Letterman proves union-made comedy is funnier

NBC’s boy Jay Leno crossed the electronic picket line last night. Scab! On the other station, CBS’s David Letterman proved that union-written comedy is superior. Hands down, Letterman was funnier.

Leno started out with the offensive “A Jew, a Muslim and a Christian went into a bar … we don’t know what happened because there is a writers’ strike.” A union writer wouldn’t write such garbage.

He went on taking cheap shots at workers, showing the lighting guy in an undershirt with his belly hanging over his knees, turning on a flashlight. The prop manager was a mass ax murderer and the women in the “office” were hookers. Really funny, scab “humor.”

Then Leno showed the writers negotiating with the producers, and on came a clip of a ridiculous scene in Korea … again ha, ha, scab.

Leno rationalized why he had to cross the picket line. “We still support the writers,” he whined, “but we can’t let 19 people keep 160 out of work.” Boo hoo, I’m sure that is NBC’s motivation.

Letterman, whose show settled with its Writers Guild of America members, was unbelievable. In front of millions, his opening and Top 10 List (which included striking writers and the picket captain from the Letterman show) was a mini-lesson in class-struggle trade unionism. And it was hilarious to boot.

After his monologue, where the newly bearded Letterman thanked the Writers Guild of America for working so hard to come to an agreement, he took questions from the audience. “Was there any producer-backed violence on the picket line?” asked one volunteer as some thug gave Alan, Letterman’s announcer, a beating.

As Letterman showed a make-believe electric-heated pair of underpants, the picket line captain/ “Late Night” writer came out, introduced himself and launched into a two-minute, jaw-dropping spiel about the “greedy producers” keeping writers still on strike. Then on came a graphic with an announcer’s voice saying, “Brought to you by the Writers Guild of America.”

Ten writers (and writer/director Nora Ephron) from shows like “The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report” and “Law and Order Criminal Intent” read the Top 10 List: “The Top 10 Demands of the Writers’ Strike”:

10. ‘Complimentary tote bag with next insulting contract offer.’ — Tim Carvell from ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.’

9. ‘No rollbacks in health benefits, so I can treat the hypothermia I caught on the picket lines.’ — Laura Krafft from ‘The Colbert Report.’

8. ‘Full salary and benefits for my imaginary writing partner, Lester.’ — daytime television writer Melissa Salmons.

7. ‘Members of the AMPTP must explain what the hell AMPTP stands for.’ — Warren Leight from ‘Law & Order: Criminal Intent.’ (OK readers: it’s Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.)

6. ‘No disciplinary action taken against any writer caught having inappropriate relationship with a copier.’ — Jay Katsir from ‘The Colbert Report.’

5. ‘I’d like a date with a woman.’ — Steve Bodow from ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

4. ‘Hazard pay for breaking up fights on “The View.” -— writer and director Nora Ephron.

3. ‘I’m no accountant, but instead of us getting 4 cents for a $20 DVD, how about we get $20 for a 4-cent DVD?’ — Gina Johnfrido from ‘Law & Order.’

2. ‘I don’t have a joke — I just want to remind everyone that we’re on strike, so none of us are responsible for this lame list.’ — Chris Albers from ‘Late Night with Conan O’Brien.’

And my personal favorite was:

1. ‘Producers must immediately remove their heads from their asses.’ — Thurber Award-winning author Alan Zwiebel.

Robin Williams was Letterman’s guest and in great comedic form, coming from his USO tour in Iraq and Afghanistan … and from the WGA’s picketlines as well. Williams is a good liberal supporting all sorts of progressive causes. Thanks to Robin for his performance with Dave because I haven’t had a belly laugh like that in a looong time. (See video below.)

Letterman’s opening hour was a lesson to millions about strike support and union solidarity.

On the other hand, true to scab form, Leno had Republican presidential candidate Mike “I don’t know anything about a strike” Huckabee on his show. Seemed fitting since Republican politicians never met a picket line they didn’t want to cross. I wonder what the Machinists union thinks about its Republican endorsee now?

These writers, in my humble opinion, are heroic. They are going up against The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), a group of media giants with corporate profits of about $95 billion last year. This group isn’t known for “fair play” or looking out for the interests of democracy. They viciously red-baited and blacklisted thousands during the Cold War McCarthy era.

So these “poor producers” refuse to offer the writers more than one-third of a penny in royalties from the profit-rich “new media” — downloads, digital broadcasting and the like.

The overwhelming majority of the public is sympathetic to the writers and their demands because the public faces this kind of ruthless corporate greed every day. According to the WGA, 46 percent of their members didn’t work last year, and writers’ average salary over a five-year period is $62,000.

I hope Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert, who reportedly is going back on the air Jan. 7, takes a lesson from Leno’s pitiful performance last night. Scab comedy sucks.

Teresa Albano is editor of the People’s Weekly World.

Update: Video was added on Aug. 12, 2014, in memory of the great Robin Williams. Photo: Screenshot/PW


Teresa Albano
Teresa Albano

Teresa Albano was the first woman editor-in-chief of People’s World, 2003-2010, leading the transition from weekly print to daily online publishing and establishing PW’s social media presence. Albano had been a staff writer for People’s World covering political, labor, and social justice issues for more than 25 years. She traveled throughout the U.S. and abroad, including India, Cuba, Angola, Italy, and Paris to cover the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. An award-winning journalist, Albano has been honored for her writing by the International Labor Communications Association, National Federation of Press Women, and Illinois Woman Press Association.