“Tonight Show” Update: Leno to pay staffers after all

Leno This just in: Jay Leno will now indeed pay “Tonight Show” staffers their salaries through at least next week.

According to a source close to the show, Leno plans to extend the pay (to around 100 staffers) on a week-by-week basis, with the hope that a strike will be settled soon.

Leno has been hit by heavy criticism over the past day or two, after “Tonight Show” staffers received their pink slips from NBC on Friday — with no word from Leno that he might be willing to pick up the slack and pay their salaries for the time being. In comparison, “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” host Conan O’Brien had previously agreed to pay his staff’s paychecks out of his own pocket once NBC cut them off (which also happened on Friday) — causing quite a bit of grumbling in the “Tonight Show” camp.

Here’s what one staffer told Variety on Friday:

“We haven’t heard from him since the second or third day of the strike,” said a former Leno staffer. “He called on speakerphone while we were in our daily meeting and said, ‘Don’t look for other jobs, no one’s going to lose their house, we’ll get though this.’ Two weeks ago, we got the heads up that we had two more weeks (of pay) and that’s it. Everyone wondered, ‘Is Jay going to come through?’ And nothing happened. Conan makes less and he said, ‘I’m going to pay for my people.’ ”

Insiders say Leno was caught off guard by the heavy dose of criticism. According to a source close to the show, the Christmas bonuses handed out by Leno on Friday (believed to be $100 times the number of years a recipient has been on staff) were never meant to be in lieu of a paycheck.

Instead, one source said Leno had been optimistic about the talks between the WGA and AMPTP, and didn’t believe he’d necessarily have to worry about his staff.

“He never said he wouldn’t pay the staff,” a source said. “He is paying them next week.”

Even with the NBC pinkslips, and no guarantee (until now) that they would be paid by Leno, the show’s bookers were still planning on visiting the “Tonight Show” offices on Wednesday — to make sure the show still has guests on tap, in the event that (a) the strike is settled, or (b) the “Tonight Show” resumes broadcasting, perhaps with guest hosts.

— Michael Schneider

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  1. Lisa says:

    Well WGA writer, I doubt the support staff at Jay’s show appreciates him refusing to break the picket line. They’re the ones who face losing their jobs at Christmas. NBC shouldn’t have to pay people for doing nothing. That’s not how a business works. It’s the WGA selfish brats doing this to those families.
    I have no sympathy for a bunch of immature blowhards who think threatening the livelihoods of innocent families is a viable option.

  2. Lisa says:

    Well WGA writer, I doubt the support staff at Jay’s show appreciates him refusing to break the picket line. They’re the ones who face losing their jobs at Christmas. NBC shouldn’t have to pay people for doing nothing. That’s not how a business works. It’s the WGA selfish brats doing this to those families.
    I have no sympathy for a bunch of immature blowhards who think threatening the livelihoods of innocent families is a viable option.

  3. Joan says:

    Please… I have been laid off too. I haven’t found a good paying job in the last two years but I have savings and still pay my bills. I refuse to collect unemployment or government handouts.
    People are complaining and bitching after 2 weeks!!! Go work in the fields. That way you can displace the illegal migrants.

  4. WGA Writer says:

    I don’t get why everyone’s on JL’s ass. Hey everyone– *NBC* fired these staffers, not Jay Leno. JL could have caved and taped his show w/o writers, but he refused to cross the picket line.
    As a WGA writer, I appreciate that tremendously. His decision to pay staffers INSTEAD OF THE NETWORK are reported here is admirable.
    All this crap I’ve been reading about “Jay Leno fires staff” is bullshit. NBC ARE THE BAD GUYS HERE. Jay Leno didn’t fire anyone. The network did, and people need to remember that.

  5. Charles Bouis says:

    “Bitching about their bonuses”? They handed out bonus checks in front of the full staff, not everyone received a check. That was a slap in the face. Also, some checks were as low as $100.00. That was a slap in the face. What the @#!* can they do with $100.00 in Los Angeles. You explain to the kids why Christmas it’s going to suck, not to mention the bill collectors. By the way I don’t hate my boss, and have only said how well he treats everyone. I still give him the benefit of the doubt.
    This “hypocrite” would love to talk about it anytime anywhere, know it all.

  6. observer says:

    Those staffers that were bitching about their bonuses should
    refuse to accept the check and quit working for the host they hate so much.
    Have the courage of your convictions, or you are
    as much of a hypocrite as you wrongly accuse
    your boss of being.

  7. Sullens says:

    you got two more weeks pay from NBC than SNL staffers did, you get a monetary Christmas bonus from your boss (more than a lot of tv workers are getting this year) and now Jay is going to pay your salaries out of pocket… wow I really hope the staffers who were so quick to knock Leno in the press feel like biiiiiggg dicks.

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