Several months ago I suggested that David Letterman was threatened by strong, successful--and apparently happy--women who had good relationships with spouse, family, friends and job. This was one of the reasons he felt compelled to put her down with a truly tasteless crack--I wouldn't call it a joke--about her daughter thus debasing himself even more.
Nell Scovell's article in VanityFair.com, Letterman and Me, appearing after Letterman was forced to admit, after an extortion attempt, that he had sex with female staffers, seems to confirm that observation. One of the very few women to write for the Letterman show, Scovell recalls
a hostile, sexually charged atmosphere.
There's a subset of sexual harassment called sexual favoritism that, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, can lead to a "hostile work environment," often "creating an atmosphere that is demeaning to women."
And that pretty much sums up my experience at Late Night with David Letterman.
Giving up a successful television career in Los Angeles for her dream job in New York she soon realized she was living a nightmare.
Did Dave hit on me? No. Did he pay me enough extra attention that it was noted by another writer? Yes. Was I aware of rumors that Dave was having sexual relationships with female staffers? Yes. Was I aware that other high-level male employees were having sexual relationships with female staffers? Yes. Did these female staffers have access to information and wield power disproportionate to their job titles? Yes. Did that create a hostile work environment? Yes. Did I believe these female staffers were benefiting professionally from their personal relationships? Yes. Did that make me feel demeaned? Completely. Did I say anything at the time? Sadly, no.
Here's what I did: I walked away from my dream job. The show picked up my option after 13 weeks; then, about two months later, while looking for a nicer apartment, I realized I didn't want to commit to a yearlong lease. I'd seen enough to know that I was not going to thrive professionally in that workplace. And although there were various reasons for that, sexual politics did play a major part.
Not a crybaby, not a professional victim, Scovell picked herself up and resumed her successful career. Noting the lack of women on all the late night shows, she offers her dream recommendations for improving the situation by hiring women.
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. Plus, it's been my experience that a room with a fairer sampling of humanity will always produce funnier material.
I know it might seem awkward at first. Men might feel they have to censor themselves once females crash the party. But I have a dream-that one day a late-night writers' room will be filled with poop jokes and fart jokes and jerking-off-to-Angelina-Jolie's-face-on-a-magazine jokes, and everyone will laugh, including men and women of all creeds and colors.
Aw-w-w! And then maybe, finally, David Letterman will be truly funny, Chris Matthews won't have to rely on his tingling legs for giggles and all the late night men will be really strong men at last.