Well, this is sad. Splitsider reports that Stephen Colbert’s new show—the one thatpremiered delightfully earlier this week, the one that seems to be trying to bring a new kind of intellectualism to late-night network comedy—has a writing staff that includes 17 men. And only two women.
And: All 19 of those writers are white.
Feel free to use this space to react with a loud groan or maybe a silent scream or maybe a dismissive “¯\_(ツ)_/¯” or whatever else suits you.
And, you know: I get it. Sort of. To take just one side of this, the gender question: Comedy writing skews male, famously and/or notoriously, and it’s to some extent easy to over-essentialize these things—the 17 men Colbert selected to write his material might be total feminists, and the two women might be raging misogynists, and they will all, regardless, bring a whole host of hidden and highly individualized experiences to their roles as the creators of a show that will ostensibly have a huge audience, and thus a huge platform, and thus a huge influence. There is, overall, an important difference between category andidentity, and we should not be glib about any of that.
But then. A writing staff is, in many ways, the soul of a show. The 19 people Colbert selected for The Late Show will decide much about how his influential platform will do its influencing. And Colbert himself, furthermore, is someone who—based on interviews he’s given as himself rather than the characters he has played on The Colbert Report and, now, The Late Show—seems to think deeply about the structures and systems that make the world what it is. He seems to understand, in a way many comedians don’t, that even the most innocuous kinds of “entertainment” play a role in defining culture.
You’d think Colbert would know better than most of his peers that “diversity” is not just some aspirational tautology, but the best proxy we have for ensuring that cultural products that aspire to some kind of mass-ness represent, as best they can, the actual mass. That diversity is—even when it’s kept behind the scenes, even when it’s rumply and sarcastic and sleep-deprived—a signal of the value his show places on differing opinions, and differing experiences, and differing modes of understanding and processing and representing the world.