The Buzz

Former Letterman writer dishes in Vanity Fair

Categories: Television

arts-david-letterman-vanity-fair-cp-392.jpg Television talk show host David Letterman. (Evan Agostini/Associated Press)

When David Letterman opened up on air a couple of weeks ago about a past dalliance with a co-worker, he was trying to expose and thwart an extortion attempt. His public admission has shed light not only on his dealings, but the atmosphere behind the scenes of late-night TV talk shows.

In a pithy web column in Vanity Fair, one-time Letterman staffer Nell Scovell talks about the inter-office sex -- and sexism -- that runs rampant in the biz.

Her opening says it all:

At this moment, there are more females serving on the United States Supreme Court than there are writing for Late Show with David Letterman, The Jay Leno Show, and The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien combined. Out of the 50 or so comedy writers working on these programs, exactly zero are women.

Scovell goes on to talk about her early-'90s stint on Letterman's show, which was, and remains, largely staffed with white males. There were a few token female comedy writers, writes Scovell, and the air was rife with sexual favouritism. She implies that any woman unwilling to play this game was essentially shunned.

Scovell says that because the comedy racket has always been male-dominated, many guys see females as a threat. Scovell, who has written for shows like The Simpsons, Newhart and Coach, sums it up marvelously:

Male writers don’t want to be judged in the room. They want to be able to scarf an entire bag of potato chips while cracking fart jokes and making lewd comments without fear of feminine disapproval. But we’re your co-workers, not your wives. Crack a decent fart joke and, as professionals, we will laugh.

Here's hoping Scovell's article inspires some sort of affirmative action in the land of funny.

-- Andre Mayer

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