Jay Leno delivered his second monologue last night, one that he wrote himself. He could lose his guild membership or face a fine from the Writers Guild of America if he keeps writing his own late-night punchlines. The WGA lambasted Mr. Leno yesterday for delivering his monologue, saying it violated guild rules during the strike. NBC, which airs the Tonight Show, quickly fired back, arguing that "the WGA agreement permits Jay Leno to write his own monologue for `The Tonight Show,’" according to an NBC statement. "The WGA is not permitted to implement rules that conflict with the terms of the collective bargaining agreement between the studios and the WGA."
The agreement between the guild and producers expired Oct. 31, but its terms remain in effect, said Andrea Hartman, executive vice president and deputy general counsel for NBC Universal. She cited federal labor law.
According to the contract, ”material written by the person who delivers it on the air” is exempted from the agreement. The exception applies to shows outside prime-time, which includes NBC’s ”Tonight Show.”
Leno did not mention the dispute during his show Thursday.
For its part, the union argues that it’s on firm ground in the context of either its ”strike rules” or the expired contract.
”Our position is that our strike rules don’t conflict here and, because he’s (Leno) always been employed as a writer” on the show, the contract exception doesn’t apply to him, guild spokesman Neal Sacharow said.
Sacharow declined comment on whether the guild would move against Leno. But he said any violation of strike rules would be brought before a union compliance committee for evaluation and a recommendation for action.