Friday, July 16, 2010

Jezebel and the Daily Show and the coming comedy utopia

On the a recent Slate Culture Gabfest podcast they touched on the Jezebel/Daily Show… situation (we'll call it).

The panel consisted of the male host and two women, so there was a balance that was not evident on DS from the Jezebel perspective.

Ultimately, however, the panel captured my general response. First, a kneejerk defense of my beloved Daily Show, with the acknowledgment that, yes, there needs to be more women working in comedy, and, no, that's not going to happen overnight. There is still a cultural reality that it's easier (more acceptable) for males to be funny, going back to childhood (where the class clown is far more likely to be a boy than a girl), and that likely does make it that there aren't as many women who'd fit in at DS writers room. One does like to believe  with the success of Tina Fey (and other brilliant female comedians working today) girls growing up now will develop a different perspective on who can make it as a comedy writer than women did in the past, and in a generation or so this may be a non-topic.

I think the trickiest part is that comedians are… special. In order to have the drive to seek acceptance through humor one probably has certain personality… quirks… that tend to lead one to have... particular social skills. Part of the reason the writers room is filled with dudes is not merely because guys have had an easier time being funny in our society (and therefore developing the comedy skills that get them there) but because those guys are more comfortable around those who are similarly... inclined. Which tends to be other guys. The cohesion of the group relies on an unfortunate but predictable awkwardness. It's not misogyny; it's not that they have anything against women; they just haven't come across that many women who share that awkwardness.

It's not that all these guys are this way, nor that there's no women who could fit in, but as we've speaking in generalities here it's worth acknowledging that's the situation with which we're dealing.

We're not only going to need a new breed of female comedy writer; we're going to need a new breed of male comedy writer, too. However, I think that will be the natural course of social evolution of comedy as women are allowed to be weird, to be funny, and to allow their awkwardness show.There will be no gender gap, and what will matter is who is funny.


Someday we'll have ubiquitous equality and we won't have anything left to say. It will be a grand and boring time.


  1. Not to start a fight, but the world needs more Ron Whites and fewer Jon Stewarts. ;-)

  2. I certainly concur that there should be only one Jon Stewart. We don't need his type of wit to be diluted by a plethora of imitators.

    Ron White has a great line about taking a crap so big that one's pants fit better. That makes me laugh every time.

    It's only comedy; nothing worth getting all worked up over.


So, what do you think?