Jennifer Weiner recently called for the hosts of the various late night programs to address the absence of female writers on their staff. While I am in favor of increasing opportunities for female writers, I have to wonder if their absence in late night comedy is the result of overt sexism or simply a lack of female interest in that specific brand of comedy.
If I were to enter any comedy club in America this evening, it is likely that I would be entertained by a majority of male comics, and in many cases, their lineup would be exclusively male. Female comics are simply few and far between.
Is this the result of sexism at the night club level as well?
Perhaps. I’m not sure.
Or how about this:
Name the five greatest comedians of all time.
Did you include a female in the list?
While I admire the work of comics like Paula Poundstone and Sarah Silverman a great deal, I would not include them in my pantheon of funniest comics ever. I think the majority of Americans would agree.
Is this the result of sexism throughout the entertainment industry?
Perhaps. But I am not sure.
And then consider the hosts of late night comedy. All men with the exception of Chelsea Handler, who I also think is funny (at least in her books). Again, this might be the result of sexism throughout the industry, but is it also possible that women are simply less interested in pursuing late night comedy as a career?
And could this lack of interest in late night comedy be the result of overt sexism throughout the industry, eliminating the necessary role models that girls and young women might require?
Or perhaps women just don’t like the kind of comedy that late night television requires as much as men.
After all, there are many occupations that are dominated by women:
Elementary and middle school teachers. Pediatricians. Nurses. Office managers. Daytime talk show hosts. Hair stylists. Nearly every corner of the publishing world.
Are these fields dominated by women as a result of sexism or simply because of preference?
I’m not sure.
And while I realize that I do not know any of these late night hosts personally, I have a difficult time imagining men like Bill Maher, Jon Stewart or Conan O’Brien purposefully keeping women out of the writing room. Perhaps all three are sexist jerks who have managed to project the image of forward-thinking, reasonable men, but my gut tells me that they are three decent guys who would be more than willing to hire more female writers if qualified candidates were available.
Do we need more female writers in late night comedy? Maybe.
Would late night comedy benefit by an increase in female writers? Probably.
But are there enough highly qualified female writers interested in late night comedy.
I am not sure. But I suspect that this is at least part of the problem.