Apparently this guy hasn’t talked to Judd Apatow. Eddie Brill, the comedy booker for The Late Show With David Letterman, is being replaced. Last week in a New York Times profile he defended the shortage of female comics booked for The Late Show. “There are a lot less female comics who are authentic … I see a lot of female comics who to please an audience will act like men.” Mirth Magazine reported today that he’s been dismissed for “speaking to the press without authorization,”and not for his highly-criticized remarks, but CBS is not commenting.
Atlantic writer Eric Randall wrote that this is getting a lot of attention because Brill’s “opinions are particularly important though since, as the guy in charge of booking stand-up comics who appear on Letterman, The Times profile called him “the most influential comic you have never heard of.” Brill told Mirth, “It is time for me to accept the consequences of my printed words … and to learn from this. I apologize to all who have been affected by this.”
Well, it’s been a mixed week for female comedians. Last week at the Critics Choice Awards Bridesmaids took home the award for best comedy of the year. The film was written by, starred and laughed at by tons of women. When producer Judd Apatow accepted the award he said, ” “Jerry Lewis once said that he didn’t think women were funny. So I’d just like to say, with all respect, f*** you.” But then something like this happens.
In the world of late night comedy shows, women have always been in the minority. In July for the first time ever Letterman had more than one female staff writer when they hired comic Jena Friedman. Earlier this year Jezebel published an article that addressed the issue of the lack of female writers in the world of late-night comedy shows. Chelsea Lately had the most with five female writers (and five male writers) followed by Saturday Night Live with four female writers out of a staff of 16. Then the numbers get really sad: Jon Stewart has two out of 13, Jimmy Fallon has two out of 15, Jimmy Kimmel has one out of 10 (and she is also his girlfriend), Craig Feguson has one out of 10 (and she is his sister), Conan O’Brien has one out of 15, Stephen Colbert has one out of 16, Jay Leno has one out of 20 and Bill Maher has no women on his staff of nine writers.
However some of the reasons why there are less women than men looking for work in this field is the nature of the job and the comedy industry in general. Conan’s sole female writer Laurie Kilmartin told Marie Claire that she thinks the drive for women and men to go into stand-up comedy is very different. “This is a huge generalization, but I think guys get on stage to get laid, and women get on stage to get heard. For female comics, it’s such a personal thing. I hardly know any female stand-ups who talk about generic stuff: It’s always really what happened to you. It is sort of a big switch to go from that to writing for someone else. And I think that that stops a lot of female comics from making that jump over.”
And obviously biases like this against female comedians doesn’t help. I have to see I saw Mr.Brill perform a few months ago and though I found his jokes to be amusing, I don’t remember being very moved. What I do remember from this show that featured a bunch of different comedians was the one female comedian, Nikki Glaser. She did “work blue,” as they say, but she did it from a female perspective and it was hilarious. And she didn’t have to act like a man to do it.