Fact Check

Did These Late-Night Shows Shut Down Live Production During Writers' Strike?

The Writers Guild of America’s 11,500 unionized screenwriters stopped working at 12:01 a.m. on May 2, 2023.

Published May 2, 2023

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“The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” "The Daily Show," and "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” shut down live production on May 2, 2023, amid a strike initiated by The Writers Guild of America.

According to credible news reports, the following late-night comedy talk shows stopped live production on May 2, 2023, amid a strike initiated by WGA: "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert", "Jimmy Kimmel Live!", "Late Night with Seth Meyers", "The Daily Show", and 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon."

As of this writing, it was unknown how long the strike would last, as well as for how many nights the shows would pause live production. All were expected to air reruns in lieu of new content. 

Around 9,000 writers — 98% of the WGA's voting body — stopped doing their jobs at 12:01 a.m. on May 2 after the guild and Hollywood studios failed to successfully negotiate a new three-year contract governing writers' working conditions and benefits. This was the first such strike in 15 years. 

News outlets such as Deadline and The Associated Press confirmed the nightly shows would stop operations and air reruns throughout the week. Considering this evidence, we rated this claim "True." 

It was unknown, as of this writing, whether weekly shows like "Saturday Night Live", "Real Time with Bill Maher", and "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" would also halt live production. If studios and the writers guild reach a deal this week, it was possible the weekly shows could air new programming without a hiatus. 

Such comedy talk shows were the first to be affected by the strike because they rely on writers' daily work, with jokes often being written the same day they air. The next group of shows that could be impacted were daytime soap operas that have a quick turnaround between writing and filming. Scripted dramas and comedies currently airing will likely finish their seasons without change since their episodes were previously written and filmed, while fall releases were expected to be hit with delays since writers usually begin writing them in May or June, according to Reuters.  

Writers were demanding the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents big-name studios including Disney and Netflix, increase their pay and give them a greater share of profits from streaming services. In their negotiations for a new contract, the writers called attention to their lack of compensation for shows that remain on streaming platforms for years, and the possible effects of artificial intelligence on screenwriting. Writers also criticized studios for creating a "gig economy" that prioritized freelance work over steady, full-time jobs. 

Colbert, Fallon, Kimmel and Meyers all openly agreed to pause live production on their shows until further notice.

Before officially halting operations, Meyers, the host of "Late Night with Seth Meyers," said on his show that he supported the writers' demands. "[...] No one is entitled to a job in show business. But for those people who have a job, they are entitled to fair compensation. They are entitled to make a living. I think it's a very reasonable demand that's being set out by the guild. And I support those demands." 

Prior to making the decision to go dark, Fallon also told Variety, "I wouldn't have a show if it wasn't for my writers, and I support them all the way."

On May 1, before the strike started, Colbert devoted a segment of his show to jokes that could be relevant in the future, pending the potential shutdown. The segment was titled, "Future News Jokes Now…Just In Case." 

Deadline reported late-night showrunners were in communication with each other on next steps. An unnamed showrunner reportedly told the outlet, "I have been and will continue to talk to the other shows to see what they're up to. We've got to support the writers — our writers are amazing. That said, the rest of the staff is amazing, and I don't want to see anybody lose their jobs or lose a paycheck. What's the happy medium there? Figuring that out, it's not been easy."

Another person who Deadline identified as an "unnamed star with 'Saturday Night Live'" told the news outlet: "We have to think about our crew too. I absolutely support the writers, and I want the writers to get what they deserve and need, but I don't want our crew to be out of work. We can't make this art without each other."


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Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.