Amid the retrospectives and interviews populating women in comedy week week over at Splitsider, there's the now-customary debate over the paucity of women in comedy writing jobs. And, maybe, some reasons to be optimistic.
The piece that sparked some debate was this one, written by College Humor's Sarah Schneider. She took a look at the overall composition of network sitcoms — a fairly narrow focus given their overall decline, though a revival is being attempted. Though she didn't go much further into say, late night comedy shows, she did look at her own employer:
I work at the comedy website CollegeHumor.com, where I am one of two staffed female writers within a writing team of 16 (boom - recognize that ratio, motherfuckers?). I am often asked why we don't have more female writers. The answer is, again, depressingly simple: we are completely underwhelmed by the number of female applicants. Like any content publisher, we look for the best writers, period, regardless of gender. Our intern application ratio of guys to girls is 6:1.
You could chalk some of that up to College Humor's dudebro sensibility, but that doesn't explain why so few women raise their hands on slightly more neutral ground. "If more women put themselves out there as comedy writers," Schneider concludes, "then more successful comedy writers are going to be women."
That's true, in theory. But that assumes there's a place for them to go. Schneider got some pushback from a reader on this:
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And we recently heard of Comedy Central telling a production company that it doesn't program to women. That's not a secret: The channel tells advertisers its base and target demographic is men 18-49. The very first thing the channel lists under "benefits to advertisers" is "Comedy Central Is A Destination For Young Men." (According to Nielsen, that demographic is about a third of their actual viewers; while it varies by show, men make up about 60 percent of the overall audience.)
Obviously, Comedy Central isn't the only game in town. Schneider mentions "a whole new generation of female show creators [that] have recently inked development deals (Mindy Kaling, Liz Meriwether, Lena Dunham, Kelly Oxford, Julie Klausner)" — whose projects have largely involved scripted network shows, pay cable, and feature films. Some of these women's careers got a boost from the support of high-profile men like Judd Apatow and Roger Ebert, or in Meriwether's case, a group of women that included Diablo Cody. That's not to undermine their respective hard work and talents in any way; it's to emphasize that being funny and putting yourself out there isn't enough without a venue for that funniness and the push from mentors or gatekeepers. And an even younger generation of women has a whole new set of examples that it is possible.
It's not a panacea, particularly when it comes to the institutional roadblocks, but the Internet can be a force for good when it comes to both the "putting yourself out there" part and the "getting someone to notice you're good" part. An upside to the constant self-creation online is women, among other people, thinking of themselves as content producers, for lack of a better word, who deserve to be heard — whether that's in a tweet, a YouTube video, or, well, a blog comment.
Why More Women Should Write Comedy [Splitsider]