'Daily Show' women: Jon Stewart is not a sexist
“The Daily Show” is not known for showing its inner workings. In fact, host Jon Stewart and the staff of the Comedy Central show rarely participate in stories about the program or their process, saying they want the comedy to speak for itself. That’s why the 1,092-word letter posted on “The Daily Show” website Tuesday morning was particularly remarkable.
In it, 31 female employees of the program shot back at accusations leveled in a piece on Jezebel.com asserting that women on the show have to contend with a boys-club atmosphere. The June 23 story quoted former female correspondents, most of whom worked on the program in the early 2000s, saying they found it “a frustrating and alienating experience.” Noting that Olivia Munn is the first new female correspondent in seven years, writer Irin Carmon described an atmosphere in which women felt their opinions were disregarded and emotional vulnerability made them a target. She quoted an unnamed former executive who said "there's a huge discrepancy between the Jon Stewart who goes on TV every night and the Jon Stewart who runs The Daily Show with joyless rage."
Not so, according to the female staffers who signed the open letter, which was addressed to "People Who Don't Work Here." “We must admit it is entertaining to be the subjects of such a vivid and dramatic narrative,” they wrote. “However, while rampant sexism at a well-respected show makes for a great story, we want to make something very clear: the place you may have read about is not our office.
“The Daily Show isn't a place where women quietly suffer on the sidelines as barely tolerated tokens. On the contrary: just like the men here, we're indispensable. We generate a significant portion of the show's creative content and the fact is, it wouldn't be the show that you love without us.”
The women noted that they make up 40% of the roughly 90 employees on the staff. “Jon's rule is: the strongest idea and the funniest joke win every single time, no matter who pitches it -- woman or man, executive producer or production assistant,” they wrote.
As for Stewart himself:
He's also generous, humble, genuine, compassionate, fair, supportive, exacting, stubborn, goofy, hands-on, driven, occasionally infuriating, ethical, down-to-earth and--a lot of people don't know this--surprisingly funny (for a guy brimming with “joyless rage”). How else to describe him? What's the word that means the opposite of sexist? That one.
A sidebar listing things Stewart has supported the staff through included “9/11,” “Pet emergencies,” “The re-election of George Bush” and “Inadequately researched blog posts that cling to a predetermined narrative about sexism at The Daily Show.”
Carmon’s response on Jezebel: “I just wish the show had agreed to answer questions or make anyone available to talk when I approached them for comment before the piece was published.”
-- Matea Gold
Photo credit: "The Daily Show"