Although The Practice apparently violates their contracts with the Writers Guild of America, producers of many late-night comedy shows frequently buy jokes that are submitted to them by email from an "underground network" of freelancers -- paying them only $50-100 per joke, the Los Angeles Times disclosed today (Monday). While the freelancers seldom if ever complain about the low pay, union leaders, who have reportedly looked the other way at the practice until now, are beginning to insist that it be ended. Informed by the Times that David Letterman's Late Show and Saturday Night Live buy hundreds of jokes from freelancers every season, Lowell Peterson, executive director of the WGA, East, told the Times, "Wow, that's disturbing," and vowed to "follow up on the matter." Patric Verrone, president of the WGA, West, maintained that the union has tried to investigate the matter in the past. "The problem we run up against is that the show denies it happens, and the writer who did it won't come forward to provide us with concrete evidence."