By **Rebecca Bates**
Last month, Jezebel posted “The Daily Show’s Woman Problem,” an article by Irin Carmon that criticized the late-night comedy show for its lack of female writers and correspondents. Carmon notes that the recent appearance of Olivia Munn marks the first new lady correspondent in seven years. Carmon laments, “The Daily Show is many things: progressive darling, alleged news source for America’s youth, righteous media critique. And it’s also a boys’ club where women’s contributions are often ignored and dismissed.”
Carmon backs this up with some anecdotal “evidence.” Adrianne Frost, was fired after starring in only one successful segment, and was told by Stewart’s comedy agent, “‘They think you’re crazy. I told you not to be too friendly.’” Another correspondent, Lauren Weedman, claimed she knew The Daily Show was searching for her replacement before she was even told she’d been fired: “‘I would see all these blonde women coming in—they’d give them the same copy they gave me the night before. And I knew I’d be fired.’” Even Olivia Munn’s recent hire is portrayed as a sexist move: “[Munn’s] previous career path has led some to criticize The Daily Show for hiring someone better known for suggestively putting things in her mouth on a video game show…and being on the covers of Playboy and Maxim than for her comedic chops.”
Irin Carmon isn’t the only one sounding off on these perceived injustices. So is the female staff of The Daily Show. But from the other side. In a letter on the show’s website addressed to “People Who Don’t Work Here,” the lady employees of the show write, “While it may cause a big stir to seize on the bitter rantings of ex-employees and ignore what current staff say about working at The Daily Show, it’s not fair. It’s not fair to us, it’s not fair to Jon…it’s especially not fair to the young women who want to have a career in comedy but are scared they may get swallowed up in what people label as a ‘boy’s club.’” It’s a meritocracy, the women assert. The work is challenging, and challenging for all. Gender doesn’t matter. Good jokes do: “[T]he strongest idea and the funniest joke win every single time, no matter who pitches it—woman or man, executive producer or production assistant.”
At one point in her Jezebel post, Carmon writes, “The show’s producers are somewhat aware they have a problem. Last fall, the writers’ room went from being all male to having two women.” Yes, until 2009 women may have only served as writers’ assistants, but the Jezebel article seems to ignore the female staff from other departments. Emphasis is placed on the show’s apparent inability to hire and keep lady writers and correspondents, but Carmon neglects to mention that many of these producers—the same ones who allegedly “have a problem”—are women themselves, women who have worked on the show for almost fifteen years. In fact, according to the open letter, women make up 40 percent of the show’s staff.
Knowing all this, the Jezebel post seems bitter and impulsive. Carmon takes the easy way out by relying heavily on the sour feelings of fired employees, ironically depriving the women of the show a voice.
Copyright 2010 Rebecca Bates
Rebecca Bates is Guernica‘s blog intern. Read her last recommendation “here”:http://www.guernicamag.com/blog/1866/rec_room_rebecca_bates_graphom/.