150 people to run a talk show?

Tonight show moving to NYC means the LA crew is out of work. But I read that over 150 people work on the show. That seems way out of whack to me. I have a feeling this is due to union work rules. (BTW I am not anti union) I really can’t figure out why 150 people are needed for a talk show.

Calling The Tonight Show a “talk show” in this context is misleading: there’s way more than just talking that goes on. They do stunts and skits. They host live bands. They have a big studio audience. The show itself is a Very Big Deal by TV standards, and it needs to be smooth and professional. If you were talking about a cable-access show where people sit around in chairs discussing the issues of the day, then yeah, 150 people might seem high; for The Tonight Show, it strikes me, as a layman, as low.

It’s not that hard if you think about all the different departments - camera operators, editors, lighting, sound, make-up, costumes, graphics, etc…

For instance, there are staff still photographers on each of these shows. That might seem like an extravagance, but it is vital for publicity purposes. The writing staff alone has got to be at least ten people, and there was at least a dozen people in the band.

Here’s the credits page. Jay himself, nine members of the band, sixteen writers, eleven producers of various sorts, a music producer and a production designer.

That’s 39 people right there. And that doesn’t include the camera crew, sound crew, lighting crew, set builders and the people involved in scheduling and booking guests. Plus there’s some people who deal with the studio audience.

And pretty much everyone on a show that big gets at least one assistant.

The news stories I just looked at say that 164 people on the staff were laid off.

Plus, they have to do it five nights a week. They probably have a dozen shows in various stages of pre-production at any one time. They don’t just show up and wing it.

I would think 16 writers could come up with better jokes.