In early September of this year, black comedian W. Kamau Bell wrote a diatribe against the comedy mainstream titled “The Unbearable Whiteness of Late Night.” Written in response to the choice of James Corden (a white man) for the position of “The Late, Late Show” vacated by Craig Ferguson, Bell’s article bemoans the continuing cycle of white men in positions of power as helms of late night television talk shows. What gives, right? But Bell’s article could just as easily have taken a turn toward feminist and been titled “The Unbearable Maleness of Late Night [or the field of comedy in general].” For all their pallor and lame dad dance moves, David Letterman, Jimmy Fallon, Jay Leno and Johnny Carson (etc.) are not women.
Just a week before Bell published his piece via Buzzfeed, Joan Rivers passed after experiencing complications from a throat procedure and entering a coma. In her post-life accolades, she was hailed for all the things she was hailed for in life—her brashness, her humor, her controversial nature—but she was also recognized for her distinction as the first woman to ever host a late night network television talk show. That was in 1986 and the show was canceled soon after. No woman has hosted a late night network television show since.
If you’re a fledgling female comedian, you might ask why. Why aren’t there more females on late night television? One reason could be the lack of women at every rung of the ladder in late night television. As Carrie Keagan noted in a Vanity Fair article on the topic earlier this year, only six women (out of dozens) write for the three major network late night television shows. If the hosts of said shows are supposed to be the best of the best, the creme de la creme, women must flow out of the orifices of late night, clamoring for the ladder amongst their male counterparts, if they wish to reach the top. And it’s just not true that there are no qualified female candidates eligible for host positions, as is often the other cited spew for lack of televised vagina possessors come 11 o’clock.
But I am here to deliver you from your despair for there is hope. Or rather Chelsea Handler is.
Handler is one of those qualified candidates often overlooked for more endowed comedians. (As an aside, comedian Sarah Silverman launched a joke campaign to surgically receive a penis in hopes of equal pay). Handler came to fame as the, again, only woman on late night during her stint as the host of Chelsea Lately on E! Television which aired its final episode in August. This isn’t even the exciting part.
The exciting part—the glimmering ray of hope for audiences tired of prototypically funny white men—is that Handler inked a deal to host a talk show on Netflix that will begin “airing” in early 2016. This is the first show of its kind for Netflix and is only roughly preceded by the likes of John Oliver and Bill Maher on HBO, both of whom deal with politics. As Netflix garners more and more of the viewing public to its (dark?) side and television continues to topple, the traditional late night landscape and the squares that built it will continue to appear as unprogressive and ill reflecting of their viewership as ever before.
Handler has circumvented the system and will likely come out on top because of it. And that deserves a round of applause from our live audience.
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