Actress Carrie Keagan Writes Open Letter Demanding More Women In Late Night TV

Carrie-Keagan

Take a look at this image of actress and TV personality Carrie Keagan and let it be burned into your memories. From now on we are definitely going to view as some some sort of Girl Power super hero because the open letter she penned in Vanity Fair talking about the current state of late night TV and its blatant absence of any women was badass!

“Maybe the problem with late-night TV is that it’s stuck in the 70s. The rest of television has changed—the rest of the world has changed—and yet, somehow, women are still locked out of late night,” she begins before adding that she is “mad as hell” and is not going to stand for it anymore.

Let’s look at the figures outlining how women fare in late night television here in the United States: 0. Yep, that’s the figure. Sadly, there is nothing else to report. Oh there are plenty of women with their own talk shows and they definitely dominate the daytime TV talk lineup, but male hosts and experts have always at least been part of the mix, whether it be Phil Donahue back in the 1990s, to Dr. Phil or Dr. Oz today.

Carrie isn’t entirely wrong to describe the 2015 state of late night TV as more of a 1970s situation.

“To truly appreciate the decade, I guess 50 percent of the population would have to first get past the rampant sexism in the media, misogyny in the workplace, and general treatment of women as second-class citizens. Television, in particular, was a man’s world. Everything you needed to know was presented to you by men. Middle-aged, white men. They were the voices of authority. They were the voices of reason. They represented all that was white—I mean right—in the world,” she said.

Carrie-Keagan

“This was the decade when Barbara Walters became the first female co-host of the Today show, Katharine Graham, of the Washington Post Co., became the first female Fortune 500 C.E.O., and Gloria Steinem founded Ms. magazine. They were women—hear ’em roar! And look how much has changed since then! We’ve had Diane, Katie, Oprah, Ellen, Christiane—the list goes on and on.”

But the problem, she says, is that none of this has had any sort of trickle-down effect in the late night arena. Joan Rivers is still the only woman to host her own late night network TV show, back in the 80s. Today we have many cable channels as digital platforms coughing up huge amounts of money to make original programming. TV seems like the prime landscape right now for women to be hosting lite night shows in droves…except it seems they’re not even getting a shoe in the door.

Her own experience as a seasoned TV host is proof enough for Carrie to crusade about this issue.

I’ve been in this business a long time. For the past three years, I hosted my own morning show on VH1. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t told countless times by countless executives from countless networks that a female host cannot carry a late-night show. Never, nope, not gonna happen! As if Chelsea Handler hadn’t already been doing it for years,” she said referring to the only woman in recent years who had a talk show on E! which ended in August.

If you look at the current popular late night shows and hosts, it’s not as if there hasn’t been an opportunity to consider a woman. Jon Stewart has just vacated his ‘Daily Show’ seat and made way for another man, Trevor Noah. But hey, at least Trevor is young and not white so that’s one step forward for diversity.

Steven Colbert is set to premiere his new late night TV show on CBS. British comedian James Corden was chosen to take over Scottish Late Night favorite Craig Ferguson. Don’t get us wrong, we are Stephen Colbert’s biggest fans, especially because he doesn’t shy away from advocating women’s issues and has even declared he will be the biggest ally for women on late night in lieu of having their own gender representative.

Carrie-Keagan

But that’s not enough is it? It’s not as if the female comedians ready and talented enough to do the job don’t exists, as Carrie points out.

“Chelsea Handler, Ellen DeGeneres, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer, the ladies of S.N.L., the broads of ‘Broad City’—the list goes on and on. Comedy is going in a great direction. I shouldn’t have to point out all the hilarious and highly qualified ladies out there, but I will: Jane Lynch, Wanda Sykes, and Aisha Tyler come to mind immediately. They all have the chops and the résumés to blow a late-night show out of the water,” she said.

Each of these women have proved time and time again their content draws in audiences. They have either starred in, written, created, executive-produced or done all of the above on prime time and popular shows.

Speaking of writing, Carrie points out what many of us feminists know: that to balance out the scales on screen gender-wise, there has to be equality behind the camera as well.

Of the dozens of writers churning out jokes for the Big Three network late-night shows (the ones hosted by Letterman, Kimmel, and Fallon), only six are women. Clearly, we need more women writers in comedy, but we also need more men who can write comedy for women. Here’s a tip, guys: if your jokes aren’t funny when a woman says them, they’re not funny to begin with. So what are you so afraid of, Hollywood?”

She ends with a quote by former ‘Late Night with David Letterman’ writer Nell Scovell from 2009 who at the time stated “At this moment, there are more females serving on the United States Supreme Court than there are writing for ‘Late Show with David Letterman’, ‘The Jay Leno Show’, and ‘The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien’ combined. Out of the 50 or so comedy writers working on these programs, exactly zero are women. It would be funny if it weren’t true.

Chelsea-Lately

She was the second female writer ever hired at David’s show and ends her piece, mostly focused on the lack of female writers, with a zinger that is still entirely relevant today:

I have a theory. An executive producer with an all-male writing staff once inadvertently revealed his deep, dark fear. While discussing a full-time position for me, he mused out loud, ‘I wonder if having a woman in the room will change everything.’ Of course, what he really meant was: ‘I wonder if having a woman in the room will change me’,” she shared

“Male writers don’t want to be judged in the room. They want to be able to scarf an entire bag of potato chips while cracking fart jokes and making lewd comments without fear of feminine disapproval. But we’re your co-workers, not your wives. Crack a decent fart joke and, as professionals, we will laugh. And while writers do need to feel comfortable in order to make comedy, denying an entire class of people certain opportunities in order to preserve a way of life seems a tad antebellum.”

Oh and just for the record, the percentage of women in the United States Congress today is 20%. If that’s the low number that the percentage of women writers in late night TV is being compared to as a positive by Nell Scovell, we are living in sad times.

More and more women need to keep speaking up, yes. We are thankful for the women (and men!) who raise their voices about. But it has to go beyond the words in an article and move into action, which is going to take network executives listening to the many voices of women who are sick and tired of being left out.

Audiences, let’s not forget our role. With Hollywood executives valuing our voices and our money more than ever thanks to digital platforms democratizing our viewing process and making it cheaper, we too should be talking about how important it is to allow more women to host late night TV shows.

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