David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, and now Stephen Colbert have all had their old networks try to stop them from bringing over popular sketches and characters back to life
On an episode of "Late Night With Stephen Colbert," the host revealed that he had been prohibited from using his conservative, clueless TV show persona from "The Colbert Report" elsewhere. Instead, Colbert skirted around the issue by going into character under the guise of being Colbert's cousin. He also riffed off of his popular sketch "The Word" by recreating it with the name "The Werd."
NBC attempted to prohibit David Letterman from taking popular sketches like "Top 10 Lists" over to his CBS show because they were the "intellectual property" of NBC. Letterman still managed to keep the sketch on the "Late Show" by renaming it "The Late Show Top 10" by and adding a different intro soundtrack. He eventually went back to referring it as "Top 10" without any problems.
"Stupid Pet Tricks" was another one of the most popular sketches on "Late Night" that NBC tried to claim ownership of. As the name would imply, pets would come on stage and perform strange tricks for the audience.
Though NBC included the sketch in its list of "intellectual property" that Letterman could not take over to CBS, the host still continued to keep it alive on the "Late Show," albeit at a lower frequency. A spinoff, "Stupid Human Tricks," was also created.
Another popular staple on "Late Night with David Letterman," Larry "Bud" Melman was considered property of NBC and Letterman was barred from using him on the "Late Show."
What Letterman and his team did instead was rename Larry "Bud" Melman to Calvert DeForest -- the actor's real name -- and have him essentially play the exact same character.
A recurring character on "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien", Triumph the Comic Insult Dog, almost didn't make it over to TBS due to the same "intellectual property" woes. The puppet, who was voiced by Robert Smigel, would frequently appear to insult guests with a cigar in its mouth. Triumph eventually managed to find his way onto "Conan" without too much drama.
Craig Kilborn, the host of the "Daily Show" from 1996-98, created a sketch called "Five Questions" that involved him asking celebrity guests a set of obscure and/or subjective questions. But when Kilborn left for CBS' "Late Late Show" in 1998, he claimed the sketch as his own intellectual property and brought it over to CBS. Comedy Central did not fight back against this and the sketch did not reappear in full again on "The Daily Show."