The Daily Show hires women - Macleans.ca
 

The Daily Show hires women

The women who work on The Daily Show strike back against accusations that Jon Stewart is sexist


 

The women who work on The Daily Show (writers, correspondents, non-writing producers, assistants, and so on) have written an open letter in response to this much-discussed post at the blog jezebel.com, where the writer, Irin Carmon, talked to past female employees about the “boys’ club” atmosphere of the show.

Both the original post and the response are sort of hit pieces in their own different ways. Carmon’s piece seemed to imply that there was some unusual level of sexism at The Daily Show or on the part of Jon Stewart, when the facts really indicated that it’s no worse than most comedy shows, and the problem is systemic. (Comedy in general, and especially late-night comedy, has that boys’ club atmosphere baked in. Combine that with the usual problems facing women in the workplace and it’s going to be pretty bad even on a show that is better-than-average in this respect.) And it uses certain anecdotes to paint Stewart as unusually sexist, when the simpler conclusion from those anecdotes is that he can sometimes be a tough boss.

She also seems unduly obsessed with the idea that because TDS is a liberal darling it should be judged by a higher standard than other comedy shows, which doesn’t even make sense in terms of the stated goal: if the goal is to get more opportunities for women in comedy—a good and important goal—the only way to achieve it is to put pressure on the whole industry, not just on shows that can be designated as “liberal.” It’s almost misleading to argue that the problem is specifically a TDS problem, or a Jon Stewart problem.

The response is kind of a hit piece too, though to a lesser extent. It accuses Carmon (not by name) of “seiz[ing] on the bitter rantings of ex-employees and ignor[ing] what current staff say about working at The Daily Show“—when the current staff was unavailable for comment when she was writing the article. And of course it sidesteps the question of the larger problems that face women in comedy and the shortage of jobs for female comics and writers. But I don’t blame them for that; the point of the letter is to reply to the idea that The Daily Show is a bad environment for women. By a Platonic ideal standard, it probably is, but by the actual standards of television comedy shows, it almost definitely isn’t.


 

The Daily Show hires women

  1. Correction: Carmon *claims* the current staff was unavailable for comment. Take that with a grain of salt.

  2. "Combine that with the usual problems facing women in the workplace …."

    Has anyone talked about how women, in general, are not funny/comedians so there is bound to be a dearth of them within comedy circuit.

    • With all due respect, you are wrong. I know a number of people in the Toronto comedy circuit. Many of them are women, and many of them are very funny.

    • Christopher Hitchens has. There's a Youtube of him covering this very subject in his usual, snarky manner.

  3. " And of course it sidesteps the question of the larger problems that face women in comedy and the shortage of jobs for female comics and writers."

    Are you suggesting that some comedy jobs are open only to male applicants? If so, provide evidence, because I'm pretty sure that claim would be BS. If not, then how is there any more of a shortage for female comics/writers than male comics/writers?

    • A recent poll showed that in 78% of North American households the male clung to the remote as if it were the source of his testosterone. Apparently the phenomena increases exponentially each night after 10 pm but recedes during the Winter Olympics when figure skating is being shown.

  4. Still more women than Macleans though, right?

  5. PPS thanks for the male writers who penned this for us.

    Haha classic. ;)

  6. Red Eye beats the Daily Show any day of the week.

    • Only in your deluded world they do. But I'm sure any show that deliberatly slags Canada's Armed Forces is AOK in your books, eh?

  7. I am a male comedy writer and producer working in Canada. I don’t work on TV, so you can take all this with that in mind, but I have spent years working in the comedy community in Toronto, often in collaborative environments (read: with other people).

    My first comedy class in this city (in the dark Pre-Millennial days)was an introductory improv class. There were 15 people in the class, 9 of them women. By the time I’d reached the advanced levels in that class it was more like 5 in 15. Was the class sexist? The men and women teaching sure weren’t, as far as I could tell.

    The high dropout rate, I later learned, was something happening all over comedy classes. There was a lot of hand-wringing about it among teachers, and several efforts to change things. It was thought that male students were too naturally aggressive, or boisterous, even when they were making mistakes, and that women were more likely to hold back when they didn’t know what they were doing, thus shying away from the stage. Women were being encouraged to team up and do scenes together, special all women classes were started. More attention was paid to the common complaint about women in improv about being always placed into the wife/girlfriend/mother roles.

    Did it help? Some. The 90’s in Toronto saw a real up-tick in female comedy (at least from where I sat) and now it’s really not uncommon to see ‘all girl’ sketch, improv, or stand-up nights.

    But there’s still not enough women in comedy. Honestly. I’m working on a writing project right now, with a group of respected peers, but it was like pulling teeth to get enough talented women to even submit work. I’m very happy with who I got in the end, but in the process of getting there, I went through a long string of “she’s not really in the business any more”.

    So why are there so few women? Why do the ones that do succeed drop out? There’s a whole lot of reasons, often the same ones that cause anyone to give up on a low paying artist career, but for some reason it seems particularly hard to find women who have stayed in comedy.

    I find it quite understandable from a demographic viewpoint that there would be more men than women on staff at The Daily Show, particularly among writers and performers. By the time you’ve reached that level a lot of the women have dropped out. Actually, they’re overall numbers seem kind of admirable given the field.

    But I gotta say, I still don’t really get why there are so many drop outs along the way.

    The “boisterous boys” theory makes some sense getting started, but doesn’t really explain things further down the line. If anything comedy is more of a “young boys” club.

    So ladies, if you’re in comedy, stick with it. Please. Further in we’re really going to miss your point of view.