Stewart and Colbert Won't Stay Out in the Cold

"The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," above, and "The Colbert Report" will return to Comedy Central on Jan. 7 despite the ongoing writers' strike. (By Peter Kramer -- Getty Images)
By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, December 21, 2007

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are the latest late-night show hosts returning to the air.

Pending some miraculous breakthrough in the writers' strike, "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report" will be coming back Jan. 7 without their writing staffs.

Stewart and Colbert are also members of the Writers Guild of America, but are, in theory, returning in their capacity as performers and producers, not writers.

Which raises the question: Who's going to write Stewart's opening bit on the breaking news of the day, for instance? And how about his show's "from-the-field" segments with "correspondents"? Meanwhile, Colbert's show is a nightly half-hour of bloviation -- how's he going to pull that off if he can't write it?

"We would like to return to work with our writers. If we cannot, we would like to express our ambivalence, but without our writers we are unable to express something as nuanced as ambivalence," the two men said in a joint statement.

Sadly, neither would say anything beyond their statement. Which was written. Which will not be happening on their shows. Which, we should point out here, rely on written material far more than the Leno and Letterman shows.

Stewart and Colbert are coming back five days after NBC's Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien, ABC's Jimmy Kimmel and, presumably, CBS's David Letterman and Craig Ferguson. That's not because Stewart and Colbert are generous men and want to give their competition a head start. It's because the two Comedy Central shows always take off the last week of the old year and the first week of the new year.

Like their late-night colleagues, Stewart's and Colbert's shows were plunged into repeats on Nov. 5 when entertainment industry writers went on strike in a feud with the major producing conglomerates -- including Comedy Central parent Viacom -- over payment for shows that run on the Internet and other so-called "new media."

Letterman and Ferguson are the only two of the bunch who have not yet announced a return date. Letterman's Worldwide Pants company, which produces both shows, is supposed to meet with the Writers Guild today to try to work out an interim deal that would enable those shows to return with their writers.

"We continue to hold out hope for a swift resolution to the current stalemate that will enable the shows to be complete again," Comedy Central said wistfully in yesterday's announcement.

A spokesman for the Writers Guild said putting Stewart and Colbert back on the air without writers "is not going to get the viewers the quality shows they expect."

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