What Goes Around Comes Around...
Comedy Channel Sues Host Kilborn

(It is recommended that you play this quick sound file before reading... it only rubs it in... we like that!)

By Scott Williams

Clearly unamused, cable's Comedy Central yesterday slapped a breach-of-contract lawsuit on its "Daily Show" host Craig Kilborn and CBS, which has hired him to succeed Tom Snyder as host of CBS' "Late Late Show."

The complaint, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, accused Kilborn of breaking his contract and CBS with encouraging the breach by asking the anchor to appear Wednesday at CBS' Carnegie Hall presentation to advertisers of its fall shows.

"Without justification or excuse, it [CBS] induced a breach of the contract," said Comedy Central's complaint.

Comedy Central, which refused to release Kilborn from his "Daily Show" contract, had told CBS and Kilborn on Monday that Kilborn could not appear at the presentation and ordered him not to go.

When notified that Kilborn and CBS would defy that command, Comedy Central applied for a temporary restraining order against Kilborn and CBS. "Fortunately, we were able to reach an understanding with CBS in time and withdraw our application," Comedy Central said in a statement yesterday.

Kilborn did attend the CBS presentation, but did not appear onstage. CBS showed a segment from "Daily Show" to its advertisers. A Comedy Central lawyer said CBS did not have permission to use the clip, but declined to comment on further legal action.

The cable channel is seeking a court order barring CBS from further "breach or interference" and compelling Kilborn to fulfill his contract, which expires July 30, 1999. It does not mention monetary or punitive damages.

Kilborn, 34, an ESPN "SportsCenter" anchor for three years, signed on with Comedy Central in July 1996 to anchor "Daily Show." He received a $10,000 signing bonus and $260,000 in salary the first year, a $50,000 raise in the second year, and a bump to $395,000 in the current year.

Last month, Comedy Central President Doug Herzog was stunned to learn that while his company was negotiating a new contract with Kilborn, CBS had signed him to take over "Late Late Show" next year. Comedy Central said Kilborn would be held to his contract.

In yesterday's filing, Comedy Central said CBS Television President Leslie Moonves on Monday asked Herzog to release Kilborn early and to let him appear at the CBS presentation. Kilborn also asked to be allowed to appear at the presentation.

Herzog refused and called Kilborn's agent, Jeff Jacobs, and ordered the anchor to be on duty at "Daily Show."

On Tuesday, Jacobs and Moonves called Herzog and told them Kilborn would appear at the presentation anyway, the complaint said. On Wednesday, Comedy Central told CBS lawyers that if Kilborn appeared, it would be a breach of his contract.

Comedy Central lawyer Robert LoBue and Jacobs did not return calls seeking comment.

Moonves and Herzog declined to comment.

Copyright 1998 New York Daily News

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