Late Night TV Returns With Beards, Conan On Guitar

Night owls looking for freshly written jokes received a semi-infusion of comedic relief last night when the late night funny men finally returned for duty (Letterman, Conan, Kimmel, Leno — Carson did a little while back but we clearly said ‘funny men’) — as long as your idea of comedic relief is watching O’Brien beat his own record of spinning his wedding ring for more than 41 seconds. Right: His writers are still on strike, as are the rest of the talk show crew’s save Letterman, whose Worldwide Pants negotiated a side deal with the WGA allowing him a full force of professionally minted quips and gags. Didn’t stop him from joining Conan in modeling the lastest in strike beard fashion.

Conan O'Brien and David Letterman model the latest in strike beard fashion
[Pics by Dana Edelson for the AP]

Conan without writers means Conan resorting to his grab bag of tricks and ticks: knocking over the big mic, dancing like a fool, staring into the camera as a romantic song plays (“Strike beard … strike beard … strike beard … I love you”), and playing guitar. After the jump, Conan roams the halls playing “Sunshine Of Your Love” and “Purple Haze” while other Late Nighters try to work — and follows that by playing and singing “Creep” (he knows the music and lyrics, good man) while others jam along on Rock Band. Oh yeah, then he sings “Sabotage” … if performed by Edith Bunker.

If nothing else, a confirmation of the man’s knowledge of good music and ’70s television impersonations. On the music guest tip, Conan brought Robert Gordon & Chris Spedding, while Leno booked Chingy and Dave roped in Lupe Fiasco (or as he says, “Loopy”). Letterman also rounded up striking writers from other shows to deliver last night’s strike-friendly Top 10. (Don’t worry no scabs here — see #2). Transcription via AP:

Striking television writers delivered David Letterman’s Top 10 list, “Demands of the Striking Writers,” on his show Wednesday:

10. “Complimentary tote bag with next insulting contract offer” — Tim Carvell, from “The Daily Show.”
09. “No rollbacks in health benefits, so I can treat the hypothermia I caught on the picket lines” — Laura Krafft, from “The Colbert Report.”
08. “Full salary and benefits for my imaginary writing partner, Lester” — Melissa Salmons, writer for daytime TV.
07. “Members of the AMPTP must explain what the hell AMPTP stands for” — Warren Leight, writer for “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.”
06. “No disciplinary action taken against any writer caught having inappropriate relationship with a copier” — Jay Katsir, from “The Colbert Report.”
05. “I’d like a date with a woman” — Steve Bodow, from “The Daily Show.”
04. “Hazard pay for breaking up fights on ‘The View”‘ — from writer and director Nora Ephron.
03. “I’m no accountant, but instead of us getting 4 cents for a $20 DVD, how about we get $20 for a 4-cent DVD?” — Gina Johnfrido of “Law & Order.”
02. “I don’t have a joke. I just want to remind everyone that we’re on strike, so none of us are responsible for this lame list” — Chris Albers from Conan O’Brien’s “Late Night.”
01. “Producers must immediately remove their heads from their —–” — author Alan Zwiebel.

Notes on last night’s guests: Big stars aren’t exactly lining up to cross the picket lines, so while Guild-approved Letterman had Robin Williams, Conan had the likes of Bob Saget, Leno had (BAM!) chef Emeril Lagasse, and poor Kimmel had Andy Dick (who has a touchy-feely history on that show). Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee also did Leno, interesting ’cause a) he had to leave Iowa on the eve of the caucus to do it and b) he’s running on a labor-friendly(ish) platform and yet definitely was photographed crossing picket lines, met with welcoming “Huckabee Is A Scab” signs. Mike pleaded confusion over Leno’s status with the Guild, we guess confusing the situation with Letterman’s. (If you’re keeping score: Good taste in music, iffy taste in political advisors.)

Finally, why are the hosts coming back now? Well for one, lots of non-writer jobs depend on it. But also back in ’88 during the last WGA strike, Johnny Carson set late night precedent by returning to work without his writers after two months off in honor of and respect for his crew. Sure there was Ed Sullivan and there was Steve Allen, but now we know who the real George Washington of late night is.

UPDATE: Huckabee with The Tonight Show band: