Some 80 non-writer staff members of the Tonight Show were shocked to be handed pink slips by NBC yesterday; they'd been banking on assurances by host Jay Leno, shortly after the strike started 4 weeks ago, that their jobs were safe. Conan O'Brien, whose staff was also furloughed yesterday, has said he will pay their salaries for at least a week, but Leno hasn't made the same offer.
Angry Tonight Show crew members say Leno's comments had prevented them from seeking other employment during the strike. "When the most powerful man in TV tells you to relax, then you relax," one explained. Leno was reportedly working on alternative show formats that wouldn't require a writing staff, but such plans seem to have fallen through.