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Late Night Hosts to Pay Their Staffs Personally

Late-night TV was the first domino to fall after the WGA strike began on May 2. Television’s entire slate of late-night programming — with the exception of Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live and Fox News’s Gutfeld — has gone dark. The uncertainty of these shows’ futures has raised questions about the fate of the non-striking staff members: Will they continue to be paid for the duration of the strike? Will their health benefits be interrupted? Will networks try to use their financial status as leverage to try to pressure hosts back to work? Long-term, these questions remain, but on May 3, it was reported that employees of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night With Seth Meyers will be getting a little bit of cushion to tide them over for the time being. Employees of both productions will continue to be paid for at least three weeks of hiatus, with two of the weeks being funded by NBC and an extra week of compensation being covered by Fallon and Meyers themselves. Their health-care coverage has also been extended until September.

However, on May 16 the Huffington Post and Fallon crew members reported that they would no longer be paid after this week. “We (non-union staff who aren’t writers) will be put on an “unpaid leave of absence” during the strike,” tweets crew member Sarah Kobos. Fallon and Meyers both agreed to cover an additional week of pay but as the strike enters its third week, the rest of the summer feels uncertain. There’s no word yet on the status of the staffers from Meyers’s team.

The move mirrors that which was taken by late-night hosts during the last writers’ strike in 2007–2008, when Conan O’Brien, Jay Leno, David Letterman, and Jimmy Kimmel stepped up to the plate to pay their crews while their shows were off the air. Late-night hosts similarly paid their employees’ salaries from their own pockets when their productions were shut down due to the pandemic in 2020. Meyers and Fallon have both expressed support for their writers publicly, with Meyers calling their demands “very reasonable” and Fallon saying “they got to get a fair deal.”

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