Where are all the women Comedy Writers on late-night tv? 

Ms. Magazine had a fascinating article on the dearth of women in the writing rooms of late night TV.  (Even, in the writing room of The Girly Show – the fictitious show being produced on “30 Rock” there are no female writers besides Liz Lemmon.)

But according to the Ms. article by Fredrika Thelandersson, the lack of female presence was not about discrimination, but for lack of female applicants, according to the panel of writers who were telling their stories at the Women’s Writers’ Guild East conference.  Read the article here:  http://msmagazine.com/blog/blog/2010/05/17/where-are-the-women-comedy-writers-on-late-night-tv/comment-page-1

Commenters decried that there were definite obstacles to women writers finding welcome among the rude crew in the writer’s room.  It’s a frat-boy, Ivy League environment and network of pals who have cracked jokes together, or in similar looking crews, since they were adolescents.  Commenters also said there was exclusion and alienation when the jokes that get on-air were always Star Wars  or superhero comic book jokes.  

This is a coachable moment for women comedians – who actually want that job.  If what you aspire to is late-night comedy writing for the likes of John Stewart or the Colbert Report or Letterman, then you have to do as the women who are in those roles do.  They applied multiple times (as their male counterparts likely did.)  They built relevant repertoire.  But mostly they could see themselves there not just by some fluke, but because it fits them.  They don’t see obstacles – even when they see differences.   

About writing jokes about Hillary Clinton, one panelist, Hallie Haglund (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart), says:

“Looking at the clips of her as the only woman with all those men, I felt it mirrored my own position as a lone woman among men and it was hard not to take the punches on her personally.”

The panelists didn’t pull out tales of testoterone and sexism and discrimnation from an overflowing war chest- which they cleary could have with their long careers in writing rooms – of times when they were aghast at a certain comment, a frat boy environemnt that left them out.  They don’t focus there because they likely see those transgressions as hickeys and not war wounds.  They focus on the work.  They see themselves there.  They applied for a job they wanted and they belong there in the rough and tumble that is their environment – trying to get your jokes on TV.   That is the paradigm, male or felmale. 

You can bemoan how the need and marketplace favors male comedy writers – or you can succeed.  There’s more than one way to succeed – you don’t just have to suck it up and write the same Star Wars jokes as your male colleagues.  Shift the paradigm and your brand:  Ellen has done this and so has Tina Fey.  Samantha Bee on John Stewart.  Maybe you only write jokes on a certain topic – the environment or airline travel.  There’s a million specialities to own and sell. 

Keep writing, keep performing. Be who you are for fun and profit.  (People will want to be with you.)

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