Where are the Women Comedy Writers?

| 5/25/2010 11:45:43 AM

women in comedy

Chloe Angyal over at Feministing has a smart essay on a recent Paley Center for Media panel on women writers working in late-night television comedy. Sensing that the female panelists didn’t think gender was the true explanation for the dearth of women in comedy, Angyal draws an acute connection between women comedy writers and female traders on Wall Street:

It is no coincidence that the discussion of why there are so few women in late night comedy sounded so similar to a discussion of why there are so few women on the trading floor. In both industries, women are perceived to be naturally less gifted, ensuring that only the best women will put themselves forward. And in both industries, being loud and aggressive is a job requirement. Given that women in our society are discouraged from being loud and aggressive, the real failure of the women who can't hack it in a male-dominated work environment seems to be that they are, well, women.

Listening to the panelists on Thursday night, I was frustrated, but hardly surprised, that they insisted on portraying what is partly a cultural problem as a purely individual one. In late night as on Wall Street, the stakes are high. Speak out too loudly and you risk rocking the boat. You risk inviting the disapproval of the many men, and the few women, around you. You might end up as a cautionary tale, one of those women who couldn't hack it. You might even lose your job.

Source: Feministing

Image by TheeErin, licensed under Creative Commons.

Kathleen Sweeney_1
6/4/2010 6:32:02 AM

I attended this same event as a guest blogger for Women and Hollywood and my take-away couldn't be more different. The women featured on the panel were funny, forthright, smart, and yes, realistic, but they did share some important facts. Four times as many men as women submit their material for consideration as late night comedy writers. Four times as many! So while enculturation is playing a part, women need to do their homework, send in their best jokes and leap over the boundaries. Here is the link to my post, which includes a list of tips for breaking into late night comedy from the women on the panel: http://womenandhollywood.com/2010/05/20/guest-post-late-night-women-laughing-by-kathleen-sweeney/

Barbara Allen
6/2/2010 4:20:25 PM

I love to laugh but lately it's not easy to find a show that is consistently funny. I call bathroom jokes the refuge of the writer who can't come up with anything better. Too many comedy shows sound like they're written by guys who hit their prime at 12 years old. Where are the women writers? I suspect that somewhere along the line from writing to final production, a crucial element of support, whether financial or political, or both, is missing. As long as shows deliver the numbers, advertisers will continue to advertise and the status quo will be maintained. What's evident though, is that a big opportunity exists to cultivate humor that doesn't depend solely on bathroom jokes but is witty and satirical. Witness the success of 30 Rock and Tina Fey. Saturday Night Live is extremely uneven in its writing...a few shows are funny while most are a big yawn. How many of those writers are women? Any? I'd like to see more female comedy writing come to life on television and web channels. In the hands of the media, comedy is a powerful influencer...come on, we can do better.

5/31/2010 7:33:58 AM

Who says comedy writer have to be loud and aggressive? Oh yeah - the same ones who think they need to be obnoxious. What we need is comedy venues that are more varied allowing for subtle quiet humor, and other styles, to display there talents. I'm tired of the little boy potty humor that infiltrates too much of even my favorite comedy shows.

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