The wordsmiths might still be on strike, but The Wørd is coming out of mothballs: Stephen Colbert and pal Jon Stewart are heading back to work.
The Daily Show and The Colbert Report will resume production Jan. 7 without their respective writing staffs, Comedy Central announced Thursday.
Both award-winning faux newscasts have been in repeats since Nov. 5, when the Writers Guild of America strike officially began.
"We would like to return to work with our writers. If we cannot, we would like to express our ambivalence, but without our writers we are unable to express something as nuanced as ambivalence," Stewart and Colbert said in a joint statement.
Stewart, whose Busboy Productions oversees both shows, has been paying the salaries of staffers since the strike began.
The decision to go back to work was obviously not an easy one: Both Stewart and Colbert are guild members themselves. Both are also talented comedians and will have to call on their improv skills to essentially ad-lib their way through their respective shows.
Regardless, Comedy Central has to be pretty pleased to have its Emmy-winning Daily Show and its equally deserving Colbert Report coming back.
Even after going two months without a fresh episode, Colbert was on Thursday named Associated Press Celebrity of the Year, an honor bestowed on the personality who had the biggest impact on pop culture in 2007.
When NBC announced that The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night with Conan O'Brien would be returning with new episodes Jan. 2, the WGA said that it was unfortunate NBC wouldn't be able to put on the best shows possible thanks to the writers' absence, and the union expressed a similar sentiment in response to this latest development.
"Comedy Central forcing Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert back on the air will not give the viewers the quality shows they've come to expect," the WGA West said in a statement. "The only way to get the writing staffs back on the job is for the [Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers] companies to come back to the table prepared to negotiate a fair deal with the Writers Guild."
With Jimmy Kimmel Live also resuming Jan. 2, that leaves David Letterman, whose Worldwide Pants production arm is still trying to negotiate a temporary deal with the WGA that would allow him and fellow CBS host Craig Ferguson (Late Late Show is also produced by Pants) to return to the airwaves with their writers.
Reps for striking writers are planning to meet with Letterman's company Friday to talk logistics. The veteran funnyman has this option because Worldwide Pants, not the struck company that is CBS, owns The Late Show.
"With the WGA now embracing a strategy of offering interim agreements to individual companies, it is inconceivable to us that there is any producing entity more deserving than Worldwide Pants, which has been and continues to be a staunch supporter of the Writer's Guild and its positions," company president Rob Burnett said in a statement regarding tomorrow's meeting.
Worldwide Pants could be getting the WGA on an upswing. The guild also announced Thursday that is has granted a waiver to the upcoming Independent Spirit Awards, meaning union scribes can provide material for the Feb. 23 ceremony.
"Film Independent came to us before the strike, and the WGAW Board decided to grant an interim agreement allowing for writing services for the Spirit Awards," the WGAW said, calling further negotiations the only way to get awards season "back on track."
The Academy Awards are the following day. Stewart is lined up to host, although as of now he won't be receiving any scripted support from union writers. The WGA has rejected the Hollywood Foreign Press' waiver request for the Golden Globes and is rumored to be planning to similarly diss the Academy.
(Originally published Dec. 20, 2007 at 4:08 p.m. PT)