Image of Jimmy Fallon on the set of NBC's 'The Tonight Show.' He is a white man with short, dark hair wearing a black suit with a white buttondown shirt and a maroon tie with white dots on it. He's seated at a wooden desk with a background depicting the New York City skyline.

A Lot of Late-Night Hosts Are Stepping Up To Take Care of Their Striking Writers

On Tuesday, the first day of the Writers’ Guild of America’s (WGA) labor action against the companies represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), we saw that late-night talk shows were going to be the first casualties of the writers’ strike.

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Initially, late-night writers reported being left feeling uncertain about how they were going to make ends meet during the strike. But over the past two days, these shows seem to have worked out their own plans to ensure, at least for the next month, that their teams are taken care of.

The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon

After a Tuesday production meeting for The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, the show’s Senior Photo Research Coordinator, Sarah Kobos, expressed concern about what she and other staff were being told (and not told), saying:

At a meeting Jimmy wasn’t even at, we are told NBC decided to stop paying us after this week and end our health insurance after this month if the strike is ongoing. They won’t even tell us if we will technically be furloughed. Just active employees who aren’t paid. And that we shouldn’t vent to coworkers. I should note that I am non-union and not a striking worker – this was to the rest of the staff and crew. I’m told Seth Meyers was in their zoom production meeting and that he is going to try and take care of his staff and crew after NBC stops paying.

However, as of yesterday, Kobos posted a heartening update:

Late Night With Seth Meyers

Image of Seth Meyers on the set of NBC's 'Late Night with Seth Meyers.' He is a white man with short, brown hair wearing a maroon gingham buttondown shirt. He's seated at a wooden desk with a background depicting the New York City skyline.
(Lloyd Bishop/NBC)

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Seth Meyers, whose show is also on NBC, will be taking the same course of action. This is probably what Kobos was referring to when she mentioned hearing about a Late Night Zoom production meeting. Meyers reportedly said he was “going to try” to take care of his crew after NBC stopped paying.

The writers and crews on both Late Night and The Tonight Show will be getting the following:

  • two weeks of pay from NBC
  • one week of pay paid out of the pockets of their hosts
  • health benefits extended through September

This means that at least through the month of May, the staffs of these shows will continue to be paid. Which is great! But considering the writers’ strike of 2007 lasted just over three months, it is potentially just grazing the surface of what could be needed.

Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert

Image of Stephen Colbert on the set of CBSs 'The late show.' He is a white man with short, dark hair wearing a black suit with a white buttondown shirt and a black tie. He's seated at a wooden desk with a background depicting the New York City at night.
(Scott Kowalchyk/CBS)

Meanwhile, IndieWire reports that Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert, of Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert respectively, have also vowed to pay staffers while their shows are off the air, “just a few years after they each picked up the tab for staff members during the earliest part of the Covid pandemic.” The specifics of how it would work for those shows, however, were not mentioned.

How much will this cost?

IndieWire spoke with several people involved in Hollywood payrolls, and learned “covering the bills will cost each of the late-night hosts several hundred thousand dollars per month — or more.”

They then go into a bit of history to talk about how the late-night talk shows dealt with their staffs back during the 2007 writers’ strike.

IndieWire reports: “A former network executive we spoke with for this story believed a high-six-figure estimate was a bit much, and recalled more of a “stipend” payment system in ’07 vs. a “’full boat’ paycheck.” They go on to explain:

“In 2007, the payroll coverage ran between an estimated $150,000-$250,000 per week, depending on staff size, according to the New York Times. In today’s dollars, that would be roughly $220,000-$365,000. “The Tonight Show,” at the time hosted by Leno, had about 80 non-writing staffers; O’Brien paid his 75-person staff. Letterman, through his Worldwide Pants production company, paid out both his “Late Show” and Craig Ferguson’s “Late Late Show” staff. With Ferguson’s successor James Corden hanging it up last week, there is no more “Late Late Show” or staff.”

It’s good to see this kind of soIidarity between WGA members, members of other unions, and non-union employees at this tumultuous time. Hopefully the companies realize that their entertainment laborers are in it for the long haul, because they know their worth.

(featured image: NBC Universal)

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Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.