Eddie Brill, the man in charge of booking comedians for David Letterman, was the subject of a New York Times profile a few days ago, where – almost as an aside – he was asked to deal with the question of why the show only booked one female comedian last year. His response was:
There are a lot less female comics who are authentic. I see a lot of female comics who to please an audience will act like men.
This was actually sort of mild by the standards of some of the things that are said about women in comedy, but it wasn’t a great choice of words in responding the (accurate) charge that late-night comedy has a problem hiring female comics and writers. So now Brill has been removed from power, and will stay on only as a warm-up comedian.
As the second piece mentions, Brill commented on this Mirth magazine post and claimed that his words had been taken out of context (“I wasn’t talking about all female comics or female comics in general. I was talking about a couple of comics the writer had brought up to me”) as well as claiming that the writer of the article had it in for him, though that would make more sense if it hadn’t been for his generalized claim that there are “a lot less” female comics who are authentic. He also claims that he’s being singled out for a problem that is just as bad on other talk shows (and that one is true enough).
The post, by Larry Getlen, has some good things to say about the concept of “authenticity” in comedy, though it seems like he’s a bit too quick to say that there’s been some kind of authenticity revolution in the online era; the fact that people talk more about themselves could just as easily be balanced by the fact that we’re trained to adopt public personas from an early age.
Also, this doesn’t have anything to do with Brill, but Getlen’s point about Letterman – that he actually wants to cultivate an old-fashioned, slightly out-of-touch image – is an interesting one. Most comedians Letterman’s age (or much younger) wind up sounding old-fashioned, but it sometimes seems like Letterman aggressively works at it. His material is written to make him sound like a guy who is proud of being old and cranky. This is better for a comedian than sounding old and cranky while trying to be hip.