Wanda Sykes, by Noel Murray at The A. V. Club via Comedy Central.
AVC: There’s been a lot of talk in the wake of the whole David Letterman affair about the lack of female writers on late-night comedy shows. What’s your mix like?
WS: I have a well-balanced show. It’s 50/50 on men/women, and also African-American/white writers, it’s the same thing. I have four African-American writers, and four non-African-American writers.
AVC: Why do you think other shows have been so slow to mix up their staffs in that same way? You take someone like Jon Stewart, who seems so progressive, and yet the composition of his staff doesn’t reflect what his politics would seem to be.
WS: You know what, I think maybe it’s because men like to fart, and the host wants to be able to sit in his writers’ room and just pass gas freely. Me, I’m a lady. I’m dainty. I know to get up and leave the room and go to my office.
No Asian or Latino people are mentioned, but we shall overcome someday. Also, Wanda's staff sounds better than this experience:
Letterman and Me, by Nell Scovell at VanityFair.com. Emphases mine.
At this moment, 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. Out of the 50 or so comedy writers working on these programs, exactly zero are women. It would be funny if it weren’t true.
[ . . . ]
I decided to speak up now for three reasons: 1. People who have no knowledge of the situation are voicing opinions, so why not me? 2. Letterman himself opened this up to a public discussion. 3. I’d like to pivot the discussion away from the bedroom and toward the writers’ room, because it pains me that almost 20 years later, the situation for female writers in late-night-TV hasn’t improved.
[ . . . ]
One frequent excuse you hear from late-night-TV executives is that “women just don’t apply for these jobs.” And they certainly don’t in the same numbers as men. But that’s partly because the shows often rely on current (white male) writers to recommend their funny (white male) friends to be future (white male) writers. Targeted outreach to talented bloggers, improv performers, and stand-ups would help widen the field of applicants. I’m also aware of several worthy females who have submitted material and never heard back. [ . . . ]
Late-night shows shouldn’t relax their standards for women, but why not give feedback and encouragement if it’s warranted? Maybe a writer will nail the tone on her second try. I’d also like to see each show post submission-packet requirements on its Web site so everyone has equal access. Obvious, right? Unless the shows would rather complain about the dearth of female applicants than do anything to encourage them.
Unfortunately, that concept is not solely confined to television writing staffs, Ms. Scovell. :|
I have a theory. An executive producer with an all-male writing staff once inadvertently revealed his deep, dark fear. While discussing a full-time position for me, he mused out loud, “I wonder if having a woman in the room will change everything.” Of course, what he really meant was: “I wonder if having a woman in the room will change me.”
Yes, it will change you: you will become a better writer.