Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Why We Need Women Writers, Developers, and Decision Makers in Comedy

This week Adult Swim Executive Mike Lazzo responded to backlash over the tally that of 47 shows on the Adult Swim docket, not a single one was created by a woman.  He first said that women cause "conflict" in the writer's room, then clarified those remarks somewhat.  The AV Club explains this situation much better than I can, so check that out here.  

Do all women cause "conflict" in writers rooms? 

Why do we NEED women in comedy writing and development and board rooms?  

This current kerfuffle made me think back to something I watched a few years ago.  

Do you remember the Emmys in 2014 when Seth Meyers hosted?  I was super excited to tune in because I think Seth Meyers is hilarious and I love awards shows (mostly for the dresses and clutches).  The show included a now infamous bit where Sofia Vergara stood on a rotating pedestal so that the crowd could enjoy her curves and beauty as the president of the Academy recited a boring update about the state of the television industry.  I’m a comedian and, like most comedians, as a joke is unfolding, we’re always thinking of how it can be heightened, what the next beat will be, what the final button might be—we’re always thinking about the structure of the joke and rarely enjoying "the thing.”  It’s our cross to bear, but we endure it because of all those sweet, sweet drink tickets that we receive as payment for our comedy.  So as I was watching Sofia Vergara be introduced and the bit was initially explained, I couldn’t wait to see the 2nd beat which, I assumed, would be taking the hottest heartthrob in Hollywood and putting HIM on a rotating pedestal, also.  Would it be Channing Tatum?  Idris Elba? Joe Manganiello? Would they be spinning in opposite directions? This could get really silly and cute. The joke is about beauty worship and Hollywood objectification, right?


The joke was only about FEMALE objectification.  The joke only worked in one way—it only went one way.  I sort of couldn't believe it.  I felt really naive for assuming that the joke would go both ways.  I was disappointed, not just as a woman, but as a comedian.  Why did they write this joke that way? The writers could have heighten that joke MORE and had it be so much more inclusive SO EASILY, but they opted not to.  And I don’t think it even occurred to those writers that this bit could be perceived as sexist. I think they were stunned at the backlash that this segment received on Twitter and in Emmy recaps.  

I have no idea who the writers were for those Emmy awards and I can't seem to find that information online, but I'd be willing to bet money that there wasn't a woman in the group. I bet that if a woman were in that writers' room, she might say, "hey guys, I think Sofia Vergara is hella gorgeous, too, but what if we ALSO had a dude on there being objectified because I have dudes commenting on my body regularly and I'm tired of it, so how about we level that playing field a bit?"  Then the joke works for more people and is less creepy.  Women don't "cause conflict" in writer's rooms, they speak to an experience that is often forgotten about or misrepresented and that firsthand experience can improve jokes.  

And sure, it’s ONE joke in ONE awards show in friggin’ 2014 (I’m nothing if not topical), but that Sofia Vergara spinning bit is, in a nutshell, why we need women in comedy writing rooms.  

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