Wednesday, December 13, 2006

"I Can't Get a Job Because I'm a (White) Male."



It all started with this article in the latest issue Vanity Fair, entitled "Why Women Aren't Funny," by Christopher Hitchens. Here's an excerpt from the witty tome:

"...my argument doesn't say that there are no decent women comedians. There are more terrible female comedians than there are terrible male comedians, but there are some impressive ladies out there. Most of them, though, when you come to review the situation, are hefty or dykey or Jewish, or some combo of the three. When Roseanne stands up and tells biker jokes and invites people who don't dig her shtick to suck her dick—know what I am saying? And the Sapphic faction may have its own reasons for wanting what I want—the sweet surrender of female laughter. While Jewish humor, boiling as it is with angst and self-deprecation, is almost masculine by definition."

"Hefty or dykey or Jewish?" Okay, wow. There is so much wrong with that paragraph, and with the man who wrote it, that I won't even bother to attempt analysis.

I found out about Mr. Hitchens's piece (hee!) while browsing pamie.com and Feministing. The writers and readers of Feministing had some choice words for Mr. Hitchens. But pamie's post on the subject this Saturday was the one that sparked the "comedy blog war," i.e. humorous yet informed discussion, that I'm hoping to contribute to.

The first retallion shot was fired over the bow by pamie's friend Irwin on his blog, From Studio Twelve A. Irwin is currently "holding a knife to [his] penis" because "girl writers are getting hired just because they are girls ALL THE TIME. And some of them, aren't funny. Or they are funny, but not as funny as other people. This is fact." He asserts that since women comedy writers are as rare as "polar bears, or Native Americans" they are in higher demand, and are therefore taking away jobs from him and his fellow white male friends.

Irwin, put the knife down, and get over yourself.

pamie, who is a girl and a working comedy writer, then responded to Irwin's post with valid anecdotal evidence to prove her point. Here is one of my favorite passages:

"[Irwin's] main complaint is that a woman gets the job he thinks there are hundreds more men qualified for. There's one more slot in the room of ten writers, but instead of going to him...it goes to "some girl," and it doesn't matter if that girl is funny or not...

...Maybe the reason he's sometimes working with "the girl" who isn't funny is because in some cases when they have to hire "the girl," they go to their go-to girl: one they know won't make problems, or one they know from before, or one they don't think is pretty/sexy/flirty/single/straight enough to cause "problems," or one that has been waiting for such a chance and they're taking a risk, or whatever...Irwin fails to mention how many times he's found himself working with a man who's intensely unfunny, who every day he's like, "Guy! Why did they hire him?" Does he shrug his shoulders and go, "Must be because he's a guy. Damn this patriarchal comedy system!" No, he doesn't. The dick is never the reason why that dick got hired."

Exactly. There is usually ONE girl in the comedy writers room. ONE. The rest of the writers are guys, and they are almost exclusively white. Did Irwin ever question why most writers on television shows are white males? I doubt it. Because he'd have to take a hard look at the industry he works in, and admit his privileged place in the white patriarchal structure that runs it. He'd have to acknowledge that even though white males constitute less than 30 percent of the US population, they control over 90 percent of what goes on TV. (And countless other industries as well.) Yes, I know that Irwin is not one of the people who decides what programs go on our televisions. But the fact that he shares the same color AND gender of most of the the people who do make those decisions at every level? He needs to admit that gives him a leg up on the normalcy ladder, no matter how many polar bears and Native Americans are applying for the same job.

Today, Irwin posted a response to pamie's response. He asserts, "1. There are far less women writing comedy than men. Period." and, "2. Pamie does not fully understand because she is a great writer so it doesn't matter." He concludes his argument by stating, "now I shall go back to trying to be funny, despite the handicap between my legs."

Oy vey.

Again, too many eye-rolling things to comment on. I will agree that pamie is a great writer, proven by the fact that I purchased both of her novels. I just get so upset when I hear or read (white) males professing, "those women/minorities are taking our jobs!"

Irwin, have you ever considered how many jobs you have gotten simply because you are a white male? Before you automatically say, "None," I encourage you to think about it. Even if "none" is the correct answer, think about why the comedy writers' world is such that a distinct effort must be made to find a "female voice" for a show. Women make up 51% of the population. Why do the people who make comedies need a special search to find out how to speak to the majority of this country?

Additionally, why do you think you need to "hire a gay guy" to fill that niche? I'm neither gay, nor a guy, but I am a writer, and I am funny.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your contribution to the debate. I respect your opinion, but I really think you're wrong on this one.

First of all, this isn't a blame game for me. I'm just trying to describe the system the way it actually is, versus how we (or more specifically, how you and Pamie) wish it was. Sure, it would be nice to chalk things up to "the man" controlling everything, but it is simply not the case.

I don't know how many jobs I've gotten simply because I'm a "white man", but I do know there have been jobs I haven't gotten because I'm a "white man". Isn't that just as bad?

There are two white male writers on Mencia who do not have agents. Why do they not have agents? Because they are white men. If they were women or minorities they would have multiple agents fighting over them. What does that tell you?

I'll tell you what it tells me: there just aren't that many women or minorities trying to write comedy. There aren't. The reason there are so many white males in comedy rooms is because there are a million white males trying to be comedy writers! Yes, women make up 51% of the population, but they probably make up 5% of the people trying to write comedy. That's why there has to be "a special search needed to find this voice". I don't understand what's confusing about that.

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Anonymous said...

sorry, quadruple post!

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Bianca Reagan said...

In case anyone is reading this and wondering why nine of irwin's posts were deleted, please do not jump to censorship as a conclusion. I deleted them because they were exact replicas of his first post. I'm sure it was a clerical error. I have my own dilemmas when I try to post comments, too.

Anyhoo, I'm so excited to have comments! Hooray!

Jane said...

Seems like Irwin doesn't like us too much for "stirring the pot" over on his blog.

Probably why he thinks women who sue are to be blamed in some way...becasue they are thretening his comfortableness.

It's a sad day when a white, male feels he's having a hard time getting a job...SUCK IT UP, indeed! Well said, Bianca!

Jane (of the posts on Irwin's blog)

Bianca Reagan said...

Thank you for your comment, jane!

Comfortableness is exactly the theme I am talking about. It's hard for people who have rarely been uncomfortable in their surroundings to understand where other people who may be considered "Native Americans" or "polar bears" are coming from. It's hard to make someone understand your point of view when they have never considered the privileges they have by being born the right sex and color in American society.

Anonymous said...

Irwin Handleman, have you ever wondered why there aren't women or minority comedy writers. The end point of there being so many competing white male writers didn't just happen. Unless you think white males are inherently more funny then the rest of the population...which you may. The truth is it is a systematic thing that happens over time,many signs that makes it more socially acceptable for you to go out on a limb and pursue your dreams. Because as my post college years have shown me, when white people are pursuing a dream and hit hard times they are starving artists, if it happens to a minority it is assumed that they are draining the economy by using up welfare. As people everyone gets to the point where they are discouraged. The point is as a non-white male it probably happens more often and is not because of lack of talent but because of some -ism, whether it be racism, sexism, classism. Trust me I am not blaming white males, some of you are funny and some of you aren't, just like many other populations. I think there are many things built into the system that have weeded out minorities and women, whether intentionally or not is a different debate. Goodluck with the job hunt

Bianca Reagan said...

Thanks for your comment, salpalvi. And welcome!

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Anonymous said...

First of all, I love you guys for stirring up the pot. I don't where you'd get the idea that I didn't. Believe me, arguing over stuff is one of my favorite hobbies.

Secondly, and I'll say this yet again, I wasn't whining or complaining at all. I was responding to Pamie's original post and saying how the situation is. It is hard for me to get a job, and it's also hard for EVERYONE to get a job in this business. That's just the way it is, and that's fine. But I do think people should stop blaming society and suck it up and realize that life is difficult for everyone.

Peter Gill said...

Sorry mate, I think you try hard and you seem smart, but you're not that funny. Or at least, not that funny in the last 5 or 6 pieces I'ev read.

Granted, you're talking comedy and not 'doing comedy' here, but I'd avoid comments like yours to finish off a rant; tends to invalidate a point that seems hard to lose (as in, this Irwin fella is a goose).

Bianca Reagan said...

The latest comments I deleted were exact copies of the 20th comment, which I hadn't cleaned up months. I think they were from irwin, even though they said "anonymous."

Onto peter gill. Are you saying that I (Bianca) am not funny? Or are you saying that irwin/anonymous is not funny? I'm fine with either or both assertions. I would just like clarification so I can respond appropriately.

daniel said...

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Great article and disucssion!

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Bianca Reagan said...

Thank you for your comment, daniel!