Watercooler Talk: What is the definition of "writing?"
I'm behind the writers 100%, but that doesn't mean I understand what's going on.
The WGA rules state that during the strike, the hosts of the late night shows cannot write their own material or do their monologues (except for Letterman and Ferguson, who made their own deal to get their writers back). Leno is in trouble for writing his own jokes. Leno says he got some special deal from the WGA, but the WGA says that he can't write a monologue. But what exactly is "writing?"
Last night, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report returned to Comedy Central, without writers. Both shows were very entertaining. Stewart talked a lot about the strike and even interviewed a strike expert, and Colbert did a running bit about not having anything on the teleprompters to read and then he interviewed The Atlantic Monthly's Andrew Sullivan.
But it got me thinking: why are Stewart and Colbert allowed to do even that much material? Isn't that writing? Even though they're not obviously "scripted" bits, they're still bits. You mean to tell me that neither Stewart nor Colbert (nor O'Brien, Kimmel, and Daly, for that matter) planned any of those words ahead of time? Not the interview portion of their shows, I'm talking about the comedy bits they did. Just because there isn't a script in front of them or words on a prompter doesn't mean that they're just winging the whole thing from the top of their heads. Of course they planned some of this ahead of time. I can understand why Leno is getting flack, because he not only admitted that he's writing his jokes but you can tell clearly that they are jokes because they're in a monologue format. But what Stewart, Colbert and the others are doing ... why is it OK to do that with the strike going on?
Just so I'm clear, I don't see anything wrong with what they're doing. Not at all. I'm just trying to figure out exactly where "ad libbing" ends and "writing" begins, what amount of writing is acceptable and what amount goes against WGA rules.