Recently, Jezebel’s Irin Carmon wrote a thought-provoking piece about the lack of women on The Daily Show. I thought it relied a bit heavily on an interview with disgruntled former correspondent Lauren Weedman, but overall the story was balanced, with several former female employees defending Stewart. Frankly, the numbers speak for themselves.
Until today, the only official response was a throwaway line by Stewart on the June 29 show. It was amusing and well played, with an air of self-deprecation. That makes today’s open letter from the women of The Daily Show, issued via the show’s Facebook page, all the more disappointing. It implies that Carmon’s piece is a one-sided hatchet job, when in fact she approached the current staff for comment and was turned down. Is that the impression you get from the letter’s opening, “Recently, certain media outlets have attempted to tell us what it’s like to be a woman at [TDS]” or a later claim that, “while it may cause a big stir to seize on the bitter rantings of ex-employees and ignore what current staff say about working at The Daily Show, it’s not fair.”? In case it need be spelled out: It’s impossible for a reporter to “ignore what current staff say” if they don’t say anything on the record.
I’m not surprised the staff declined to comment in the first place. But this response leaves an awful taste in my mouth. Buried amid the nastiness, the letter makes one good point: Plenty of women behind the scenes (and not just in the “party-planning department”) contribute meaningfully to the show and its popularity. A good defense would have focused more on correcting the record thusly, and not taking misleading “mean girl” shots at Jezebel. Not to mention that choosing a one-sided method of response (instead of, say, a follow-up interview — even one with a “friendlier” media outlet) to criticize an ostensibly one-sided story is hardly the most persuasive rebuttal. Whether or not comedy remains predominantly a boys’ club is an important and ongoing conversation. If The Daily Show has nothing to hide, why not join in?