“You know what I’m doing? I’m doing what I did the day I started,” said Jay Leno last night on his first return on air since the Writers Guild of America strike started. “I write jokes and wake my wife up in the middle of the night and say, ‘Honey, is this funny?’ So if this monologue doesn’t work it’s my wife’s fault…We are not using outside guys. We are following the guild thing… We can write for ourselves…”
But according to Nikke Finke at Deadline Hollywood Daily, he’s breaking the rules as a guild writer. She cites a guild rule that “prohibit Guild members from performing any writing services during a strike for any and all struck companies. This prohibition includes all writing by any Guild member that would be performed on-air by that member (including monologues, characters, and featured appearances) if any portion of that written material is customarily written by striking writers.” Mr. Leno is risking his spot at the top of late-night ratings to David Letterman because NBC won’t bargain with the striking writers.
Sure Leno’s ratings may stay the same or even go up as audiences anticipate a potential on-air train wreck. But can they stay there? Will America’s late night viewing habits change? And will NBC suffer?
What makes the situation even trickier is that Leno has been very supportive of his own picketing writers and the entire WGA since the strike began two months ago (see photo above) by delivering food and drinks to the scribes walking the line. So the WGA, which has made it clear it’s picketing NBC and not Leno, may not want to make an example of a high-profile member like Jay for breaking its strike rules.