The Writers Guild of America (WGA), which has been on strike since Nov. 5, says late-night TV host Jay Leno broke the strike rules by writing his own jokes.
Leno's Tonight Show as well as several other late-night talk shows were all back on air Jan. 2. The shows returned without their writers except for David Letterman's Late Show and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, both owned by an independent company that forged a special deal with the union.
Leno revealed he had prepared a monologue he used on Wednesday night. The union says that's in contravention of its strike rules as Leno himself is a member of the WGA.
About 10,500 WGA members walked off the job on Nov. 5 in a dispute Hollywood studios and networks over how writers should be compensated for work that is distributed on the internet.
During his monologue, Leno said he was "on the side of the writers."
Union officials revealed late Thursday that WGA West president Patric Verrone had a talk with Leno on Thursday.
Guild spokesman Neal Sacharow described the conversation as "very amicable" and refused to call it a reprimand, reiterating that Leno had been a great supporter of the strike.
But there's some confusion about what the strike rules are.
Jonathan Handel, an entertainment lawyer and a former counsel to the union, said the guild's contract "is notoriously difficult to interpret."
Handel points out past contracts have allowed people to perform their own material. He doubts that Leno would be fined or be thrown out the union.
NBC issued a statement defending Leno, saying, "the WGA agreement permits Jay Leno to write his own monologue" for his show.
Meanwhile, fellow late-night host Jimmy Kimmel criticized WGA members for picketing Leno and NBC's Conan O'Brien.
"I think it's ridiculous," Kimmel said. "Jay Leno, he paid his staff while they were out. Conan did the same thing. I don't know. I just think at a certain point you back off a little bit."
Ratings for Leno and his CBS rival David Letterman bounced back as viewers flocked back to their TV sets.
Wednesday's Tonight Show broadcast averaged nearly 7.2 million viewers, up 2.2 million from Leno's pre-strike average.
I dunno, if I was making my own show, I wouldn't be paying someone to tell me what to say... if that was the case it should be their show, not mine.
Jay's monologue from what I understood was something he did while in his comedy runs before the show.... then of course doing the same thing every night, you're gonna need new material, so you get a writter to help out at times. But where do these people get off thinking that it's their right to hold that position and tell someone like Jay not to write their own material for their own show?
I mean I understand why Letterman took the route he did.... he's not even funny with the writters backing him up as it is.... without them, the show would have been in the crapper years ago.
If it was my job and my company, and I had writters bitching and moaning, or anybody bitching and moaning about their job under me, they can take a flying fok into a cactus... Plenty of other more talented people will be willing to work, and maybe it's due to my background in character animation, 3D animation, web design, advertising and all that, but I don't see writting for shows and movies all that difficult, let alone for some late night show where all they do is spout their personal comments of what happened that day.... frig anybody can do that. We do that here everyday.