So Where Are All Those 'Late Show' Women Colbert Promised Us?
Last month, as Stephen Colbert was in that hiatus between the ending of the Report and the start of his Late Show tenure, he wrote a piece for Glamour on the gender imbalance in comedy. He noted, as so many of us have lately, that “while there are many talented female comedians out there, right now the world of late-night is a bit of a sausagefest.” While he wanted to explore why this is and what can be done to stop it, he also recognized how presumptuous it would be to think he could fix all of women’s problems.
I don’t have all the answers. And frankly, it’s sexist of you to think I do just because I’m a man. C’mon!
Besides, it’s not my place to mansplain to you about the manstitutionalized manvantages built into Americman manciety. That would make me look like a real manhole.
Still, Colbert seemed to see clearly that he was in a unique position to actually make some change. He’s fortunate enough to be a huge name in late-night comedy, with a viewership that was about to grow many times over. (The series finale of the Report had an all-time series high of 2.5 million viewers, while his Late Show debut brought in 6.6 million. The man has an audience.) So it was extremely heartening to hear him say he planned to use that platform as a way to give women a voice.
Point is, I’m here for you, and that means I’m going to do my best to create a Late Show that not only appeals to women but also celebrates their voices. These days TV would have you believe that being a woman means sensually eating yogurt, looking for ways to feel confident on heavy days, and hunting for houses. But I’m going to make a show that truly respects women, because I know that there’s more than one way to be one. Maybe you’re a woman who likes women. Maybe you like women and men. Maybe you’re a woman who’s recently transitioned. Maybe you’re a guy who’s reading this magazine because your girlfriend bought a copy and it looked interesting.
Whoever you are, I promise: I’m going to lean in on this. It really accentuates my muffin top.
Given all that, it was more than a small letdown to see the credits roll at the end of Tuesday’s premiere and see the names of the Late Show writing staff (which hadn’t been previously announced in full). Of the 17 names listed, two were women. Two. That would be annoying and frustrating and par for the shitty course if Colbert hadn’t pledged, unprovoked, to do better. No one is saying Colbert needs to (or can) fix all problems in late-night immediately. But this is a problem, and it’s been a problem that Colbert has been aware of and has been contributing to for a long time. Remember that Emmys speech last year, when he acknowledged and seemed kind of embarrassed about his lack of female writers? His joke was “I’m so proud of those guys…and one woman. Sorry for that, for some reason.”
So if he’s aware of the problem, and he’s “sorry” for it, and he stated outright that he wants it to change, why not start off hiring more than 11% women? Sure, two women is twice as many as he had last year on the Report, but is that really “leaning in”? I would understand not wanting to jump into a new high-profile job with a team you don’t know, but Colbert had 9 months to put this all together. Are we playing the “wait and see” game? Because frankly, most of us are damn sick of that game.