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An NBC spokesperson is suddenly telling me new and important behind-the-scenes details about Leno and his Tonight Show monologue which the WGA isn’t. That, on Monday at WGA headquarters, Jay Leno set up a meeting with WGA West president Patric Verrone and The Tonight Show writers and some other WGA members and informed them he was going to write and perform his own monologue when he went back on the air Wednesday. “Patric Verrone said, ‘We’re going to look the other way.’ And there were a lot of witnesses in that room,” the spokesperson just told me. “So if Patric Verrone now disputes that he told Jay he could do the monologue, why weren’t there further actions by the WGA between Monday and Wednesday?”
As everyone now knows, Leno not only delivered his trademark standup opening last night, he also admitted that he’d written his own monologue. The NBC spokesperson tells me that, after I broke the story on Deadline Hollywood Daily that Leno — a WGA union member like almost all of the late night TV hosts — broke the guild’s strike rules by writing his own monologue, “reached out” to Verrone again this morning.
“Jay called Verrone to restate and rediscuss what had been agreed to on Monday. And at that point Verrone said, ‘You’re in violation.’ And Jay said, ‘I’m not. We talked about this on Monday. And I support the writers. I support the union. I’m within my legal right to do this monologue.’ ”
The NBC spokesperson characterized it as “a cordial conversation”. But the network and the Leno were surprised by the WGA terse statement this afternoon: “A discussion took place today between Jay Leno and the Writers Guild to clarify to him that writing for The Tonight Show constitutes a violation of the Guilds’ strike rules.”
Soon after, NBC issued its own statement: “The WGA agreement permits Jay Leno to write his own monologue for The Tonight Show. The WGA is not permitted to implement rules that conflict with the terms of the collective bargaining agreement between the studios and the WGA.”
Now I hear NBC is consulting with its lawyers to figure this all out. But I’m told that the network and Leno are both pissed at what they see as the WGA’s talking-out-of-both-sides-of-its-mouth behavior here. “Especially considering that no one has been more supportive of the striking writers than Jay,” the NBC spokesperson told me.
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