"Man, times are tough. The economy is so bad that David Letterman is buying jokes online for $100 each. He might get more for his money by finding an online date."

OK, that was a cheap attempt at humor, and a cheap shot at Letterman, who often makes fun of himself. But Letterman, and other late-night TV hosts, are doing just that -- paying freelance writers $75 or $100.

But the catch is they only get paid if their joke appears on the air, and they aren't paid union wages, according to a Los Angeles Times story.

Freelance writer and Web developer Phil Johnson told the Times that from his home in Boston he has gotten more than 160 of his jokes on the "Late Show With David Letterman" and, before that, "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno."

Here's one of Johnson's jokes that was telecast on Letterman's March 17 monologue, which is archived on Letterman's Web site and can still be watched. "Beautiful day in New York City," Letterman said. "Am I right about that? A gorgeous day. It was so nice today that AIG gave a bonus to Al Roker."

The underground network of comedy writers can make a quick $100 or so by e-mailing jokes to the shows, but only if their joke runs on the air. While $100 is nothing to turn away, especially in a recession, the paid union members earn a lot more -- $3,215 minimum for writing a comedy sketch under 10 minutes.

Some shows, such as those of Jon Stewart and Conan O'Brien, don't hire freelance writers. O'Brien doesn't because he supports the guild, which will leave some freelancers out of extra work when he takes over for Leno on June 1.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

How Financial Planners go Grocery Shopping

Learn to shop smart and save.

View Course »

How to Buy a Car

How to get the best deal and buy a car with confidence.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

10 Comments

Filter by:
Gregory Baker

Stupid jokes.

February 18 2014 at 5:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rowan Saker

What did Jose Feliciano say to the guy attacking his pal? Release Knobby's nuts

December 29 2013 at 4:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
philip.52

Turns out that 5 million people didn't try to sign up under the affordable care act. There were only 50thousand who each tried 100 times

October 02 2013 at 7:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jo

Office Door Sign
This is my retirement home on a reverse mortgage.

September 24 2013 at 6:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mcwhomper

i hope letterman buys this one i could use some cash. i was in court the other day and met the judge during lunch,so i asked him now that gay marriages have been approved whats going to happen if two guys get a divorce in most divorces the wife gets the kids and the house. in that kind of divorce who gets it the husband or the husssband

August 09 2013 at 2:47 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
traehace

Anthony Wiener want to show you a true Hebrew National

July 25 2013 at 10:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mike Comstock

so me and my friend r walkn home its about 8pm on a summer nite were bout 3blocks from home theres this 3ft fence ad were eslkin were tslkn all of a duffen im alone then i hete a noide my ftiends over the fence this st. bannard dog grBs him pulls him over the fence and humpin him i ran home got help wr got bac there it took 3 of us to gey him over the fence we all ran home with the dog chasing us the dog ran aroynd the house tryn get in we were trapef inside till the dog catcher came the dog sysryed to hump him do he shot the dog with a dart

May 09 2013 at 7:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mtghahrem

My good friend had a Hernia operation , sent me this text message, hope u can use it.

My Hornia operatio was a sueccess.Howere, 7 hrs later , had to rush to ER in order to put a Catherine in me, not much fun, next day they took the Catherine out. Now things r back to normal. Praise the Lord.

March 15 2013 at 11:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Laszlo

They should start having the U.S.Open down southwest of New Orleans from now on.What great savings they
could have on tennis balls.The oil company BP has recently reported of lots of tar-balls reappearing at the bay area after hurricane Isaac.They say tar-balls pop much longer then ordinary tennis balls.....

September 09 2012 at 10:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
merino320

I heard when the president's dog Bo found out he was going to be put on a diet, he was a little bit nervous, he thought he was going to be put on Obama's diet.

August 23 2012 at 11:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply