WGA takes case to Capitol Hill

Writers perform mock debate for Congress

Those guys sitting next to former Clinton White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers? They’re not greedy, slave-driving movie and TV producers — they’re just pretending to be, for the amusement of Congress.

The Writers Guild took its case to Capitol Hill on Wednesday in the form of a mock debate between scribes — played by writers for “The Daily Show” — and producers — portrayed by “The Colbert Report” penmen. Myers was called in to moderate.

Like some congressional hearings, the event was even disrupted by activists — played, of course, by more writers.

Reps of the WGA have previously met with members of Congress about the strike, but in the usual context of pleading their case via meetings and appointments. This time the guild’s East Coast chapter used its writing talents to script a debate that depicted writers as hapless suckers who aren’t even smart enough to know that a “negative $25 raise” is not a good deal and producers as admirers of the Chinese, “who aren’t afraid to make their 9-year-olds work 16-hour days in factories inhaling lead fumes.”

WGAE prexy Michael Winship said it was all about “raising awareness of our issues.” The org is not lobbying for legislation, Winship said, and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Congress is not considering it — yet.

For the moment, it was all about having fun at the expense of both writers and producers — mostly producers – to make the point that writers are working joes (average income, $62,000 a year, according to WGAE) exploited by superrich studios (collectively grossing $95 billion last year, according to WGAE).

Michael Blumm, a Colbert writer playing a producer, said no one should be fooled by the writers’ shabby clothes (the “producers” all wore spiffy suits): “These writers are rich! They make more than a volunteer fireman! They make more than a volunteer crossing guard! They make more than most volunteers!”

Asked by Myers why writers should not be compensated more for their work appearing over the Internet – a sticking point in the strike – Colbert writer Peter Grosz riposted, “The Internet is a baby still, and everyone knows babies don’t make money.”

Tom Purcell, also of the Colbert show, added with great pride that he is “ready to increase the percentage we give to writers from nothing to next-to-nothing.”

On it went for the better part of an hour, resembling a “Saturday Night Live” performance – some jokes working well, others falling flat. But the sympathetic audience, composed mainly of congressional staff as well as some members, seemed to enjoy it all.

In addition to Nadler, other members in attendance included Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and Rush Holt (D-N.J.). All expressed solidarity with the scribes.

Nadler said that most members of Congress were inclined to see “how collective bargaining plays out” before taking any legislative action.