Ladies Finally Come to Late-Night Television (Sort Of): #NowWhat

Late-night television is changing, but it needs to change more.

ColumnLate-night television shows have always resembled a boys’ club. But in recent years, the late-night landscape has started to change… albeit subtly. 

Mother Jones recently wrote a revealing piece that accounted for all the women who are credited as writers on all the major late-night shows. No show’s writing team is primarily female. And the only show that gets remotely close to that 50 percent mark is, not surprisingly, “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.”

The incident that sparked Mother Jones’ late night writer investigation was a recent “The Daily Show” tweet. Last week, after SCOTUS made its memorable abortion decision, the program’s Twitter account posted a tweet that said the following:

“Celebrate the #SCOTUS ruling! Go knock someone up in Texas!”

Yes, because as everyone knows, the SCOTUS ruling was all about men and their ability to have sex sans condoms. It had nothing to do with a woman’s right to choose or access to abortion centers.

Not surprisingly, “The Daily Show” quickly issued an apology. Problem was, though, it really wasn’t an apology… it was more of a “whatever, haters” kind of tweet:

“Friends, we’re certainly not promoting abortions. Just excited about #SCOTUS reaffirming right to choose.”

Many of the tweet complaints came from Twitter users who said this type of thing could be avoided in more women resided in “The Daily Show’s” writers’ room. Those users aren’t wrong. Hiring women and diverse writers only make comedy better. Because honestly, I think we have plenty options when it comes to white male humor.

So, are there any late-night hosts who want to do something about this problem? Of course!

Seth Meyers’ “A Closer Look” often examine issues that impact minorities and women. He also has a running bit he does with two of his female writers—Jenny Hagel and Amber Ruffin—that concerns “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell” that basically torpedoes any male comedian who says they don’t have to be PC because it’s comedy.

As stated previously, Samantha Bee leads the pack when it comes to hiring diverse writers. According to Mother Jones’ reporting, Bee’s writing team includes five men and four women. Her team also is 30 percent nonwhite. Bee also strives to hire writers who are underestimated.

To help hire diverse writers, she created a blind application process. She also made the application process easy to attract people who weren’t seasoned, Hollywood writers.

““I have literally filled my office with people who have been underestimated their entire careers,” Samantha Bee says. “To a person, we almost all fit into that category. It is so joyful to collect a group of people who nobody has ever thought could grasp the reins of something and fucking go for it.”

And as far as I’m concerned, Bee’s hiring process kicks ass. Her show is one of the best things on television. And, apparently, a lot of people agree. “Full Frontal” gets 3.2 million viewers per episode, Jezebel reports.

So, keep at it, Bee. And come on, men of late night. Step up your efforts and hire more women and diverse writers. The results will probably make you laugh–in a good way.

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Image of Samantha Bee via Shutterstock, Debby Wong

Abbie Stutzer

Writer, editor, and owner of Ginchy!, a freelance writing and editing company, and home funeral hub. Adores smart sex ed, sustainable ag, spooky history, women's health, feminism, horror, wine, and sci-fi.