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Monday, January 21, 2008

Colbert, Stewart, Maher

posted by on January 21 at 11:34 AM

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).

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Don't be dissing the Suite Life of Zac and Cody.

Posted by J.R. | January 21, 2008 11:38 AM

If Jay Leno called, you'd totally come.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | January 21, 2008 11:49 AM

@2: I doubt that Dan would come for Jay Leno.

I completely agree on all fronts. The WGA is in a difficult situation with all of this, given that it's easier to squeeze programs with very short turnaround times. But for many people, this is the only real form of critical news coverage that they are going to consume, and as much as we'd like to decry our lack of political engagement, it would be that much worse if Limbaugh and Hannity were to stay on the air during the strike without Maher, Stewart, and Colbert as counterpoints.

That being said, Leno and Kimmel are fucking scabs.

Posted by bma | January 21, 2008 12:10 PM

I saw the show, and you were SPOT ON with you're responses - you were fantastic, intelligent, quick on your feet, and relentless in your advocacy of equal rights for gay people.

Cheers, and thanks.

Posted by Carmen | January 21, 2008 12:12 PM

Thanks for addressing this, Dan. I'm in agreement with most of your defense. The brilliant sunshine and the lure of the great outdoors will keep me from arguing anything else.

Glad you got to spend time with the fam this weekend. That's the shit that really matters.

Posted by kerri harrop | January 21, 2008 12:19 PM

I totally support the writers, and I hope the WGA prevails in getting a better contract. I totally think they deserve residuals.

That being said, I agree with your viewpoint, Dan. I don't have a problem with you going on Maher. As long as Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh are still on the air, we need to keep Colbert, Stewart, and Maher on the air. They are humor shows, but they are also political viewpoints that we cannot afford to have silenced because of an entertainment writers strike. Those shows are operating without their writers, which I think is the ethical thing to do.

Posted by SDA in SEA | January 21, 2008 12:23 PM

Thanks, Kerri. I doubt that ecce will be mollified--and he liked me so much before this incident came between us--but I'm relieved to be back in your good graces. xo.

Posted by Dan Savage | January 21, 2008 12:36 PM

Dan - couldn't agree more. I hope you're a regular on Maher. Fucking great stuff.

Posted by Chad | January 21, 2008 12:36 PM

#3...why should Dan be any different than Mrs Leno?

Posted by michael strangeways | January 21, 2008 12:38 PM

why don't you just wear ecce's scorn like the badge of honor it is.

Posted by ellarosa | January 21, 2008 12:58 PM

Look Dan, your defense is is why:

The programs are not public services, as you imply, that are made with the public's good in mind. They are money making machines for their parent company's, their producers, their hosts, and their sponsors (in the case of the daily show, etc...) Even if you didn't use any written material, you helped break the back of the negotiating writers by helping to minimize their sole bargaining chip. By helping get these shows on the air by providing content, you are helping Viacom, Time Warner, etc... to subvert pressure from being exerted by the strike, that pressure being the lack of writers and lack of content.

Maher may write his monolougue, and Stewert may write his little one liners (which is why both have sucked since they came back on the air) and they are scabs too. You just threw in with them as well.

So please, quit your "They are neccesary for the public debate" crap. You went on, had a little fun at someone elses expense in your video, then yucked it up with a couple of professional entertainers. Please, avoid this pathetic argument that this is the same as going on Frontline, Leher, etc. You got your pay, you got some more exposure, got to be a celebrity for a night, and meanwhile helped keep some writers from working.

You are a scab,

No matter how many number of twenty something adolescent sycophants come on SLOG to defend every one of your moves, it will never change the fact that you are a scab and NO friend of labor.

You SHOULD probably vote for Huckabee.

Posted by ecce homo | January 21, 2008 1:13 PM

Oh, ecce. I love you.

Posted by Dan Savage | January 21, 2008 1:22 PM

If David Letterman called, he'd totally come.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | January 21, 2008 1:30 PM

Can't refute my point Dan?

I actually suspect you feel guilty about this. I don't think you are a sociopath.

I think your pathological need for attention and acceptance put you in a place where you did something regrettable, like help break a strike. I doubt you gave it much thought at the time do to your excitement about being on with Bill et al. But in the aftermath, the appropriate thing to do would be to accept what you did, acknowledge that you were wrong for having done it, and move on.

Your excuse was/is insulting to the intelligence of many SLOG commenters.

Be a man, admit your fault and move on. Stop with the "they are a social institution that serve the public good, so I can break the strike" crap.

Posted by ecce homo | January 21, 2008 1:36 PM

I actually do get a lot of my news and views from those shows. Nearly every time Maher's over, I've learned something that's made me angrier or more depressed - learned this week that Huckabee has absolutely no positions on anything. Previously learned, that Blackwater is run by a Christian supremist and that Bush believes in the end of days.

You go watch Good Morning America or the news with Katie Couric, and tell me where Americans are getting their news from. There right has blurred the line to keep Americans uninformed, and the left has blurred it to try and amuse ourselves as Rome burns.

I'm guessing that ecce would argue that Fox News is a news channel, and it sure has a lot less to do with reporting the truth about what's going on than the Daily Show does.

I thought Dan was great on Maher. The seating made him look like Bill's minion, but I really thought he did a good job of chipping in at appropriate moments - when did cows stopping f'ing indeed! Has a hillbilly ever been exposed so completely?

Posted by left coast | January 21, 2008 1:50 PM

With all respect, Dan, I actually think everything you wrote was a big rationalization, because you feel a bit guilty.

Ecce homo is right -- none of these shows is a public serivce. And those guys going back on the air have compromised the bargaining power of the guild.

You did what you did for your own reasons, but please don't elevate it to "public good."

Posted by ahava | January 21, 2008 1:56 PM

hmmmm....actually, technically, we are ALL scabs. Everytime we WATCH television, (regardless if it's a rerun or not, or a scripted or a non-scripted program), or pay to see a film, you're supporting the management of the multi-national media companies that the writer's are striking against. TV makes its money from ads, and the rates they charge are determined by the number of viewers. So even if you're watching a non-WGA show like "American Idol" or "Project Runway" or even a re-run of "Ugly Betty" you're still putting money into the pockets of Fox and Universal and Disney who own those shows.

It doesn't really stop with tv and film since all the big media conglomerates also own web based companies, book and magazine publishers, video game companies, etc...I'm guessing that over 90% of ALL entertainment is either partially or completely owned or affliated with these companies, so we're all guilty of not supporting the writers everytime we buy a Simon & Schuster published book (Viacom) or the new Hannah Montana album (Disney).

just sayin'....

Posted by michael strangeways | January 21, 2008 1:57 PM

The mainstream media sucks.

But it's only through some over intellectualized post modern brain retardation can you say that the Daily Show, Realtime, etc... are "news" programs.

They are more derivative of news programs, who themselves are derivative of reporting being done by a select few number of actual reporters.

But please, don't put people like Robert Mac, the little asian guy from KING, who occasionally does some good stuff, or the grandmaster himself Bill Moyer on the same pedestal as Susan Bee, John Stewert, or Bill Maher.

If Bill didn't have his writers, he would be as banal as Leno, only slightly more mysogynistic.

Otherwise, you people really need to start getting your news from some real sources, and not a once a weak Bill Maher, who simply yabbers on about surrent events that you can find out about through 1000 ways during the week.

Posted by ecce homo | January 21, 2008 1:59 PM

The return of ecce makes it all worthwhile. I was having a pretty shitty day until I looked at this thread.

I wonder if ecce will respect the gay wedding strike? That means no gay advice or service of any kind for weddings until we have full marriage rights.

We won't really need to picket straight weddings. Just deny them gay access as far as flowers, food, music, clothing design, priesthood, guests, etc. Things will turn around quick when we strike them in "The Most Important Day of Their Lives".

I am feeling rather fed up with it all today, and knowing ecce is putting his energy into Dan's "misconduct" as a symbol of everything that is gay is just the cherry on the fucking cake.

Posted by It's Mark Mitchell | January 21, 2008 2:00 PM

Scabs often have a great rationalization for breaking a strike.
They're still scabs, viewing themselves and their individualistic self-important motives as more important than the lives and cause of striking workers. Dan's a progressive, except when it's inconvenient.

Posted by suren~o | January 21, 2008 2:08 PM

I'd like it to be noted, since nobody else has mentioned it, that Sullivan is a tool.

Posted by elenchos | January 21, 2008 2:12 PM

If Jimmy Kimmell called, I don't think Dan would come.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | January 21, 2008 2:16 PM

@17 Amen, Mr. Strangeways.

Posted by It's Mark Mitchell | January 21, 2008 2:18 PM

ecce homo is really terry miller, and this is a twisted sort of foreplay.

Posted by scary tyler moore | January 21, 2008 2:20 PM



Sullivan is another attention starved media whore who would justify the castration of his much beloved nephew if he could get a little more face time on some national TV show.

Posted by ecce homo | January 21, 2008 2:23 PM

agreeing with point made by ecce homo...brain melting...
please also see Stewart's legendary Crossfire appearance in which he vehemently denies being a news show...

Posted by TeamCanada | January 21, 2008 2:42 PM

I hate to agree with ecce homo, and I don't really (except perhaps when it comes to Andrew Sullivan), but I won't watch Stewart or Colbert until the WGA strike is over. This is not easy. These are my two favorite shows, and I've seen every non-strike episode of Colbert and every Daily Show episode for several years running (thanks to TiVo).

I realize that they support the strike, financially supported the strikers on their staff, and are not technically writing content (though this is debatable). I also realize that there are few if any active pickets of either show, and that most WGA members have some sympathy for the bind Stewart and Colbert are in. Still, they're strike-targeted shows, with writers who aren't getting paid, and I don't want to financially support their sponsors until there's a deal. That's solidarity, and it's important.

I don't have a problem with people watching the show, and I wouldn't call Jon Stewart a scab. But I would just feel morally compromised if I watched either show.

Maher, on the other hand, I don't watch, so no loss there.

Posted by Cascadian | January 21, 2008 3:04 PM

Dan knows he fucked up. That is why there will be no future appearances by him on this thread. His silence speaks volumes.

Posted by ecce homo | January 21, 2008 3:07 PM

I'm not one to agree with ecce--at least in tone--but this does smack of rationalization. If you want to contribute to a legitimate news source, you can do so--but appearing on a television entertainment that very obviously only works using the talents of Guild writers is disingenuous in the extreme.

The show sucked except for your segment. That says it all.

Posted by Boomer in NYC | January 21, 2008 3:37 PM

Here I am, ecce, and I love you still!

Nothing more to say. My post speaks for itself, and I have a paper to get out and can't spend all day lurking in this comments thread. My silence isn't a sign that I'm drowning in guilt or regret. I simply have nothing more to say. I see Colbert, Stewart and Maher's shows as legit sources of news (and humor), and I'm not the only person that feels that way. I've already said that. It's why I went on Maher--and would go on Colbert again or Stewart, if asked.

I don't think I fucked up. Signing off...

Posted by Dan Savage | January 21, 2008 3:43 PM

Then you are a scab of the worst kind. You are proud that you are involved with helping subvert the WGA strike.

Oh, and just so you know, you are not a journalist. You are an entertainer. Don't confuse what you do as a public service either.

Posted by ecce homo | January 21, 2008 3:48 PM

Damn, ecce. And you were such a fan before this! I really blew it. Sorry, man. One day I'll win back your affections. Until then... I remain... your lover, ecce, your gay lover.

Posted by Dan Savage | January 21, 2008 3:57 PM

once again, don't see much distinction from appearing on "Real Time with Bill Maher" from appearing on a CNN show from contributing to a piece in Time magazine. They're ALL owned by Time-Warner and every time you support ANY of their products, you support the parent company and therefore are undermining the cause of the Writer's Guild. So unless y'all are boycotting ALL media products produced by the big media giants and quietly sitting at home watching good ole American made porn, (non-union AND independently owned, well, at least owned by relatively small corporations), you shouldn't be so quick to judge.

Posted by michael strangeways | January 21, 2008 4:12 PM


When the WGA starts picketing or makes a statement against CNN, then CNN will be involved in the strike. It isn't and to continue to bring it into the conversation is a red herring intended to let Dan off the hook for being a scumbag scab. You honestly don't see the difference? Are you attempting to wax slightly poetic in your exhibited understanding of what the strike is about? Either way, your point makes aboslutely no sense.

If you are a progressive, then you should support the efforts of our brothers and sisters in organized labor.
If you make a living, like Dan does, with the creative written word, then you should stand arm in arm with striking writers.

However, seeing that so many here, including Dan, are shortsighted and self-absorbed, solidarity means nothing if it gets in the way of your evening funnies or career aspirations.


Posted by ecce homo | January 21, 2008 4:29 PM

no, you're just a hypocrite.

I adore people that get up on their soapboxes and point fingers and make broad statements about what is right and wrong, but don't bother to look at the bigger picture or care to admit that they aren't really as committed to their cause as they think they are.

And the left is very much guilty of this...all the earnest folks wearing their American Apparel T-shirts and Gap khackis and driving 50 miles in their Prius's to attend a protest rally, and flying in jumbo jets to Costa Rica to stay in eco-friendly resorts for a week or two. Or not eating at Taco Bell because the tomatoes are picked by underpaid migrant workers, yet eating the exact same tomatoes at a local bistro that WERE PICKED BY THE EXACT SAME WORKERS

Or supporting a Writer's Strike by criticizing someone for going on a tv show, then going home to watch 4 hours of tv, or sending in their payment to AOL or heading off to the newsstand to buy their latest copies of Time and Sports Illustrated or Entertainment Weekly.

its all the same...

Posted by michael strangeways | January 21, 2008 4:46 PM

Hey ecce homo: The man's name is Bill Moyers, not "Moyer". Get it right.

Posted by DOUG. | January 21, 2008 4:57 PM

slog comments would be really boring if it weren't for blatant sock puppetry by sloggers and their significant others.

there is so much duplicity involved it's hard to keep a grip on reality. but those ad clicks keep rolling in! CA-CHING!

Posted by some dude | January 21, 2008 5:25 PM


Lick my sweaty taint.


ecce homo

Posted by ecce homo | January 21, 2008 5:40 PM

Dan would screw a goat on TV if he thought he would sell a few more books, get a regular TV deal, get on the radio more often or gets his "advice" column in a couple more rags.

Cha Ching Cha Ching... It must be da money. Screw the working man.

Posted by ecce homo | January 21, 2008 5:42 PM

Oh My God. I agree with Ecce. I momentarily take back everything I have ever said about him. Sort of.

You should never cross a picket line, Dan. And if you do, you shouldn't try to justify it to anyone. The deed is done.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | January 21, 2008 7:44 PM

Oh, you silly old people and your antiquated network programming.

Televisions are for 1) Xbox 360 and 2) the Super Bowl.

Posted by brent | January 21, 2008 8:24 PM

I strongly support any efforts to marginalize the strikers. Aside from my disdain for unions in general, anything that could diminish the hold television has over the general public is a win for society. The quality of network television was terrible before. Imagine the decline in quality with the lack of talented writers (who for the most part were only creating terrible work because of the constraints put on network television).

If this strike can not be resolved, my hope is that talented writers will finally be freed from the constraints of watered down network television. I hope they use that freedom to pursue truly creative works for direct distribution through the Internet. The death of broadcast television can't come too soon.

Posted by Ryan | January 22, 2008 3:58 PM

Ryan, you bimbo, the reason the writers are striking in the first place is because they want a piece of the action on the stuff they do on the internet.

I can see why you have "disdain" for the unions: You're an idiot.

Posted by Retard is as retard does.... | January 22, 2008 6:37 PM

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