So why are the liberal golden boys of late night television getting a pass by the Writers Guild of America when they’re clearly doing scabwork and making liberal use of written material despite the strike? Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Bill Maher all flaunt their lefty, man-of-the-people, anti-Bush, anti-boss credentials, sentiments and shtik, and all returned to their shows amid the WGA strike with the expected words of solidarity toward the striking writers. Yet even a cursory viewing of their shows this week reveals that they’re using written material, in videotaped segments, monologues and other bits. And no one’s complaining.
Jay Leno has been the most egregious and blatant offender with his long scripted monologues and scripted video segments, but in his typical passive-aggressive fashion weaseled his way out of responsibility by claiming to have misinterpreted approval from the WGA. With NBC forcing him off the air next year and embarrassing him by running those repeats from the Nineties, he obviously doesn’t give a shit or feels he’s above it all, but as Leno spews out the written stuff regardless, he offers a fascinating view into a TV comedian’s insecurities, jealousies and neuroses, unseen since the days of Stanley Seigel, Shelley Berman or Jack Paar.
But these other guys? They’re only protecting their artificial images. We members of the Writers Guild of America gave ambitious Carson Scably a well-deserved heckling when he was caught soliciting scab material after he crossed the WGA picket line to resume his little-seen middle-of-the-night talk show. But he was easy pickings. Guys like Stewart, Colbert and Maher obviously believe their own hype, that they have something important to say, and it appears that their perceived political views are giving them tacit approval to rely on scabwork and be scabs themselves.
So far, only Conan O'Brien seems to have taken the strike and his responsibilities as a WGA member seriously and is giving his bosses a reason to get back to the negotiating table. Kimmel? We haven’t watched his show so you’ll have to let us know, but his public grousings are ill-advised for a lug who’s lucky to be on the air to begin with, and who’s in line for a dose of Hollywood reality next year when his new big buddy Leno makes a deal with ABC and takes his timeslot.