had just discovered how to laugh. And, at the risk of being labeled sexist, I am telling the world that absolutely nobody knows how to wear a good suit the way he does.

    He is irreverent, saucy, naughty, and half cuckoo. And those are the main reason why I love him and watch his show even when I lose sleep doing it. I’ll even watch reruns, because I remember something silly is coming up and I want to see it again.

    Of course he supports his staff. He doesn’t have any problems with letting them be seen on camera, he lets them do nutty stuff like cussing him out for not interrupting his schtick when they come by begging for attention, and he will do just about anything, even when he thinks he might get eaten up by some animal brought over by Jack Hanna.

    Sometimes I am just right about some people, and David Letterman is a prime example of my occasional good judgment.

    Comment by Carol — November 15, 2007 @ 10:36 am

  54. Paying the staff is a nice gesture. But it also does not mean he will be out until January. It just means he has offered to pay until then. He very well may be back in a couple of weeks because CBS ‘made him’. And perhaps he already knows this….

    of course, if he sits it out perhaps the NBC hosts will sit it out and then what does that mean for the Conan deal? And the Jay deal? Will those contracts dissolve on day 35 of the strike?

    There may be some strategy to this move by Dave that is perhaps bigger than it appears at first blush. And sure it could just be a nice, great gesture. Don’t know. Not sure any of us really know, right?

    Comment by Jupiterjoy — November 15, 2007 @ 1:21 pm

  55. Dave has the biggest heart on TV, but don’t tell him that, he’ll deny it. He’s obviously very humble; HE wasn’t the one coming out telling everyone about this issue…so quit acting like he’s trying to get a bit pat on the back. He’s been the best from the beginning and continues to show why he always will be the best.
    We love you, Dave.

    Comment by Julia — November 15, 2007 @ 1:28 pm

  56. Jay has not bothered to visit with his non-writing staff since the strike began. Last week he placed a conference call to the staff, saying that “everyone would be alright, don’t worry.” Today and tomorrow, the entire staff will be unemployed. And, truth be told, Jay doesn’t give a shit.

    Comment by knocked off the saddle — November 15, 2007 @ 1:31 pm

  57. Dave needed a tax break, he is over paid and a snob.

    Comment by lawrence — November 16, 2007 @ 8:23 am

  58. Craig Ferguson works for Dave…if he’s against writers and the strike…he’s against Mr. Letterman.
    Whatever you think you know about Mr. Letterman, some things seem certain: He is a great talent, he is as intelligent as he is smarmy, he has great empathy for all who work with him as any patriarch should. I don’t believe for a minute that this gesture is in any way a publicity stunt. Mr. Letterman has always come across as a talent that cares deeply about entertaining and admirers those who share his affinity for the craft.

    Comment by Curtrock — November 17, 2007 @ 8:25 am

  59. what a guy

    now thats class

    He deserves his success


    Comment by Alan — November 17, 2007 @ 12:22 pm

  60. anti-Bush rants? Rove masterminded the strike? It sucks to pay people bwcause they are male and white?
    Step away from the Kool Aid.

    Comment by TJ Budd — November 17, 2007 @ 12:49 pm

  61. Thanks for sharing that about Dave. I thought the news pieces with Leno serving up donuts looked like a photo op. I support the writers but wish more truth (and clues). FYI, in po-dunk Corporate umbrella station land, canned news singing the blues how horrible the writers are to the little kids and the economy, blah..blah. Shameless fat cats. Wake up America! Brave it out writers and Broadway crews and thank you!

    Comment by wheat — November 17, 2007 @ 3:57 pm

  62. I was an intern on Letterman back when he was at NBC, and to clarify a few things . . .

    1. Dave does write some of his material and is an active participant in the writers meetings (or he was at that time at least).

    2. Every guest on these talk shows is “pre-interviewed” by one of the staff members (can’t remember the name but his sole job is to talk to every guest prior to the show). Haven’t you ever noticed that whenever Dave/Jay/insert other asks the question “SO, how was the flight in?, the guest always has a story? Dave got a list of 10 or so “items” to ask about to make the show interesting. Someone mentioned Jay being a horrible interviewer. He gets the same info Dave does - but Dave is a master at working with the material he has as well as expanding on it and improvising.

    Dave has always taken care of his staff - he’s done it for over 25 yrs, I don’t see why he’d stop now.

    Comment by MK — November 27, 2007 @ 11:49 am

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