"We were each hired because of our creative ability, our intelligence, and above all, our ability to work our asses off to make a great show."
Recently, an open letter was posted on The Daily Show’s website from the female staff at The Daily Show, arguing that the recent criticism of the show’s relationship to women is unfounded. Their argument tends toward the “no one but us knows what it is like to work here,” which certainly has a great deal of validity to it.
One issue with this note is, as Tiger Beatdown pointed out [Tiger Beatdown is being pretty mean to Olivia Munn, though, so please do not think The Standard Review is endorsing that point of view], no one is suggesting that women don’t work on the show. The criticisms, rather, tend toward the point that women are underrepresented on the show, not just as correspondents (the very public face of The Daily Show’s comedy team) but also as credited writers. As Sady Doyle put it [in her own version of the writers’ letter]:
Why, we even sometimes get our jokes on the air! But not our names, apparently, in many cases, or our faces, in all but three cases. Just because our names do not appear on the writers’ credits — just because we do not, as the saying goes, “get credit” for our work — this should not imply to you that our work is not valued!
This is, I think, a pretty fair point. And furthermore, not to devalue the experience of the women working on the show (especially because, by all accounts, they seem to be doing a really good job of putting a show together), but it DOES matter what the audience of The Daily Show thinks, and what aspiring women writers think. Women are drastically underrepresented in all late night shows, and, as recent studies suggest, not only does this kind of underrepresentation discourage girls from becoming comedy writers, but the speculation that women *might not* be as good as men at things actually convinces women that this is the case.
Finally, as Jaime Weinman points out, this focus on The Daily Show may be misplaced. He notes:
If the goal is to get more opportunities for women in comedy—a good and important goal—the only way to achieve it is to put pressure on the whole industry, not just on shows that can be designated as “liberal.” It’s almost misleading to argue that the problem is specifically a TDS problem, or a Jon Stewart problem.
I think we want the things we like to be better than the things we don’t, but Weinman’s right: it’s important to push everyone forward. We should make the same demands in all comedy writing that we’re making of The Daily Show. But it may be that we don’t think we have a good chance of affecting change on, say, Letterman. We may not know until Jezebel devotes the same amount of time to him as they are Jon Stewart.