The world of late-night talk shows has always been turbulent. Beyond the witty opening monologue and cheery comedy sketches exists an industry rife with conflict and competition as each show fights to draw the most viewers. Examine the current late-night hosts and you will discover a wonderfully funny group of people who manage to put their unique spin on this somewhat stale format. You will also discover a lot of white males. Actually, you will discover exclusively white males, and, in a world with an increasing number of prominent female comedians, this is antiquated and unacceptable.
A major shakeup occurred earlier this year when David Letterman, a fixture in late night television since 1982, announced his upcoming retirement. Critics and viewers alike waited with bated breath for his replacement to be announced and various names were floated — including the likes of Chris Rock, Chelsea Handler and Amy Poehler. When Stephen Colbert was named as Letterman’s successor, many people were justifiably disappointed in how CBS had chosen to go the conventional route in lieu of someone who offered more diversity.
There was a further sense of disillusionment when it became public that another white male, British comedian James Corden, is set to replace Craig Ferguson upon his departure from “The Late Late Show.” Comedian Kathy Griffin condemned CBS for this decision, claiming that when she had expressed interest in the job, she was told that “they’re not considering females at this time” and “you [women] have ‘The Talk.’” These comments are troubling on many levels. They raise questions about discriminatory practices and the idea that women are only suited for light, tame daytime programs and should leave the tricky world of late night to men.
While it cannot be denied that figures like Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon are talented comedians deserving of their respective jobs, society must question an institution that is so rooted in homogeneity. In having men exclusively fill these coveted roles, the message being conveyed is that they are the only ones who can. It reinforces the idea that wisecracks are “unladylike” and that women lack the capacity to deliver humor to the general population. This notion, of course, could not be further from the truth, as women like Kathy Griffin, Lena Dunham, Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling so regularly prove.
Given the current pool of prominent, successful and qualified female comedians, the lack of women in the late night talk show host role is disgraceful. Perhaps the next time a host role becomes available — which could very well be decades from now — women will be given serious consideration. Until that day comes, the late-night landscape will remain unbalanced and unfair.
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