Housekeeping Colbert, Stewart, Maher
posted by January 21 at 11:34 AMon
I put my computer away on Friday night after going on Real Time with Bill Maher and didn’t open it again until this morning—I wanted to focus on the family for the the weekend after being on the road for nearly ten days straight (Vegas, Portland, South Carolina, LA). So I missed the calls in this comment thread on this post about my going on Maher’s show despite the writers’ strike. For the record…
Basically I agree with—big shocker here—Andrew Sullivan, who wrote this after going on Colbert:
I should add that I totally support the Writers’ Guild of America in their attempt to get paid for crucial Internet residuals. The show didn’t use any written material, and I never do in public speaking. I was asked to go on a national TV show to talk about the election, and promote my recent Atlantic cover-story. And I hope the WGA wins their battle.
To that I would add…
Colbert, Stewart, and Maher aren’t merely entertainment programs. They are, for a huge number of people, news programs, no different than the evening newscasts on ABC, NBC, and CBS, all of which are still on the air despite the strike. A huge number of people—you know, voting voters who vote—get info about politics, candidates, and elections from Colbert, Stewart, and Maher. Yes, there’s a writers’ strike on. There’s also an election on. I’m not prepared to sit out an unavoidable, hugely important conversation about this election because of the strike—and converse was all I did on Maher. Talk, not write. Nothing was scripted. I view going on Maher the same way I view going on CNN or MSNBC or NPR.
I didn’t, and wouldn’t, start writing scripts for non-news entertainment programs like, say, Lost or The Suite Life of Zac and Cody. Nor would I go on a show that was purely entertainment, like the Tonight Show (not that I’ve ever been, or ever would be, asked, so that’s easy for me to say, I realize).
At the beginning of the strike I thought the WGA should make an exception for programs like Colbert and Maher’s, and it was a tactical error not to do so. They’re too important, and the stakes are too high, to have Colbert, Stewart, and Maher’s perspective off the air/cable/Internets during this election. Again, these programs may be run by entertainment divisions, they go for laughs, but at heart they’re news programs.
Finally, I didn’t cross a picket line — there wasn’t one at the studio. And I was relieved because I really would’ve felt terrible crossing a picket line for the first time in my life… sitting in the back seat of a limo (a town car, actually, with tinted windows).