Comedy Writing with a Side of Sex

Former "Late Night with David Letterman" writer Nell Scovell's excellent Vanity Fair piece about the show's hostile work environment is juicy reading, and illuminating, too. But it's worth mentioning that the point Scovell makes from the inside -- that "there are more females serving on the United States Supreme Court than there are writing for Late Show with David Letterman, The Jay Leno Show, and The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien combined" -- is one Nancy Franklin made nearly a month ago in The New Yorker:

Did a bomb go off and kill all the women comedy writers and leave the men standing? The other night on the Emmy Awards broadcast, the names of the nominees for best writing on a comedy or variety series were read, and, out of eighty-one people, only seven were women. Leno has no women writers on his show. Neither does David Letterman, and neither does Conan O'Brien. Come on.

Score another one for Franklin, who worked that eloquent little cri de coeur into her takedown of Leno's prime-time show, just as the Letterman extortion attempt was grabbing headlines.

One of the great things about scandals is their function as catalysts for evolution that's long overdue. Is it too much to hope that, in the wake of Letterman's sexual-harassment debacle, the comedy-writing clubhouse will go co-ed for good, and the behavior of those who toil there will become professional at last?

Sexual attraction is natural; it happens in every workplace. But adults are expected to have some impulse control, and funny people are grown-ups just like the rest of us. Feeling attracted doesn't have to mean acting on it, especially when acting on it is illegal. No one should have to compete sexually at work -- and that's exactly the dynamic that's set up for the entire staff when superiors and subordinates sleep together.

Separate but related is the trouble female comedy writers have getting in the door in the first place (and, as this week's headlines remind us, the trouble persists even in fields perceived as relatively female-friendly, like dance and independent film).

"I just want Dave to hire some qualified female writers and then treat them with respect," Scovell writes. "And that goes for Jay and Conan, too."

Comedy writing jobs are just that: jobs. This whole discussion is, at bottom, about the right to work, and to work unmolested, literally and figuratively. For most men, that's the status quo; they take it for granted, and they ought to. It shouldn't be any different for women -- but at the moment, it still is.
October 28, 2009 1:29 PM | | Comments (0)

Leave a comment


About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Critical Difference published on October 28, 2009 1:29 PM.

The Wild Rumpus was the previous entry in this blog.

The Yankees' Cautionary Tale is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

AJ Ads

AJ Blogs

AJBlogCentral | rss

About Last Night
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Artful Manager
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
blog riley
rock culture approximately
critical difference
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dog Days
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
Life's a Pitch
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
Mind the Gap
No genre is the new genre
Performance Monkey
David Jays on theatre and dance
Plain English
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Real Clear Arts
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
Rockwell Matters
John Rockwell on the arts
Straight Up |
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude

Foot in Mouth
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Seeing Things
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...

Jazz Beyond Jazz
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...

Out There
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Serious Popcorn
Martha Bayles on Film...

classical music
Creative Destruction
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
The Future of Classical Music?
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
On the Record
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Slipped Disc
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds

Jerome Weeks on Books
Quick Study
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera

Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
lies like truth
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world

Aesthetic Grounds
Public Art, Public Space
Another Bouncing Ball
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Modern Art Notes
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.