In their first broadcasts since the writers' strike halted production of their shows two months ago, the hosts of the broadcast-network late-night shows displayed their support for the striking writers' cause.
A bearded David Letterman -- whose production company, Worldwide Pants, reached an interim agreement Friday with the Writers Guild of America -- appeared amid a high-kicking chorus line bearing WGA strike signs. He thanked the guild for allowing writers for CBS' The Late Show with David Letterman and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson to return to work and invited 10 striking writers, including writer/director Nora Ephron and staffers from Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, to deliver the top-10 list: "Demands of the WGA Writers."
“A Jew, a Christian and a Muslim walk into a bar," Leno began in his opening monologue on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. "The Jew says to the Muslim … see, I have no idea what they say because there’s a writers strike. We don’t know what they say."
“As you know, we are in the middle of this writers’ strike here in Hollywood,” he continued. “It’s already cost the town over a half a billion dollars -- $500 million! Or, as Paul McCartney calls that, ‘a divorce.’ Of course, the strike is especially hard on NBC. Do you know that there are actually more people picketing NBC now then watching NBC, right now?”
Leno expressed his support for the striking writers and explained the decision to bring the show back: “The writers are correct, by the way. I’m a writer … I’m on the side of the writers. People want to know why we came back on the air when we did? Well, we were off for two months … as I said, I was on the strike every single day. I was on the strike line every day while they were talking. Then a couple weeks ago, the talks broke off. No new talks were scheduled, so we had to come back because we have essentially 19 people putting 160 people out of work.”
Leno also poked fun at presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, his first guest Wednesday night, who was being pressured by the WGA to avoid crossing the picket line: “Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, one of our guests tonight, has reached what they call ‘the top tier’ of GOP candidates. That means during the debates, he no longer has to wear a nametag.”
Appearing with his own full-grown "strike beard," O'Brien wasted little time in expressing solidarity with striking writers. "Let's talk for a minute about the situation we find ourselves in," O'Brien began. "As you know, two months ago, the Writers Guild of America went out on strike and we took our show, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, off the air in support of the writers. This has been a tough time not only for our show, but for a lot of people in the entertainment industry. Good people right now are out of work. And possibly worse, with all of the late-night shows off the air, Americans have been forced to read books and occasionally even speak to one another, which has been horrifying.
"We're back now but, sadly, we do not have our writers with us. I want to make this clear, I support their cause -- these are very talented, very creative people who work extremely hard and I believe what they're asking for is fair. My biggest wish is that they get a great deal very quickly and get back here because we desperately need them on the show. Think about it: Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, The Masturbating Bear, The Walker Texas Ranger Lever -- it's all writing. Well, not The Masturbating Bear. That's just instinct. Which brings us to the big $64,000 question of the evening: What do we do now?"
O'Brien answered that question with extended riffs on his beard (complete with a split-screen comparison between himself and the "young Kris Kringle from Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town"); a time-killing segment in which he attempted to beat his own wedding-ring-spinning record; and a video showing how he spent the past several weeks around the office.
Bob Saget, host of NBC game show 1 vs. 100 and a WGA member, appeared as a guest, along with comedian Dwayne Perkins and musical guest Robert Gordon and Chris Spedding.
While Kimmel expressed support for the writers' desire to "get paid money for things that go on the Internet" on Jimmy Kimmel Live, he also expressed irritation toward those picketing his and NBC's late-night shows, as well as the Screen Actors Guild for discouraging members from crossing picket lines.
Ferguson joked about SAG's support for his and Letterman's shows and the assumption that they'll have "all the A-list actors" as guests. "But I just want to send a message to all the D-list celebrities," he said. "You are still welcome here."
To read B&C's live-blogging of the late-night shows' return, click here.
For full coverage of the strike, click here.