Navigating 'The Daily Show' blogstorm
At least that’s what the women over on “The Daily Show” contend.
There’s been been much hullabaloo over claims that the Comedy Central show -- co-created by women -- is a glorified fraternity, an allegation sparked by a June 23 Jezebel story ("The Daily Show's Woman Problem"). The piece noted that, with the exception of Samantha Bee (a fixture since 2001), female correspondents have been few and far between. Should Olivia Munn, who was introduced three weeks ago to "Daily Show" viewers as the senior Asian correspondent, make it through her trial period, she'll be the first female correspondent on the show in seven years. It went on to quote former female staff members (most of whom worked on the program in the early 2000s) voicing their frustration over the boyish environment.
Cue a media blogstorm.
The Jezebel piece -- which prompted Jon Stewart to joke in the show's June 29 episode, "Jezebel thinks I'm a sexist prick" -- has drummed up nearly 1,000 comments and spawned an ongoing online discussion on the topic. Slate’s Emily Gould penned a piece arguing that feminist blogs, such as Jezebel, try to boost page views by inciting women’s envy of other women. Then a 1,092-word letter popped up on “The Daily Show” website signed by 31 current female staffers challenging the assertions. Over at The Awl, a post argues that the real issue isn’t the female-to-male ratio of the staff, but rather the male-centric image the show puts out. Heck, Forbes had its own take.
The controversy has even been given the 140-character treatment, with Twitter users weighing in. Munn had this to say:"'The Daily Show' is Dope. Period." Other users questioned other aspects of the male-heavy focus. User ‘rortybomb’ linked to the show’s 2010 roster of guests, noting: “It seems that every guest on The Daily Show in 2010 specifically promoting a book was male.” He quickly admitted he'd jumped the gun a little -- there have been several female authors on the show promoting their books, but the number is anemic when compared to their male counterparts. Looked at more broadly, this year alone, the show’s roster of guests has featured more than 70 men, but less than 20 women. Sexism? Coincidence? Or just benign neglect?
It’s hardly the first time the political satire show has been grilled about its machismo.
Pre-Stewart, the battle of the sexes was in full swing. Craig Kilborn, who hosted the show from 1996-98, came under fire after he made offensive comments regarding “Daily Show” co-creator Lizz Winstead (“If I wanted her to blow me, she would.”) and referred to female staff members as, well, a term more suitable for a female dog in a 1997 interview with Esquire magazine. Kilborn, who later publicly apologized for the indiscretion, was suspended for a week with no pay. Winstead, also the show’s head writer at the time, left the show shortly after.
And it’s definitely not the first time male-fronted talk shows have come under scrutiny for the overabundance of XY chromosomes on staff. It likely won't be the last time either.
So what's the solution? Share your thoughts below.
-- Yvonne Villarreal
Photo: Olivia Munn
Credit: Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images