Friday, January 4, 2008

Writerless Leno / Writerlaiden Dave

So... this has been weird to watch.

1) Letterman's back, and the show makes me laugh, but I swear to God if Paul Schaeffer doesn't stop killing actual laughter with a musical sting at the end of every punchline, I'm going to fly to New York and kick him in the dick.

It is weird, tho, that even though Letterman is in second place in the ratings, he's not the underdog here. His standards are higher - and should be - he's got his staff. He's got the ability to get better guests.

And yet...

2) Leno has never been looser. It's been interesting to watch, actually. Without his writers, Jay has had to rely on his chops more than ever - chops which we haven't really seen in a while. It's easier to pick safer material when you have a dozen people writing for you. (By the way, this isn't to say that his writers only write safe stuff... but in the end, the stuff that's picked is the stuff that's picked.)

There have been jokes with edge, a surprising amount of sexual material, an obvious reach into the "bag of jokes from three months ago before the strike" but... it's weird. It's like he's enjoying himself.

This doesn't absolve the whole "writing a monologue" debate, which is a WHOLE 'nother debate. But as I watch this all unfold, I think Leno is finding his inner comedian again. Not the host, which he's honed over the years, but the "guy with a beef" that used to sit on Letterman's couch, and has a couch of his own now.

Just thinking.


Anonymous said...

This is great you brought this up, Steve, I was looking for the place to tell this story.

A relative used to work for Jay, writing material. And guess what -- he is again! See, what happens is, Jay has dinner (sometimes it's lunch) with his friends who are comedians and writers and he pitches his jokes to them, "To test it out..." And if the guys laugh, fine, but getting these guys together -- they can't help but be competitive, and riff on the material themselves -- so jokes get rewritten -- but -- it's only dinner, right?

Well, here's "the funny part", when a joke is better than Jay's, the guy that wrote it gets... wait for it... $500 cash right out of Jay's pocket! Ka-ching! "We're not writing, we're just hanging out, having fun, eating lunch..." Ah Hollywood!

Kevin Koch said...

I'm not surprised that Jay is better without the tightly written monologues. A few years ago I saw The Tonight Show live. I wasn't a fan, didn't really like Leno, just went to impress visiting family. What surprised me was that when Jay came out and warmed up the audience, and he was REALLY funny. Loose, playful, and sharp. Then the cameras started rolling, and he became the slightly stiff, mildly amusing Jay I knew from TV.

It left me wondering if this was intentional, if the producers of The Tonight Show had found that the vox populi preferred the dulled down Leno.

Anonymous said...

Amazing how many anonymous stories have come out saying that they know someone or are themselves getting paid by Leno to write jokes for anywhere from $25 to $1000. Maybe Letterman should consider buying jokes from these same guys since he hasn't done anything fresh in years.
Regardless of how Leno's getting his jokes he's winning the ratings just as he always has. I think the WGA is losing ground by going after middle America's favorite latenight host.
Maybe if they had worried more about what the internet was really about as much as they're worried about whether Leno can only tell a joke if he doesn't write it down they'd be in better shape.

Steve said...

Well, Leno uses a freelance faxline for jokes... some he buys when he likes them ($25) and some people are on stipend because they are reliable joke writers.

During a strike, tho, these people are scabs and their jokes would be scab writing.

And, to be fair, I don't think the WGA is losing steam. Look at the New Line deal: That's a high profile victory. Look at the Golden Globes: That show is f*cked.

If Sag is on the WGA side, it doesn't matter what the DGA does, although I hope the DGA does the right thing and fights for the right things.

If writers and actors are united, this thing ends and swiftly.

Anonymous said...

I think you mean the UA deal? UA is just a small production house right now and how many writers do they ever use? The Letterman show probably uses more.
They also have a favored nations clause - like WWP.

Anonymous said...

Though no one outside of Hollywood gives a crap about the Golden Globes it'll be interesting if actors can actually not show up at an even that promises them awards, free drinks and dinner and goody bags and a chance to celebrate themselves.

Steve said...

Yeah, yeah. UA. New line's next.


Anonymous said...

I've heard a lot of stories about writers still working - for post dated checks or to finish contractual obligations.
Guaranteed one of the provisions in any final negotiations will include amnesty for scabs and the WGA will accept it because it would tear apart the union if they actually tried to find everyone who was still writing.

Anonymous said...

WGA isn't losing steam? The only ones I still hear supporting it is SAG. Everyone outside of those 2 guilds seem to think the writers don't deserve what they already get.

Steve said...

Anonymous above me:

Dude, that may be YOUR opinion, but the only union that isn't supporting the WGA wholeheartedly... is IATSE.

While the DGA will negotiate as they always do, they're not enemies.

You really think the writers don't deserve what they're getting? Or are you just annoyed with the way thtings are going right now?

Steve Hulett said...

I hope the WGA gets the new media deal it wants.

Howsoever. The Main Event over the next four to eight weeks won't be the WGA, but the DGA-AMPTP talks.

When those conclude, the ball will get tossed back to the Writers Guild, and we'll see what happens. I think it's risky to make predictions before we reach that point.

Anonymous said...

This is to the person who guranteed us that there would be amnesty for scabs afte the WGA strike is settled.

The 1988 WGA strike lasted five months. At the end, the producers asked for amnesty for scabs, the WGA refused and the producers dropped it. There was no amnesty for scabs then. There won't be any this time.