Sorry for the delay on this. Was in the drippy/sneezy phase of a bad cold last night and realized I needed to sleep about five minutes into Letterman. So I'm going to be working my way slowly through all the late night shows as the day goes along. First up, after the jump: Letterman and Leno...
I don't think it's any secret that I'm pro-WGA on this strike. I was happy to see Letterman get the waiver to bring back his writers and hoped that his guys would wipe the floor comedically with Leno to prove their value.
That having been said, I hate to say it, but Leno flying solo was probably more entertaining than Letterman fully staffed.
Jay wasn't spectacularly funny with his monologue, or his audience Q&A (a bit that Dave also resorted to, albeit with some weak writer-provided punchlines), but there was a liveliness and spontaneity to him that you don't get from Scripted Jay. Some of the punchlines failed, some landed (the riff about why women would want to join Al Qaeda was nice), but for the first time in a long time, Jay reminded me that he once was (and in some ways still is) the hardest-working stand-up in the business. Too often, the Leno version of "Tonight" tries too hard to please everybody, but Jay seemed to leave the focus grouping behind, particularly during the Q&A segment, when he didn't try to hide how silly he found most of the questions.
Dave, meanwhile, came back and did basically the same show he always does. There were some pro-writer touches like the kickline of dancers holding picket signs, or "Late Show" writer Bill Scheft interrupting a prop gag at the tail end of the Q&A to deliver a rant aimed at "the arrogant media moguls who've gotten so fat on our sweat-soaked toil that they can no longer fit behind their mahogany desks," but for the most part, it was "Late Show" as usual. The monologue was the standard meta-commentary about how bad the monologue is (this time punctuated by Biff coming out to ask when the writers would be coming back), and if there were great punchlines in the Top 10 list of striking writers' demands, the halting delivery by 10 of those striking writers stepped on them.
Really, "Late Show" didn't come to life until Robin Williams sat down for the first guest segment and began riffing on Dave's strike beard. Not a bad episode, but also not a clear-cut "This is why the writers are so important" statement.
Back in early afternoon, hopefully, without thoughts on Conan, Kimmel and Ferguson.