About a month ago, there was news that a new show starring Dane Cook as a moody radio host called Next Caller had not only been cancelled but it had been super cancelled, meaning it never even made it to air. It is just lost in the NBC archives now. At the time I didn’t really think twice about it or maybe just that I can’t believe Dane Cook is still relevant. But then Stephen Fallk, the Executive Producer and Creator of the show, wrote an amazing blog post in which he talked about how hard it is to suddenly have something you put your heart and sole into cancelled. And how tough it is to tell other people who did the same that they no longer have a job (plus he made Dane Cook sound like a saint.) But something else that really stuck out to me was that he said he insisted on having as near even as possible ratio of females to males in the writers room.
“I will brag about something for a second, though. I can now say with certainty: if you ever find yourself in the position to get to put together a comedy writing staff, and then you complain that you can’t find enough funny women… Nay, if you already have a show on the air and you have like 12 guys and 2 women: you didn’t look hard enough. I insisted on having as near even as possible ratio of females to males (not including me they were 5:4), and aside from getting to be smug about it, it just makes for better energy and perspective in the room to have an even gender balance. Do it.”
And this is the guy whose show we cancel? Well, hopefully he will get another show soon or other showrunners or writers will read this and follow his advice.
t has been a strong year for women in television, but only in some aspects. According to the Center for Study of Women in Television and Film the annual study, women make up 26% of all creators, directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and directors of photography, which is up one point from the previous year and five points from the 1997-98 season. But 68% of all shows don’t even have a female writer on staff.
Last year Jezebel wrote an article that addressed the issue of the lack of female writers in the world of late-night comedy shows. Chelsea Handler 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. The Late Show With David Letterman made history in July 2011 when it hired Jena Friedman as its second female writer. It was the first time in the history of the show that two female writers were ever on the payroll.
“It’s harder; there are less women looking for work. It’s easier to have an all-white male writing staff,” said Dan Harmon, the creator and former showrunner of the NBC sitcom Community. He was challenged to hire women for half of the writing staff of the show when it started in 2009 by then-NBC Entertainment president Angela Bromstad and he succeeded.
AOLTV writer Maureen Ryan takes spoke with a wide variety of writers and creators, both male and female on this topic. Everyone seems to agree that gender diversity leads to better television. As one female writer told Ryan, “A balanced writers’ room is like a balanced world. Everyone thrives, good work gets done, people like each other and the show is better for it. Women keep the room moving. They’re great at multitasking and getting along with others. They don’t procrastinate and they open up with lots of personal anecdotes that make for great stories on the show and great character beats. They tend to smell good.”