Is anybody getting paid?
February 13, 2012 3:36 PM   Subscribe

Do all guest stars on television late night shows get paid for their appearance?

So let me provide some background: I'm an avid Jon Stewart fan, and regularly keep up with The Daily Show. Likewise, I've become curious as to whether or not some (or all) of the guests that come on the show receive payment.

I know this may sound ridiculous, but it seems to me that for many of the authors/academics/politicians who come on the show but are not necessarily at the center of public attention, this is a fantastic way to receive major exposure to a young, receptive demographic (and therefore, why should the Jon Stewart show be paying them?).

Would this, however, be any different for "big name" guests (Brad Pitt was recently on The Daily Show) -- if they are paid, are they paid more?

Bonus if you can throw in some numbers (for any late night show, if the guests are getting paid, how much). Double Bonus if you can tell me how the scheduling works (how far in advance do shows typically book; what happens if someone cancels).

Thank you!
posted by lobbyist to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
No, of course not. You've hit the nail on the head: everyone on these shows is promoting something; a book, a movie, a new tv show, etc.
posted by Oktober at 3:40 PM on February 13, 2012

I don't think guests on these shows are ever paid. As Oktober says, they are promotional appearances.

Much like music on the radio, each side has a potential argument that they should be paid. But in the end they trade, because one side gets exposure while the other gets content.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:45 PM on February 13, 2012

Best answer: For shows like Letterman, anyone who's a member of SAG gets union rate, as a rule (I think it's somewhere in the high hundreds for this -- $800ish is the number I remember but I can't find confirmation). I assume The Daily Show is the same. Non-SAG people probably do not get paid.
posted by brainmouse at 3:56 PM on February 13, 2012

Best answer: There's a breaking point of some certain number of appearances on such "entertainment" shows where the SAG will "invite" non-entertainment personalities to become a member. If they don't "accept the invitation", they will get "invited" a little harder and the shows may experience some "difficulties" of booking SAG members.

Something like that. I know nothing. A birdie told me. I forgot when or where.
posted by caclwmr4 at 4:06 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

If they're on Australia's ABC, no, they never get paid, whoever they are.
posted by wilful at 4:28 PM on February 13, 2012

Best answer: Yes, if they are SAG members they get the SAG basic rate. And, as caclwmr4 implies, they will be invited to join SAG if they aren't already members. Even if someone is nominally an author, after a certain number of hours on TV, they start to be considered an entertainer.

Regardless, they will likely have their expenses paid, even for news programs that don't generally pay for interviews. I would guess that some people might be able to, for example, take their transportation expenses as a stipend and then provide their own transportation.
posted by gjc at 4:34 PM on February 13, 2012

Daily Show is news, no payments. Ifthe celeb is on to promote a movie or TV series, the movie studio/network has already negotiated a certain amount of promotional work into the fee with the star, so no cost to the TV show. If they're on for any other reason, SAG minimum and P&W, but why would any booker book some star with nothing to sell?
posted by Ideefixe at 4:50 PM on February 13, 2012

Jon Stewart has gone on record many times saying that The Daily Show is comedy, not news. That is to say, it's satirical commentary on the events of the day, but it is fundamentally entertainment rather than journalism. I would assume that their compensation system for guests is reflective of this model.
posted by Scientist at 5:49 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Many talk shows pay all guests the SAG basic appearance rate, whether they are SAG members or not, just because it makes the accounting easier.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:36 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

A relevant cite, showing that appearing on talk shows appears to be considered work, as far as SAG is concerned. And SAG's rule #1.
posted by gjc at 6:33 AM on February 14, 2012

Mark Evanier reports a funny related story having to do with Buddy Hackett.
posted by wittgenstein at 2:07 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

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