Comedian Jessica Williams was 22 when she was hired for the Daily Show, making her the youngest correspondent in the series’ history at the time. She was a groundbreaker who, right out of the gate, provided a comedic shot in the arm to the show. But initially when she was hired, her success was met with some racist, sexist reactions from outsiders.
“I got a lot of when I first started on the show, “Oh, a black woman is just on the show because Jon needed a black woman,” Williams told Uproxx this week in an interview. “[People said] ‘who’s this f–king black lady doing the show now? Jon only hired her because of this.’ I got a lot of that.”
Her response to the totally offensive, totally inaccurate assumptions? “I’m just like,’I’m not going anywhere.’ And now they know I’m not going anywhere. I’m not going to quit. So they just know I’m not going anywhere.”
Thank god for that. Female comics, in recent years, have made a mockery of the myth that “women can’t be funny,” but women of color are still faced with additional bigotry in the field, making the struggle to be taken seriously as a comedian (or even an actress, a writer, an anything) even greater. To wit, SNL’s marked absence of women of color until recently. “I was just like, ‘I know like 50 black female comedians that would be perfect for that,'” Williams said. “Then they hired two wonderful people. Yeah, I was like, ‘OK, cool, well fix it because there are a lot of them that are amazing.’”
At this point, Williams has more than proven her talent to absolutely everyone—and, at the same time, proven how crucial diversity is to the culture of news satire. Williams has tackled issues of race and gender that NEED to be addressed, with deeply intelligent, enlightening humor—giving late-night’s generally white-male landscape a much needed shot in the arm. Her comedy isn’t just hilarious, it’s insightful and deeply affecting.
I fell in love with Williams during the segment called “Frisky Business” when she did a live report from “Business Harlem,” aka Wall Street, where she begged for police officers to do their job and arrest white men in suits that look like they might commit a white-collar crime. “If you’re, say, a white, Upper East Side billionaire with ties to the financial community like Michael Bloomberg? You’ve just gotta accept getting roughed up by the police every once in awhile.”
I loved that report, because Williams made a crystal clear point about racial profiling in the police department, and this was in August 2013, before the issue became the focus of national attention. We need more, more, more of Williams. And we’ll be getting it. She just starred in the Sundance rom-com People, Places, Things.