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Last call: Comedy Central's The Daily Show and Colbert Report make it a full house in late night

Back in play: Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart re-emerge writer-less.

Jon Stewart wore a stuck-on "writers' strike solidarity unibrow" and Stephen Colbert first appeared in a fake Hasidic beard while shredding documents.

Their phony facial hair, quickly discarded, marked the hosts' only common ground Monday night. Comedy Central's The Daily Show and The Colbert Report otherwise were back in business with strikingly dissimilar approaches to the ongoing impasse between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

Stewart went hard after the AMPTP after first re-baptizing his program as just A Daily Show until its writers return. Noting the $1.99 it costs to download an episode of his show on itunes, he mocked the producers' position: "Well, that's not a content charge. That's a shipping and handling charge."

Colbert stayed in character as a mock right-wing blowhard after basking in a prolonged ovation that may have been staged to kill time, but very possibly wasn't.

"I have always been anti-labor, always been anti-union," he declared before showing clips of previous stands against workers' rights. The highlight reel included Colbert's solution to childhood obesity -- "a 19-hour shift at the mills."

During earlier crossover talk with his partner in comedy, Colbert upbraided Stewart for being too polished on his first new Daily Show since Nov. 1 of last year.

"I'm very alarmed by how prepared you seemed," Colbert said. "I will be making a phone call to the Writers' Guild people's council for the preservation of the written word. This will not go unnoted, sir."

"Please don't turn me in," Stewart pleaded.

There's likely no danger of that, as long as Stewart's jokes are at the expense of the AMPTP, to whom he referred as NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association).

Tonight Show host Jay Leno has angered the Guild, which says it will punish him in yet unspecified ways for continuing to write his own monologue jokes. But it's hard to imagine any threats coming Stewart's way, even though he admitted to being perplexed about why Comedy Central's two franchise players were unable to reach separate agreements with the writers in the same way David Letterman's WorldWide Pants company has.

"Are they being arbitrary?" Stewart asked after welcoming decidedly low-key Cornell University labor expert Ron Seeber as his only guest.

He didn't get much of an answer, prompting Stewart to wonder aloud if the Guild might be anti-Semitic.

"Honestly, the whole reason I got into this business is I thought we controlled it," Stewart said after noting his Jewish ancestry.

Whether spontaneous or pre-mediated, he told at least one unfortunate joke that rightly drew a largely cool response from an otherwise spirited studio audience.

"At heart this really is a math problem," Stewart said of differences between the Guild and the AMPTP. Late night talk shows were off the air for about a week after 9/11, he said.

"So if my math is correct, the writers' strike is now nine times worse than Sept. 11th," he concluded. You see, he really does need his writers.

The Colbert Report made far more extensive use of clips, from both previous shows and the presidential campaign trail. The host is still angling to be Republican Mike Huckabee's running mate while twitting Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

"Look at that haunted mansion up there," he said of Hillary's podium entourage of tired-looking old Democrats, including her husband, Wesley Clark and Madeline Albrecht.

Obama's unkempt crowd is no better, he railed, noting a gyrating young dude brandishing arm warmers behind the Illinois senator.

The current leader of the Democrat pack "will not come on my show while this strike is on," Colbert said. But video from an earlier debate showed that Obama is willing to talk to the sinister rulers of Iran and Syria.

"Barack Obama is saying that Stephen Colbert is worse than a terrorist. His words," he thundered.

This of course made Colbert's case as only his posturing alter ego can make it. He's a truth-telling patriot battling the forces of evil unions and eviler Democrats, all of whom claimed to be agents of "change" in a funny compilation clip assembled from Saturday night's debate on ABC.

Colbert took just one clear shot at his own pompous demeanor and anti-union rhetoric. "I don't need my writers," he said. Which bring me to tonight's 'Word,' "

But no "Word" popped up, of course, leaving the host and his nightly segment speechless enroute to the first commercial break.

Both Colbert and Stewart obviously can think on their feet, and much of this will be required of them as their writer-driven shows march on through both the strike and a hotly contested presidential primary season.

Having his own shoot-at-the-mouth character to fall back on makes Colbert better suited for this long haul. Stewart will be harder-pressed to keep his Daily Show rolling. There are only so many simpatico strike jokes in anyone's tank, and he's already said a mouthful.