Women are taking over late night television and I couldn’t be more excited for the mass invasion.
Since I started doing comedy eleven years ago, I’ve been repeatedly sucked into discussions about what it’s like to be a woman in comedy. I mean, google my name and “women in comedy essays”. A lot of stupid essays come up. In some of them I sound like I know what I’m talking about.
Comedy is supposed to be a boys’ club. There’s this belief that every late night writers’ room is cesspool of sexist man children purposely holding women back so they can make more groundbreaking poop jokes (which by the way, women can totally make, too). From what I’ve heard from mentors, it was actually sometimes like this, but with more women hosting late night shows and more women writing them, the times are definitely changing. And it’s exciting! For me and fans of poop jokes!
When I was growing up, I occasionally would see Joan Rivers guest host on a talk show in all her bitingly funny, bespangled glory. And it wasn’t until I saw Tina Fey on Weekend Update when I was 16 that I even knew writing jokes was a possible career for a nerdy girl obsessed with pop culture and celebrities. Now, it’s tough to turn on a cable channel after 10pm and not see a funny woman sitting behind a desk making jokes or an equally funny man telling jokes to a live studio audience that a woman behind the scenes wrote for him.
In terms of hosts, we’ve got Chelsea Handler and her ever revolving panel of hilarious male and female guests yukking it up on E!’s Chelsea Lately. On that same network on Wednesdays, you can check the insanely talented Whitney Cummings on her own late night show, Love You Mean It. On Bravo, Kathy Griffin hosts her own show, Kathy (that your HelloGiggles friend and mine, Erin Long, works on). And starting this Tuesday, MTV is launching its own late night show, Nikki & Sara Live, starring two of my favorite funny ladies in New York City, Nikki Glaser and Sara Schaefer. And on Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell on FX, you can frequently see awesome and brilliant ladies like Janine Brito and Sara Benincasa bum rush the show with their funny feminist insights.
The crazy thing is, I probably missed someone in that list. I kind of love knowing that I’ve missed naming women in late night. It’s a far cry from a few years ago when the total number of women late night hosts was….uh….zero.
But what I love even more is that these ladies and their shows are all different. These women have different voices and different approaches to late night comedy. Chelsea Handler is irreverent and ribald. She breezily crosses lines, hangs with equally mouthy comics and asks celebrities questions that would possibly make Jay Leno blush. Nikki and Sara are sharp and self-deprecating and from what a little birdie told me, their show is going to be one third Weekend Update-style, one third sketch comedy and one third interview with a glamorous celebrity. It’s going to be like a smart girl slumber party in Times Square.
The world of comedy actually isn’t a boys’ club at all. It kind of isn’t a club at all, but a tribe of witty warriors. In order to succeed in comedy, you not only have to be funny, but you also have to be smart, resilient, unique, and most of all, you have to be yourself. You have to have your own voice.
To succeed in comedy you can’t try to fit into a club or be the ideal dream girl that a writer or director wants you to be. You get ahead in comedy by honing your chops in improv theaters, rising above bombing at open mics, cultivating a following on twitter or doing something radically hilarious on YouTube that no one’s thought of before.
To do those things, it doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl. Like, I said, you have to be yourself. And all of these women in late night are incredible and inspiring because they’re doing comedy on their own unique terms.
And I love them all.
Who is your favorite late night lady?
Featured image via The New York Times