LIKE YOU, I'm tired of watching reruns of late-night comedy while TV writers are on strike. But that doesn't mean I'm happy that several shows - Leno, Letterman, Jon Stewart and others - are coming back.
I spend my late nights with Jon Stewart - actually "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."
And while I've missed Jon these past few weeks, there's something that bothers me more.
That's the thought that Jon Stewart, who has made me laugh instead of cry through seven years of the Bush presidency, is - dare I say it - a strikebreaker!
For someone like me, who grew up in a union household, that's lower than pond scum.
I realize "The Daily Show" skewers the left as well as the right. Still, I've always thought of Stewart as a liberal. That's why I am appalled that he would cross a picket line, especially one walked by writers.
Stewart issued a joint statement with Stephen Colbert, who is also returning to Comedy Central with The Colbert Report:
"We would like to return to work with our writers. If we cannot, we would like to express our ambivalence, but without our writers we are unable to express something as nuanced as ambivalence."
Cute. Clearly they can write their own stuff. Both Stewart and Colbert are even members of the Writers Guild of America, the striking union!
Stewart may face a greater challenge if, as host of the Oscars, he has to be funny for more than three hours without the help of writers.
As a writer myself, albeit part time, I believe this strike has particular merit. As movies and television are increasingly viewed on computers and cell phones, the big corporations that own TV networks and movie studios are looking forward to pulling in more and more profits from these and other new media platforms. Writers who help create the product should share in this wealth and be compensated, rather than have their earnings limited to TV and movie screens, where viewing is diminishing.
That's what this strike is about, which is why both sides have dug in their heels.
At the upcoming Golden Globe Awards, members of the Writers Guild plan to picket wearing their red-carpet best tuxedos and gowns. Several award-nominees - Katherine Heigl, James McAvoy, Glenn Close, Jeremy Piven - have vowed not to cross the picket line to attend the ceremonies. Steven Spielberg, who is to receive an award for his lifetime contributions to the entertainment industry, is still undecided. To avoid such a debacle, the Globes may not be televised.
Ellen DeGeneres, on the other hand, became a strikebreaker after only one day out - one day for the livelihood of the writers who make her funny, when she cried for a week over her dog!
The strike, which has lasted seven weeks so far, has not only divided actors, it has divided unions as well.
Mike Barnes, business manager of the Philadelphia local of the stagehands union, applauds those crossing the picket line, saying of Stewart, "I'm glad he's going back because now all the stagehands who aren't collecting a paycheck can get back to work."
Patrick Eiding, president of the Philadelphia Council of the AFL-CIO, says the opposite. "Don't tell me you're a brother or sister in the labor movement. If one doesn't stand up for the other, where's the solidarity?"
And solidarity is what the labor movement is all about.
When Jon Stewart and the others help put their shows on the air, they generate profits for the producers, diminishing the power of the strike. That means there's less incentive for the producers to offer enough at the bargaining table to end the strike and bring the writers - along with the stagehands and all the others - back to work.
When Stewart and his fellow late-night hosts cross the picket line to put on their shows, it only makes it tougher for the writers they have worked with day after day, and who don't get the big bucks the stars do.
I adore Jon Stewart, especially the way that he, with the help of his writers, sticks pins in the ballooning egos of powerful people.
So like the little boy who looked up at Shoeless Joe Jackson when he heard his hero had thrown a game, I can only plead, "Say it ain't so, Jon!" *