So let me get this straight. Jay Leno writes his own jokes the first night, claiming it’s OK, when he probably knew that it wasn’t, gets a talking-to from the striking Writers Guild to remind him that he’s a Writers Guild member, too, and cannot perform writing functions such as, oh, pre-writing a monologue and putting it on cue cards, so what does Mr. Leno do on Thursday night? To me, it looked like he thumbed his nose at the union and the writers and everyone else, and concerned only for himself, and perhaps the fact that he figures NBC wants to retire him NEXT YEAR (2009 is that close, people) and he’ll need a new job soon enough, that he might as well continue to write a monologue in advance and perform it on a nightly basis, strike or no strike.
As a writer (though not a striking one, because I’m not in the WGA), I watched Leno in horror last night. He really doesn’t seem to care about the strike. When he could be bothered to even mention it, it was literally under his breath in nanosecond asides.
Conan O’Brien, by comparison, continued to make the most of his predicament in night two of Strike-Break 2008. He used the early monologue time to make more jokes about his beard, explore the studio’s catwalk — which killed quite a bit of time just in the logistics and resulted in seemingly improvised jokes by Conan — followed by a pre-taped segment about Conan interrupting NBC tours of his studios earlier in the day. His guests all were in town with things to plug. Megan Mullally had her fellow Young Frankenstein Broadway castmates on Letterman (which only furthers any sort of conspiracy theorists who think that, deep down, Letterman is cool with Conan). Fonzworth Bentley had a book to sell. And musical guest Kid Rock has been around the city since New Year’s Eve, at least.
On night two, David Letterman, with writers at the ready, poked fun at his first night back, his beard and his writers during his monologue. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — who really does want to be president and has said so, but it looks like he’ll need more help than Iowa gave him to launch an independent campaign, by the way — made a cameo walk-on to deliver the key to the city…to Letterman’s beard. A "News Stories We Missed" segment was short but funnier because of it. "Great Moments in Presidential Speeches" returned, so hooray for that. Other writer-driven segments included an Iowa Caucus Timeline, a Top 10 list on questions you might have if you’re having sex with robots (?), and a second installment of Hal Gurnee’s Network Time Wasters (which, if I’m not mistaken, included the young guy who appeared the night before as Letterman’s attorney?). The guests — Bill Maher, Ellen Page, and the cast of Young Frankenstein — made it seem otherwise like a regular show. Which, I suppose, was the point. Or was it?