While she was in New York this week prepping for her upcoming episode of SNL, she gave a great interview to the New York Times. Among other subjects (Veep, Trump, knitting), she was asked about her time at Saturday Night Live. Dreyfus has talked occasionally about her stint there and her criticisms of the show, which she says she recalls “fondly-ish.” Except upon immediate follow-up, she’s clearly just being polite there, agreeing that during the time she was there, women were not given equal treatment “at all.”
I did not come out of “S.N.L.” as any kind of name. I didn’t do anything particularly great when I was there. I didn’t. It’s fine. But I learned a tremendous amount. It was a very sexist environment. Since I’ve gone back, I can tell you it’s much more of an equal-opportunity environment.
She’s not the only person to talk about the boys club that was Saturday Night Live for its lengthy early era(s). There have been plenty of people— including women— who say SNL doesn’t have (that big of) a sexism problem. Even Tina Fey has said there is no “institutional sexism,” with the caveat that “when the makeup of a room is 70 percent male opposed to 50-50, different things are going to play in the room.” Other, perhaps less couched stories tell a different tale, though. There are far too many truly disgusting examples out there of the horrible, absolutely institutional, if not clearly acknowledged, sexism rampant on this show from the beginning, well through Louis-Dreyfus’ years. Knowing what we do about her abilities, it’s hard to believe that she didn’t leave SNL with a name and reputation (I, myself, constantly forget she was even on that show) because it’s a pure meritocracy. Maybe she wasn’t ambitious enough, or whatever enough, to make it there, but maybe that environment really just wasn’t willing to let a woman like her, as talented and brassy as she clearly was, have a fair shake. It wasn’t all downside, though.
I was on it for three years, and when I left, I made this conscious decision that I would not take any jobs that didn’t seem as if they would be really fun. That’s very simplistic and Pollyannaish sounding, but really, I noted that. I’m not doing this unless I can have a deep sense of happiness while doing it. I’ve applied that, moving forward, and it’s worked. So in that sense, I have “S.N.L.” to thank.
Let’s stop right here to acknowledge that it’s a whole hell of a lot easier to take jobs that make you happy (and to refuse to play in a boys club like early ’80s SNL) when you’re born a billionaire, as she was. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, good for f*cking her for never bothering to try to call a sexist environment a meritocracy that just happens to be played on an uneven field, or for taking any job that she’d feel bad doing. If we could all be so lucky as to be able to do that, I hope we would.