A new Vanity Fair spread on the current field of late-night comedy hosts has highlighted the stunning lack of gender diversity in the genre.
The article, titled “Why Late-Night Television Is Better than Ever,” features an all-star photo with Jimmy Fallon, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, Bill Maher, James Corden, Larry Wilmore, John Oliver and Seth Meyers, as well as newcomers Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah. What do all these performers have in common besides headlining their own late-night talk shows? They’re all men.
Vanity Fair does address the issue in the story, pointing out that late night programs starring Samantha Bee (for TBS) and Chelsea Handler (for Netflix) are due in 2016. “What’s conspicuously missing from late-night, still, is women,” writes the article’s author, David Kamp. “How gobsmackingly insane is it that no TV network has had the common sense—and that’s all we’re talking about in 2015, not courage, bravery, or even decency—to hand over the reins of an existing late-night comedy program to a female person? While Amy Schumer has acknowledged that she turned down "The Daily Show," happy where she is at Comedy Central, that doesn’t mitigate the fact that Chelsea Peretti, Megan Amram, and Jen Kirkman, to name but three contenders, are alive, sentient, funny, and presumably open to taking a meeting.”
And yet, the story is likely to resurrect past criticisms of Vanity Fair, which infamously ran a column in 2007 by the late Christopher Hitchens declaring that women aren’t funny. A memorable rebuttal story, featuring "Saturday Night Live" stars Kristen Wiig, Tina Fey and Maya Rudolph on the cover, also ran in the magazine the following year.
The magazine has also come under fire in the past for the lack of racial diversity in its annual Hollywood issue. In 2010, the magazine didn’t feature any women of color on its cover highlighting rising stars in the industry. By 2012, the magazine made some strides, and in 2014 the magazine had arguably its most diverse cover spread to date.
In this case, the magazine is simply reflecting the male-dominated nature of the late-night landscape.
“Two female hosts plus the 10 men featured here is still a long way from a late-night that truly looks like America. But the next version of this story’s opening picture will be that much brighter,” writes Kamp.
In May, Samantha Bee released a teaser trailer for her TBS show. She took dead aim at the boy's club nature of late night comedy.
In the clip, Bee enters a fictional art gallery which includes the photos of late night talk show hosts like Meyers, Kimmel and Colbert. “You know when I take a look at each piece individually I like it,” she says in voice-over. “But when I take a step back I feel like something’s missing.”
“Sausage?” a server entering from off screen offers. Bee says she’s “kind of done with sausages” and eventually exclaims I’m “female as f---.”
On Monday, Bee tweeted a hilarious response to the Vanity Fair photo: