WGA Reminds Returning Jay And Conan: No Monologues


Now that Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien -- both WGA members -- have announced they will be "reluctantly" returning to the airwaves without their writers on January 2nd, the WGA East and West is reminding everyone of its pre-approved "Strike Rules pertaining to Comedy/Variety", which were sent to all comedy/variety shows prior to the strike. "These are the rules we expect all the hosts to adhere to if they go back on the air without their writers, who will still be on strike," a WGA spokesperson says. Meanwhile, David Letterman's Worldwide Pants continues negotiations for The Late Show and The Late Late Show starring Craig Ferguson with the WGA for that "interim agreement" that's supposed to be a sure thing:

The Council of the Writers Guild of America, East, Inc. and the Board of Directors of Writers Guild of America, West, Inc. (collectively the “Guild”), have adopted Strike Rules which will go into effect if the Guild calls a strike. The Strike Rules, among other provisions, prohibit Guild members from performing any writing services during a strike for any and all struck companies. This prohibition includes all writing by any Guild member that would be performed on-air by that member (including monologues, characters, and featured appearances) if any portion of that written material is customarily written by striking writers.

Here were today's statements by the NBC late night hosts:
Jay Leno: “This has been a very difficult six weeks for everybody affected by the writers strike. I was, like most people, hoping for a quick resolution when this began. I remained positive during the talks and while they were still at the table discussing a solution ‘The Tonight Show’ remained dark in support of our writing staff. Now that the talks have broken down and there are no further negotiations scheduled I feel it’s my responsibility to get my 100 non-writing staff, which were laid off, back to work. We fully support our writers and I think they understand my decision.”

Conan O’Brien: “For the past seven weeks of the writers’ strike, I have been and continue to be an ardent supporter of the WGA and their cause. My career in television started as a WGA member and my subsequent career as a performer has only been possible because of the creativity and integrity of my writing staff. Since the strike began, I have stayed off the air in support of the striking writers while, at the same time, doing everything I could to take care of the 80 non-writing staff members on ‘Late Night.’

“Unfortunately, now with the New Year upon us, I am left with a difficult decision. Either go back to work and keep my staff employed or stay dark and allow 80 people, many of whom have worked for me for fourteen years, to lose their jobs. If my show were entirely scripted I would have no choice. But the truth is that shows like mine are hybrids, with both written and non-written content. An unwritten version of ‘Late Night,’ though not desirable, is possible – and no one has to be fired.

“So, it is only after a great deal of thought that I have decided to go back on the air on January 2nd. I will make clear, on the program, my support for the writers and I’ll do the best version of ‘Late Night’ I can under the circumstances. Of course, my show will not be as good. In fact, in moments it may very well be terrible. My sincerest hope is that all of my writers are back soon, working under a contract that provides them everything they deserve.”

At the end of the day, the WGA issued this statement:

"The AMPTP walked away from the bargaining table on December 7, rather than negotiate a fair agreement for writers. NBC forcing Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien back on the air without writers is not going to provide the quality entertainment that the public deserves. The only solution to the strike is a negotiated settlement of the issues. If the AMPTP won’t come to the table, then it’s time for responsible companies to come forward and negotiate a fair deal.”

Late Night Breakthrough; Dave Cooks Up WGA Deal That NBC & ABC Won't Enjoy


  1. jay and conan are scabs, period. end of discussion. they should be kicked out of the guild and their shows disrupted. and I don’t believe that the noble jimmy kimmel is bankrupt. he’s earned a multimillion dollar annual salary for several years and he’s been paying maybe 150 grand per week for the last 6 weeks to staffers. do the math.
    what’s extra annoying about leno and conan is that they were supposed to return on Jan 7 but decided to jump the gun and return Jan 2 probably because they think all the picketers will be on holiday.

    Comment by Westward Ho — December 17, 2007 @ 12:09 pm

  2. This is a bad development for the strike, but will probably improve the quality of American talk shows. In other words, more Charlie Rose-style conversation and no cheesy-ass skits, often starring the staff writers… You guys know who you are.

    Comment by Jenn — December 17, 2007 @ 12:21 pm

  3. Oh, come now, those writers will be phoning in material a la what’s going on with the soaps….

    Comment by hef — December 17, 2007 @ 12:27 pm

  4. I agree with Westward Ho completely: Conan and Jay are scabs.

    Thanks for the fucking donuts, Jay. They were a big help.

    And Conan, your former colleagues from The Simpsons are out at Fox every day. What a shame you couldn’t follow their example and man up.

    Comment by Ashley Gable — December 17, 2007 @ 12:58 pm

  5. “This is a bad development for the strike, but will probably improve the quality of American talk shows. In other words, more Charlie Rose-style conversation and no cheesy-ass skits, often starring the staff writers…”

    I have always wanted to see Dave do a Charlie Rose type interview show.

    Jay not so much.

    Comment by Dave — December 17, 2007 @ 1:18 pm

  6. Don’t know about the others, but Jay gets hundreds of jokes faxed and e-mailed to him every day from submitters who have pre-signed release forms letting him air them. As I understand it, this too would be a violation of WGA rules.

    Comment by Fly on WGA Wall — December 17, 2007 @ 1:29 pm

  7. It may be great to have all of these guys back. You know they’re going to talk about the strike. And they’re sympathetic. I wish Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert would cut a deal, by the way. There’s a lot out there that needs talking about.

    Comment by Another Hyphenate — December 17, 2007 @ 1:34 pm

  8. These guys deserve the same treatment Carson Daly got. Even more so since they are WGA members.

    Conan and Jay are scabs. The WGA should resume picketing early.

    Comment by Drake — December 17, 2007 @ 1:40 pm

  9. right on, “westward ho”

    leno and conan are scabs - kimmel is not near bankruptcy - if he is, it is not due to allegedly paying any staff salary

    [does anyone watch kimmel?]

    personally, we never watch leno or conan - we watch jon stewart and, on occasion, letterman

    we’re not surprised leno is scabbing - heaven forbid he have to pay his staff more than a few weeks from his tens of millions and millions of earnings

    but, we ARE surprised at conan

    though his show stinks, we thought conan was a good guy - until this strike - now he’s scabbing, he’s associated with that cuckoo polone, and more - though conan is a talented writer, i.e. the simpsons, his talk show has never been funny

    Comment by 18-49goldendemographic — December 17, 2007 @ 1:42 pm

  10. No monologues and no “someone told me you…” intros to “unscripted” discussions with guests. If Leno or Conan think up a joke on the spot and speak it, as WGA members, they’re scabbing. As for protecting their “non-writer” employees, the Guild didn’t lay off these crews.

    Let’s see how many (and which) actors cross a picket line to appear on these shows to promote holiday releases. And if we aren’t willing to picket the gates through which the talent arrives, we deserve the shitty deal we’ll get. We probably shouldn’t have granted the waiver for the Liz Taylor AIDS thing. This has to get uglier before it gets pretty again.

    And I’m going to reach through the monitor and strangle the next person who says he or she really misses Jon Stewart and thinks “he’d probably talk about the strike a lot — and plus he’d really put it to Bush & Co.!” We have a new enemy, now being unmasked: the liberal with his heart in the right place who’s ready to cut our legs out from under us.

    No deals. No flexibility. No cover for scab shows.

    Comment by Old Writer — December 17, 2007 @ 2:11 pm

  11. Leno and Conan are lower than dirt. Especially Conan — he was a writer first. Dirt. Scum. Worms. I will never watch them again.

    I’ve always been a Letterman guy, and I could never out my finger on why. I can now — he’s got a soul. The rest are just money grubbing network-owned automatons.

    Comment by grandUnion — December 17, 2007 @ 2:33 pm

  12. Quite simply: You either have integrity or you don’t.

    Comment by picketeer — December 17, 2007 @ 3:44 pm

  13. They aren’t the only ones who should be blackballed. The networks should be told the SHOWS will be blackballed as long as they are the hosts if they come back Jan 2. Suddenly Jay may grow a backbone and attach a picket sign to it if he realizes he’s screwed either way. The cast and crews of every drama and sitcom are out of luck, why should Jay’s people fare better because he’s scabbing? Sorry for all those people but if we don’t cut the head off of Freddie Krug - er - Les Monve - er, the boogie man, he will come back at us again and again and again.

    Comment by anotherWGAmemberer — December 17, 2007 @ 3:56 pm

  14. They’re scabs, and I’ll bet anything they’re going to be using scab material from backdoor channels, I don’t care what they say. Their shows suck even with writers, they don’t have any talent as hosts, the idea that they’re going to be going it alone is laughable. They’ll do whatever NBC wants, and NBC will be fine with using scab writers.

    What is the holdup on the Letterman deal? Let’s get him back on the air first and put pressure on SAG members to stay the hell off the scab shows.

    Comment by anon — December 17, 2007 @ 4:09 pm

  15. For the Letterman writers to return to work– even under a special accomodation– does not exactly seem like an act of solidarity while the rest of the guild is manning the picket line… Perhaps these writers could donate a portion of their salaries to the WGA strike fund until the strike is over

    Comment by pistachio — December 17, 2007 @ 4:35 pm

  16. Before we go too far in denouncing Jay and Conan as scabs, we need to see the shows. If they’re willing to let the shows suck without scripted material, they’re playing the game reasonably, particularly if they use the shows as a platform for supporting the writers.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing a Conan monologue like this:

    “Since the writers are on strike, and I’m a writer, I can only use jokes written before the strike. If these jokes sound familiar, it’s because I’m repeating my monologue from six years ago today. Please support the writers by checking out United Hollywood dot com.”

    It would piss off the network, but satisfy the terms of his contract. Ie he donated his salary to the strike fund, so much the better.

    (I chose “six years ago today” because the days of the week are the same, at least until February 29.)

    Comment by Steve S — December 17, 2007 @ 5:44 pm

  17. Pistachio has NAILED what was bothring me. I agree thatDave’s writers should make a gesture. It’s the right thing to do. And even though it seems wrong, the Late Show coming back WILL have a positive effect for the WGA that will offset CBS making $$$$ on the deal.

    The Late Show will sit there, lights on in the night like a blazing beacon. It’s a sigh to every other show that there is a way back. It will drive the producers/cast/below-the-lines of every other show crazy. It will drive the shareholders of all the other companies crazy. It will piss off the advertisers who can’t get their ads on because the Late Show’s ad slots are already taken. And it will increase to pressure on the networks to settle, for god’s sake.

    On the other hand, we should screw over The Tonight Show and Late Nite With Conan forever. Tell NBC not to bother negotiating for late night because both shows are permanently blackballed as long as Conan and Jay are the hosts. Forever.

    Perhaps, facing that reality, Jay and Conan will back down. They’re screwed otherwise, their careers effectively over. Maybe they’ll grow the spines every showrunner has developed and stay away.

    Otherwise, they really ARE scabs. And what do you do to a scab?


    Comment by anotherWGAmemberer — December 17, 2007 @ 5:47 pm

  18. As Letterman said about an earlier group of executives …they’re just another group of GE pinheads.
    Now add Leno and O’Brien to the list.
    I thought Leno would be the first guy to go … but Conan, well …
    Both shows are so skit-based these days.
    Talking heads doesn’t fit their version of late night.
    As we all know too well, Johnny Carson can talk to little old ladies with special potato chips and get a laugh.

    Comment by 5w30 — December 17, 2007 @ 5:49 pm

  19. You need to urge your family and friends who normally watch Leno or Conan to boycott the programs. Not just now, but forever. Boycott the shows and their sponsors. But while we’re boycotting we need to assign certain WGA people to monitor the programs and report any use of material by either Jay or conan and for this violation to be reported immediately.

    Now - Anybody interested in joint mass rallies in Burbank and N.Y. outside NBC east and west that day? We may be able to shut ‘em down or at least keep some of the guests out. Minimally we receive decent press coverage and make sure the public understands that Jay and Conan are not loyal people, they’re not union people. Their payback is the only thing they understand - a palpable erosion in their ratings.

    Comment by Jerry WGAer — December 17, 2007 @ 5:55 pm

  20. Pistachio, the “special accomodation” the Letterman writers would be returning to work under is Worldwide Pants, a production company, agreeing to the WGA’s demands for a reasonable share of the New Media it is responsible for. In other words, the thing we have been fighting for all along.

    Comment by mackherron — December 17, 2007 @ 5:58 pm

  21. I never watched their sucky shows anyway.

    Damn all scabs.

    Comment by Sprezzatura — December 17, 2007 @ 6:32 pm

  22. Perhaps people aren’t supposedly to actually ask this but, if Leno and Co are so funny and good at what they do, WHY DO THEY HAVE WRITERS WRITING THEIR MONOLOGUES? In reality, they’re nothing more than glorified interviewers (interviews which are mapped out ahead of time by both parties to boot) so why do these no-talents get paid about $60 million a year? It’s not like people watch their shows for them. People watch the show for the guests. Reality check people!

    Comment by Sherilyn — December 17, 2007 @ 7:23 pm

  23. That’s ridiculous. The Letterman writers aren’t doing anything wrong. We can’t ask independent producers to cut separate deals and then guilt trip their writers when they do. Wh cares if there’s 20 fewer guys out picketing? As for donating money, they probably will, but again, 20 guys donating money isn’t going to make any differenceeither. I’d rather have common sense, no petty, childish resentment, and have this over quicker than have “solidarity” and be out all together for the next 5 years.

    Comment by Ohplease — December 17, 2007 @ 7:32 pm

  24. “Before we go too far in denouncing Jay and Conan as scabs, we need to see the shows.”

    No we don’t. I don’t care if Conan and Jay do nothing but rail against the AMPTP. Who cares? That gets us nowhere as long as the advertisers are still paying ad rates for these scab shows. The only way Tweedledee and Tweedledumb can help us now is by refusing to do any interviews, doing everything they can to ensure their ratings stay as low as possible, and ensuring that only Letterman can book talent. And since NBC didn’t hold a gun to their heads and they went back voluntarily, I don’t see that happening any time soon.

    Comment by Ohplease — December 17, 2007 @ 9:24 pm

  25. Sounds like “enlarged balls” wasn’t contagious.

    Comment by Dennis Wilson — December 17, 2007 @ 10:55 pm

  26. And what’s with this crap about “NBC forcing” Leno and O’Brien back? Forcing them how, is it a hostage situation? Why in the hell were our leaders willing to drop the hammer on Ellen yet somehow give these scabs a free pass? Maybe there really is no point in making a deal with Letterman, we wouldn’t want to hurt our darling scabbikins’ feelings by asking SAG members to shun the scabs and support the guy who dealt when they’re already traumatized from being forced to cash those checks. If we’re too spineless to take a stand here, turn the other way when NBC “forces” the poor dears to use scab material, the least we can do is publicly ask oh-so-supportive scab boys why they’re not now going to be paying their writers the way they’ve been paying staff and crew.

    Comment by Ohplease — December 17, 2007 @ 11:46 pm

  27. I support Leno & Conan… the non writer’s union employees have rights as well. They shouldn’t be put out of a job because of a feud between two sides who both think they are so right they can’t possibly find a way to negotiate.

    Comment by Jennifer — December 18, 2007 @ 5:00 am

  28. All 23 or so angry people who wrote nasty things about Conan, Jay, and their respective shows should be ashamed of themselves! Shame on all of you! How dare you! What gives you the right? All of you owe Conan, Jay, and their respective staffs a heartfelt apology!

    Both Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno are talented performers with hearts of pure gold! Both of them do a lot of charity work, both of them are good people! They both have a lot of friends in and out of the buisness!

    Conan and Jay are not scabs! They do not volunterily go back to work! They are being forced back to work! They have no choice! Either they go back to work or they have to fire all their staffs! This strike is not going to be over for at least a year! Are Conan and Jay expected to pay their own staffs for a year or more? Remember they’re not getting paid anymore. How can they keep paying and paying for the indefinite future? It’s not realistic!

    Conan and Jay have been very generous to their staffs! Conan especially must do right by his staff because he wants them to come with him when he moves the Tonight Show back to LA! Yeah that’s right, Conan haters, Conan is the new host of the Tonight Show starting in 2009 and you can’t do jack about it! That deal is done, and no amount of Conan bashing will change that! Conan deserves the Tonight Show and he’s gonna get it!

    I feel sorry for anybody who doesn’t watch or doesn’t like Conan! Conan is brilliant! His interviews are not scripted. People do watch Late Night because they like him! Conan is also one of the Late Night writers! Conan could write the show by himself if he had to. He’s smart and clever enough! Conan writers are also very talented they are a great asset to him. However some people are performers, and some are writers, and some very talented people like Conan are both!

    Thank you Conan and Jay for coming back, and please know that the opinions expressed in the previous comments do not in any way reflect the opinions of the majority of people!

    Cindy Loves Conan

    Comment by Cindy Loves Conan — December 18, 2007 @ 6:21 am

  29. I don’t care if Conan and Jay do nothing but rail against the AMPTP. Who cares? That gets us nowhere as long as the advertisers are still paying ad rates for these scab shows. That’s what I don’t understand — even if Worldwide Pants signs an agreement with the WGA, isn’t the show an asset for the network? Don’t advertisers pay the network, rather than the production company? Also, are the writers actually going back or is Letterman essentially just asking permission to cross the picket line? It just seems to put a chink in the whole theme of solidarity if writers return, piecemeal, to their individual shows. It’s like ‘well, it was fun, it sucks that you don’t work for late night television, see you later.’

    –Confused WGA supporter

    Comment by Sara — December 18, 2007 @ 7:35 am

  30. nbc compared leno and conan to johnny carson returning in ‘88. there’s just one tiny difference - JOHNNY CARSON WAS NEVER IN THE WRITERS GUILD.

    flack howard bragman says A list celebs will have no problem appearing on the scab shows. oh? not if we stay away from their movies.

    unfortunately a significant portion of the American public sees nothing wrong with ellen, jay or conan crossing the line. we’ve done a poor job of enlightening the public. this needs to improve and it starts w/ wga harassing the hosts and the guests who cross our picket line.

    Comment by Mark Gee — December 18, 2007 @ 8:00 am

  31. I’ve been thinking about this, trying to find some silver lining in it, and I just don’t like it. At all.. It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

    Hiding behind Johnny won’t help their cause either, not THIS time. These guys are no different than Ellen IMO, it’s just that they held their powder dry a couple months longer, so I consider it an assault on the efforts of WGA.

    How many Showrunners have sacrificed for our cause? Answer: All of them.

    Our future is at stake this time and we are at a crossroads with a Corporate machine trying to destroy us and strip us of our financial future so NO, it is not okay Jay and Corporate “Suckup” Conan. Geez Conan, you of all people should know better. I guarantee you your peers will not take kindly to this. It is in direct opposition to what we are trying to accomplish.

    I STRONGLY URGE MEMBERS OF SAG NOT TO SUPPORT THIS BEHAVIOR. Do NOT Cross the Picket Line. Do Not appear on these shows or you should not be surprised if your number will be taken for, shall we say, future reference…

    If you do, don’t ever forget what you are saying to your Sister Guild Members who are fighting on the front lines of your Fight.

    Comment by PJ - Writer — December 18, 2007 @ 8:20 am

  32. What is the official WGA position on this? These guys are scabs, are they not? Why isn’t there more outrage?

    Comment by rankandfiler — December 18, 2007 @ 8:26 am

  33. For the first time since the beginning of the strike my support is sagging. And no I am not a shill, I am a dues paying working writer. Patric, why are these hosts getting a pass? Why are their staffs more valuable than the staff of any sitcom or drama that’s been laid off? There are many others like me who have not picketed this week due to the free pass Leno and Conan appear to be getting. For the Guild, MY Guild, to compare Jay and Conan to Johnny when Johnny was not a WGA member is absurd.
    If you want to keep your guild intact you’d better drop the hammer on these guys and drop it fast. At the least drop it January 2 when they return. I was particularly taken aback by comments of publicists that their clients will have no trouble crossing the picket lines to promote their movies on Leno. Are going to stand for this?

    Comment by Wally World — December 18, 2007 @ 9:20 am

  34. I just read in the LA Times this morning, that the WGA was considering some sort of interim deal for the Letterman show… WTF????

    Are we kidding here? I’m sorry, I thought the point of the strike, was to keep ALL scripted shows off the air. You don’t think it’s a tactic of the studio to play up the horrible condition of these few hundred employees who are out of work? What about the rest of the town who is out of work?

    They also seem to highlight how sympathetic Leno and Conan are, that they paid their employee’s salaries… Like that’s some sort of waiver. WHO ARE THESE WRITERS giving quotes admonishing the latenight SCABS???

    Everyday this strike drags on, when I now read every bit of published news, all I can see are the corporate giants ruling our country.

    This fight is the tip of the iceberg… and our country is the kind of advanced democracy the rest of the world should use as an example, of what NOT TO DO. Money and power ultimately corrupt, indeed they do.

    Comment by Future WGA — December 18, 2007 @ 9:23 am

  35. “even if Worldwide Pants signs an agreement with the WGA, isn’t the show an asset for the network?”

    Yes, but since Conan and Leno are scabbing anyway, the idea is that Letterman will make an interim agreement giving us what we’re asking for and then be at a competitive advantage since he’ll have writers and the other guys won’t (uh, in theory, I trust these scabs as far as I can throw them) and also hopefully major SAG members will boycott the other shows, thus demonstrating that producers/networks/studios who cut separate deals with us will benefit, and hopefully, encouraging them to do so. Some WGA are for this strategy, some are against, but whether it works or not, it’s the WGA’s call. We’ve decided to ask independent producers to comply, and it’s up to us whether or not to grant interim agreements. Therefore, regardless of what anyone thinks of the WGA’s new strategy, it’s ludicrous to blame any individual producer for agreeing to come to terms with us (and even more ludicrous to blame writers for going back to work once a deal’s struck). If we don’t want to deal with them, we don’t have to, they’re not “forcing” us anymore than NBC is forcing Conan and Jay. There’s no comparison between a show that’s made a deal going back to work and scabbing. Frankly, we need some leverage here, and I don’t begrudge anyone going back to work legitimately, it’s part of a strategy to end this thing quicker and get us all back in.

    Comment by Ohplease — December 18, 2007 @ 9:29 am

  36. Not to take away from this discussion, what Conan and Jay are doing is not right but I would like to say they are both much more talented than Craig Ferguson.

    Comment by nick — December 18, 2007 @ 1:22 pm

  37. Hey, those crew members get their jobs back. So that’s pretty good.

    Comment by Kevin — December 18, 2007 @ 4:12 pm

  38. It’s sickening how many people are slandering decent people just because they want their crew to keep their jobs.

    Comment by Aaron — December 18, 2007 @ 8:08 pm

  39. Conan is gonna have the toughest time, at least since Jay is a Comedian he could probably do some of his old stand-up matterial (Unless there’s a guild rule that says he can’t). Conan is not a comedian by any means, he’s a writer first and I see him twisting in the wind a little bit once he runs out of “Walker Texas Ranger” clips to play–which’ll probably cover one show, but then what?

    Final Verdict: Neutral. We should at least watch the first shows on the 2nd just for curiosity sake, afterwards we just watch whatever we want to.

    Comment by JK — December 19, 2007 @ 8:39 am

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