2023 writers' strike

When Late-Night Writers Take Center Stage

Photo: CBS

We’re now in week three of the WGA strike, which means week three of late-night reruns. (Except on WWHL, because whoever writes copy for Andy Cohen isn’t in the guild.) Late Night With Seth Meyers has been programming episodes that feature on-camera performances by the writers. That way, the writers get a lil’ residual bump.

Work on a late-night show is arduous. It’s every friggin’ day, because even on weekends, you have to keep your joke antennae up. You can’t turn off the news, and have you seen the news lately? It’s bad! These writers serve so many overlords: the PR machines of every TV show and movie, their actual bosses, and the muse of comedy. (Which I just Googled — it’s Thalia.) Add acting on the pile? It’s so much work. Below are some sketches featuring writers to tide you over until a fair deal can be reached.

Nate Fernald Goes Dark on The Late Late Show

Here’s a rare entry in cringe comedy from The Late Late Show. Known mostly for musical set pieces, the show had more variety than its reputation implied. In this 2021 sketch, Nate Fernald pretends to be a comedian who hasn’t changed his set to reflect our post-COVID dystopian times. Topical comedy is that much harder when all the topics of the day are, like, “death” and “the rise of fascism.” It must have been cathartic for Fernald to yell at Corden about how unfunny the times can be.

Amber Ruffin and Corin Wells Have a Scream-Off

The Amber Ruffin Show involves so many of its writers that it almost feels more like a sketch show than a late-night talk show. First of all, Ruffin is still a writer on Late Night With Seth Meyers, so her star turn on this show is a writer being front and center. But then other writers, like Jenny Hagel and Mike Scollins, are called in to play characters. This 2022 sketch features writer-performer Corin Wells as the reproductive-rights correspondent for the show. Again, surely this sketch was cathartic to act out, considering it’s 90 percent incomprehensible screaming. We’ve all been there.

All of the Late Show Writers Call Colbert “Steve”

Whenever Stephen Colbert brings a writer on as an “expert” on The Late Show, they call him Steve. It tickles me. This is a guy whose brand was originally built on the “ph” in his name, so for him to get Steve’d feels wild. One of the most frequent Steve-callers is Eliana Kwartler, who is regularly called on to explain young-people nonsense to the boomer- and Gen-X- cusping Colbert. In this 2022 segment, Kwartler broke down why so many young-people trends were focused on looking old.

Lou Wilson Brings His Side Hustle to Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Fun Fact: Jimmy Kimmel Live! writer-announcer Lou Wilson is a prominent figure in actual tabletop RPGs— which is a weirdly big subgenre of entertainment spawning graphic novels and cartoon series. Dimension 20 is a big deal, and Wilson is a big deal within it. In this 2023 segment, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves star Chris Pine was asked to determine which of Kimmel’s crew is a Dungeon Master. The answer will shock you — or rather, it’ll shock Chris Pine. We’ve already told you that it’s Lou. Sorry.

Ben Warheit Brings Pathos to the McRib

Late Night With Seth Meyers really lets it writers shine. There are recurring segments like “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell” and “Surprise Inspection.” The show gives opportunities for writers to speak about issues that have affected them personally — like when Karen Chee addressed the rise of anti-Asian violence in 2021 or when Dina Gusovsky discussed Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022. But where Late Night truly excels is giving its writers a platform to do the dumbest shit imaginable — like this monologue in which the McRib is cast in the role of a deadbeat dad.

Dan Chamberlain Sings on The Tonight Show

Monologue bits that befuddle Jimmy Fallon are the best. In this 2019 clip, Tonight Show writer Dan Chamberlain intrudes on the 30 Rock stage to sing a little ditty. About Jack and Diane? No. About the real American heroes: houses that give out full-size candy bars for Halloween. “Full-Size Bars” has full-size bars. “Who was that guy?” Fallon asks after the country-western enigma leaves. He was a writer, Jimmy. He was a writer.

When Late-Night Writers Take Center Stage