Tag Archives: Comedy Central

Women of The Daily Show

I recently shared an article from Jezebel.com on The Daily Show‘s Woman Problem.  Author Irin Carmon had interviewed past female Daily Show workers who felt they and many other women at the show had been treated unfairly due to their gender.

Click to see the press release on The Daily Show website.

I was so glad to hear that the women of The Daily Show responded for themselves about these allegations of sexism.  Here is the following statement they released; you can find it at The Daily Show website here.

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A partial list of things Jon has supported us through
  • 9/11
  • Anthrax
  • The writers’ strike
  • Blackout
  • Death
  • Marriages
  • Divorces
  • Cancer
  • Infertility
  • Family emergencies
  • Babies
  • Office food poisoning
  • Staff restructuring
  • Pet emergencies
  • The re-election of George Bush
  • Inadequately researched blog posts that cling to a predetermined narrative about sexism at The Daily Show

Dear People Who Don’t Work Here,

Recently, certain media outlets have attempted to tell us what it’s like to be a woman at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. We must admit it is entertaining to be the subjects of such a vivid and dramatic narrative. However, while rampant sexism at a well-respected show makes for a great story, we want to make something very clear: the place you may have read about is not our office.

The Daily Show isn’t a place where women quietly suffer on the sidelines as barely tolerated tokens. On the contrary: just like the men here, we’re indispensable. We generate a significant portion of the show’s creative content and the fact is, it wouldn’t be the show that you love without us.

So, who are the women of The Daily Show?

If you think the only women who help create this show are a couple of female writers and correspondents, you’re dismissing the vast majority of us. Actually, we make up 40% of the staff, and we’re not all shoved into the party-planning department (although we do run that, and we throw some kick-ass parties). We are co-executive producers, supervising producers, senior producers, segment producers, coordinating field producers, associate producers, editors, writers, correspondents, talent coordinators, production coordinators, researchers, makeup artists, the entire accounting and audience departments, production assistants, crew members, and much more. 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.

Is it hard to work at The Daily Show?

Absolutely. When it comes to what makes it onto the show, competing ideas aren’t just hashed out between the faces you see on camera or the names that roll under the “writers” credits. Jokes and concepts come from our studio department, our field department, our graphics department, our production department, our intern department, and our control room. Jon’s rule is: the strongest idea and the funniest joke win every single time, no matter who pitches it–woman or man, executive producer or production assistant. And of course none of these jokes and ideas would get to air without the layers of production talent working behind the scenes. The fairness of our workplace makes competition tough and makes the show better.

So if it’s so challenging, why have we stayed for two, five, ten, fourteen years? Because it’s challenging. We feel lucky to work in a meritocracy where someone with talent can join us as an intern and work her way up to wherever her strengths take her. But also because it’s an environment that supports our being more than just our jobs. The Daily Show (to an extent few of us have seen elsewhere) allows us the flexibility to care for our families, pursue our own projects, cope with unexpected crises, and have lives outside the show.

Also… are you kidding? It’s The Daily Show for Christ’s sake. You ask some stupid questions, imaginary interlocutor.

What’s Jon Stewart really like?

Jon’s not just a guy in a suit reading a prompter. His voice and vision shape every aspect of the show from concept to execution. The idea that he would risk compromising his show’s quality by hiring or firing someone based on anything but ability, or by booking guests based on anything but subject matter, is simply ludicrous.

But what’s he really like? Well, for a sexist prick, he can be quite charming. He’s also generous, humble, genuine, compassionate, fair, supportive, exacting, stubborn, goofy, hands-on, driven, occasionally infuriating, ethical, down-to-earth and–a lot of people don’t know this–surprisingly funny (for a guy brimming with “joyless rage”). How else to describe him? What’s the word that means the opposite of sexist? That one.

In any organization, the tone is set from the top. Since taking over the show, Jon has worked hard to create an environment where people feel respected and valued regardless of their gender or position. If that’s not your scene, you probably wouldn’t like it here. We happen to love it.

And so…

And so, while it may cause a big stir to seize on the bitter rantings of ex-employees and ignore what current staff say about working at The Daily Show, it’s not fair. It’s not fair to us, it’s not fair to Jon, it’s not fair to our wonderful male colleagues, and it’s especially not fair to the young women who want to have a career in comedy but are scared they may get swallowed up in what people label as a “boy’s club.”

The truth is, when it comes down to it, The Daily Show isn’t a boy’s club or a girl’s club, it’s a family – a highly functioning if sometimes dysfunctional family. And we’re not thinking about how to maximize our gender roles in the workplace on a daily basis. We’re thinking about how to punch up a joke about Glenn Beck’s latest diatribe, where to find a Michael Steele puppet on an hour’s notice, which chocolate looks most like an oil spill, and how to get a gospel choir to sing the immortal words, “Go f@#k yourself!”

Love,

Teri Abrams-Maidenberg, Department Supervisor, 11 years

Jill Baum, Writers’ Assistant, 4 years

Samantha Bee, Correspondent, 7 years

Alison Camillo, Coordinating Field Producer, 12 years

Vilma Cardenas, Production Accountant, 14 years

Lauren Cohen, Production Assistant, 1 year

Jocelyn Conn, Executive Assistant, 4 years

Kahane Cooperman, Co-Executive Producer, 14 years

Pam DePace, Line Producer, 14 years

Tonya Dreher, Avid Editor, 4 years

Kristen Everman, Production Assistant, 2 years

Christy Fiero, Production Controller, 13 years

Jen Flanz, Supervising Producer, 13 years

Hallie Haglund, Writer, 5 years

Kira Hopf, Senior Producer, 14 years

Jenna Jones, Production Assistant, 2 years

Jessie Kanevsky, Department Coordinator, 5 years

Jill Katz, Producer/Executive in Charge of Production, 4 years

Hillary Kun, Supervising Producer, 9 years

Christina Kyriazis, TelePrompter Operator, 14 years

Jo Miller, Writer, 1 year

Jody Morlock, Hair & Make-Up Artist, 14 years

Olivia Munn, Correspondent, 1 month

Lauren Sarver, Associate Segment Producer, 5 years

Kristen Schaal, Correspondent, 2 years

April Smith, Utility, 14 years

Patty Ido Smith, Electronic Graphics, 12 years

Sara Taksler, Segment Producer, 5 years

Elise Terrell, Production Coordinator, 6 years

Adriane Truex, Facility Manager, 12 years

Juliet Werner, Researcher, 1 year

Kaela Wohl, Wardrobe Stylist/Costumer, 2 years

PS. Thanks for the list of funny women. Our Nanas send us a ton of suggestions about “what would make a great skit for The John Daley Show.” We’ll file it right next to those.

PPS. Thanks to the male writers who penned this for us.

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The Daily Show’s Woman Problem

This post is taken from an article on Jesebel.com.  Read Irin Carmon’s article in its entirety here.  The embedded links were from the original article.

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The Daily Show is many things: progressive darling, alleged news source for America’s youth, righteous media critique. And it’s also a boys’ club where women’s contributions are often ignored and dismissed.

If Olivia Munn, the former video game show host introduced to Daily Show viewers three weeks ago, survives her tryout, she’ll be the first new female correspondent on the show in seven years. With the notable exception of Samantha Bee, who’s been on since 2001, female correspondents have been a short-lived phenomenon. As fiercely liberal and sharp-eyed an observer as Jon Stewart can be, getting women on the air may be his major blind spot.

Television comedy, and late night in particular, can be cutthroat and transitory, and no one is particularly surprised when the men who host these shows turn out to be not very nice guys, as anyone who cared to pay attention to the David Letterman fall-out could see. Women are universally scarce, whether in the writer’s room or on the air.

The environment on The Daily Show was arguably worse in the Craig Kilborn era: Back in 1997, the then-host was suspended after telling Esquire,”To be honest, [co-creator] Lizz [Winstead] does find me very attractive. If I wanted her to blow me, she would.” (Winstead quit not long afterward.) Nowadays there may be less overt frat-boy humor, but that doesn’t mean the institutionalized sexism is gone.  Behind the scenes, numerous former female staffers tell us that working there was often a frustrating and alienating experience.

Jon Stewart hosts a taping of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" Thursday, March 12, 2009 in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

“What I was told when I was hired is that they have a very hard time finding and keeping women, and that I was lucky to get a one year contract,” says Lauren Weedman, a comedian and writer who worked on the show as an on-air correspondent from 2001-2002.

The story of Stewart throwing a newspaper or script at the show’s co-creator and executive producer Madeleine Smithberg out of displeasure with her work is an oft-told one among Daily Show veterans. Not long after the continued tension led Smithberg to quit in 2003, sources say Stewart refused to allow her onstage to accept the show’s Emmy, even though her work contributed to the win.

Stacey Grenrock Woods was on Stewart’s show from 1999-2003, longer than any other correspondent besides Bee. (She later chronicled the experience in her book, I, California.) She told me, “Did I feel like there was a boy’s club there? Yeah, sure. Did I want to be part of it? Not necessarily. So it kind of goes both ways.”

Overall, The Daily Show‘s environment was such that many women felt marginalized. “It was a place of just business,” says one show veteran. “The business happened to be hilarious comedy, but you weren’t allowed to enjoy it…Any sort of emotional vulnerability is like blood to a shark. And that is not great for women.”

Stewart and his show do have their female defenders. Bee, for starters, has repeatedly said her gender has been no impediment. Allison Silverman, a former Daily Show writer who returned after a stint working for Conan O’Brien to launch and executive produce The Colbert Report, says, “I had a great experience at The Daily Show. Jon’s given me nothing but support.”

“I don’t think Jon is sexist,” Smithberg says. “I don’t think that there is a double standard at the Daily Show. I do think that by the time it gets to the Daily Show it’s already been through the horrible sexist double standard of the universe. You’re not hiring someone right out of school. By the time they get to the candidates of the Daily Show, the herd has been thinned by the larger societal forces.” Of the greater talent pool of comedians, she said, “All that’s left are white men and Aziz Ansari.”

The show’s producers are somewhat aware they have a problem. Last fall, the writers’ room went from being all male to having two women, a definite improvement. “We shook the trees a little,” the head writer told The New York Times, and bringing on Olivia Munn would come out of the same impulse, according to numerous reports.

“The writers want to be able to write for a female reporter — but not too female,” says Weedman. She says it was hard to figure out what that meant exactly. “I would pitch something like, can I do a segment on women’s self help or on fitness. And they didn’t want anything like that…Ed Helms got to have his mole removed [in a segment], but they weren’t going to do, a women goes to the gynecologist. They felt like at the time it wasn’t their audience.”

According to Nielsen, the Daily Show‘s audience does lean male—about 60 percent. That’s who producers seemed to have in mind when they hired Olivia Munn. Though it’s far to early to assess Munn’s performance based on her few seconds onscreen so far, her previous career path has led some to criticize The Daily Show for hiring someone better known for suggestively putting things in her mouth on a video game show (seen here) and being on the covers of Playboy and Maxim than for her comedic chops.

Munn was hired after an exhaustive search for a female correspondent that included many professional comedians. (Kristen Schaal is already an occasional contributor, but not a regular correspondent.) Executive producer Rory Albanese told the Daily Beast that producers were previously unaware of Olivia’s drooling fanboy base: “We’re stuck in a hard news cycle and we’re nerdy. If she was on the cover of The Economist, we would have been like, ‘Yes! Of course!'”

It’s hard not to conclude that looks mattered more for women than for men. Silverman jokes of Munn’s hiring, “I just hope it encourages Wyatt Cenac to take his top off more often.”

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