The Writers Guild of America is challenging Jay Leno’s right to write his own monologue now that he’s returned without his guild-represented writers. But here’s a question: Whatever happened to the gentlemen’s agreement that allowed Letterman to write jokes during the last strike in 1988? Back then, Johnny Carson wasn’t a guild member, so his monologue wasn’t an issue. But Dave — a union member — came back on June 28, five weeks before the strike ended on Aug. 2, 1988.
Guild president Patric Verrone seemed willing to extend the courtesy to Leno this time around: “since you’re taking one for the team, we won’t hassle you on that,” he said, according to the NY Times. Yet rather than show one of the WGA’s most prominent members some courtesy, the WGA is trying to use Jay’s written monologue to tighten the thumbscrews on NBC — a sign, perhaps, of how desperate the union has become.
Furthermore, if the guild contract says a writer may write their own material, how can the guild issue strike rules that conflict with that? And if a guild writer cannot write for themselves, how can they go off and write for the web, as many are doing now?
As the AP points out, all of this will become a bigger issue when Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert come back Monday.
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