When I think of late-night time slots I picture late-night television as a dinky plastic puzzle from the 90s with the square pieces that slide into different corners until arriving at the proper spots to complete the picture. As Larry Wilmore fills for Stephen Colbert, Stephen Colbert fills for David Letterman, Jimmy Fallon fills for Jay Leno, etc., many viewers and I sigh at another non-inclusive, male-saturated picture of late-night television. In fact, there hasn’t been a female host in late-night for the past year.
When Chelsea Handler began Chelsea Lately she carved out a small place, not only for herself, but for other female comedians to be recognized (i.e. Jen Kirkman, Loni Love, Heather McDonald, etc.). After the listed comedians (along with many others) went on to successful comedy tours and Netflix stand up segments, Handler’s absence somehow only led to less female comedians performing in late-night. To the various comical and witty women featured on the first episode of The Hollywood Reporter’s roundtable series, this rarely questioned pattern of the male dominated hosting position in late-night is a deliberate marketing decision and a socially constructed (not necessarily conscious) hatred towards women. Amy Schumer of Inside Amy Schumer makes a statement on the way women are perceived and how this works against them.
“I think people hate women,” she states, “I think people hear women talk too long and project their mom yelling at them.” She goes on to talk about “tricking people into listening." Since Schumer collaborated with Judd Apatow to direct her debut full-length screenplay Trainwreck, making over $30 million within the opening week, maybe she has a point. Does this mean women must prove themselves as valuable investments for late-night host positions by collaborating with respected men of the entertainment industry? If so, why is Trevor Noah tapped for Jon Stewart’s slot instead of Jessica Williams?
If women continue to only dominate hosting positions in daytime, our culture suggests that female audiences can only enjoy watching female hosts if they don’t have 9-5 jobs. And if the only recent female host was on the E! network, limiting the content to tabloid topics, women are left with the message that if they want to be entertained/learn from women on late-night TV the subject material should only cover superficial news, like celebrity gossip.