How Will the WGA Strike Affect Late-Night TV?

Fallon, Colbert, and Kimmel are among the shows that will be off the air — starting now.
Photo-Illustration: Vulture. Photos: NBC; CBS; ABC

It’s official: The Writers’ Guild of America strike has begun. The news was announced on May 1 after last-minute attempts to reach an agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) broke down ahead of the final bargaining deadline. Late-night television shows will be the first productions to be affected, since they’re unable to bank episodes ahead of time due to their topical content. These shows are technically allowed to remain on air according to WGA rules, but if they do, they’ll bear little resemblance to the shows you know and love. They’ll feature no monologues or prewritten sketches and desk bits — just guest interviews and other unscripted passages of time. Look no further than this clip of Late Night With Conan O’Brien during last WGA strike in 2007–8, in which O’Brien wastes time on the air by timing how long he can spin his wedding ring on his desk. The immediate future of late night may very well be this bleak.

Here’s everything we know so far:

When the WGA went on strike on November 5, 2007, The Tonight Show Starring Jay Leno, Late Night With Conan O’Brien, The Late Show With David Letterman, The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, Real Time With Bill Maher, and Last Call With Carson Daly all halted production immediately. About six weeks later, when negotiations between the WGA and AMPTP broke down, all of these shows announced plans to return to the air in January 2008, citing a need to get their other crew members back to work. (Last Call With Carson Daly was the sole show to return earlier.) The Late Show and The Late Late Show were able to return to air with writers because Letterman’s Worldwide Pants company licensed both properties to CBS, allowing it to negotiate a separate deal with the WGA. All other shows were produced without writers until the conclusion of the WGA strike on February 12, 2008. With the exception of Carson Daly, all other late-night hosts were able to secure payment for their non-striking staffs during their periods off the air, either through working with the network (Colbert and Stewart) or by paying their salaries out of their own funds (Leno, Letterman, Kimmel, and O’Brien).

The late-night shows currently airing include The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Late Night With Seth Meyers, The Daily Show, Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, Real Time With Bill Maher, and yes, Fox News’s Gutfeld!. Saturday Night Live is also in the middle of its 48th season. Most networks have yet to offer official comment on the immediate future of these shows, but as this story develops, here’s what is currently known.

The Amber Ruffin Show: In February 2023, Peacock confirmed that it would produce “specials” of The Amber Ruffin Show going forward as opposed to weekly episodes. The show wrapped up its last run of episodes in December 2022 and is not currently airing. Peacock has not announced any upcoming special episodes of the show.

The Daily Show: Production on new episodes of The Daily Show will be halted starting May 2, and Comedy Central will air reruns in its time slot. Comedy Central has yet to confirm the implications of this interruption for current guest host Dulcé Sloan and other confirmed guest hosts on the upcoming schedule, like Charlamagne Tha God, Michelle Wolf, and Desus Nice.

Gutfeld!: A representative for Fox News confirmed to Vulture that Gutfeld! “is not impacted by the writers’ strike” and that the writing staff employed on the show are “non-WGA.”

Jimmy Kimmel Live!: Kimmel made a brief reference to the WGA strike during Jimmy Kimmel Live! on May 1, referencing the guests scheduled to appear on the show later in the week “unless something terrible happens.” ABC will air reruns in place of new episodes of Jimmy Kimmel Live! starting May 2. Kimmel is currently paying his non-striking staff.

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver:  Last Week Tonight With John Oliver will go dark beginning May 2. HBO has yet to announce its plans for the show’s time slot.

Late Night With Seth Meyers: Meyers expressed solidarity with the WGA in the “Corrections” segment of the April 28 episode of Late Night. “No one is entitled to a job in show business,” he said. “But for those people who have a job in show business, they are entitled to fair compensation. They are entitled to make a living. I think it’s a very reasonable demand that is being set out by the guild, and I support those demands.” Noting that he’s a writer himself, Meyers also said, “Strong writing is essential to this show. It’s essential to any show where the host is at best a C+ performer.” Meyers is paying his non-striking staff. NBC will air reruns in place of Late Night starting May 2.

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert: During the May 1 episode of The Late Show, Colbert spoke of the looming WGA strike, shared a photo of his writers, and noted that their “demands are not unreasonable.” He expressed his support for unions and said the show would not go on without their labor. The show will go dark beginning May 2, and CBS will air reruns in its time slot. Colbert is currently paying his non-striking staff.

Real Time With Bill Maher: Real Time With Bill Maher will go dark starting May 2. HBO has yet to announce its plans for the show’s time slot.

Saturday Night Live: The sketch-comedy show was originally set to air its next new episode on May 6 with first-time host and former cast member Pete Davidson. NBC confirmed on May 2 that the episode was canceled and that SNL will air repeats until further notice.

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon: The Tonight Show will halt production on new episodes beginning May 2, and NBC will air reruns in its time slot. “I support my writers,” Fallon told reporters on the Met Gala red carpet on May 1. “We have a lot of staff and crew that will be affected by this but, you know, they got to get a fair deal.” Non-striking Tonight Show staff were paid for three weeks of the strike, with two weeks of compensation covered by NBC and an additional week covered by Fallon personally, but were placed on unpaid leave after the conclusion of this window on May 19.

Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen: Watch What Happens Live does not employ writers. The show remains in production. Cohen has yet to address the strike publicly.

This post will be updated as new information becomes available.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *