Why Isn't There More Diversity In Comedy? 6 Rising Comedians Tell Us Why
Frankly, as a newbie to the NYC improv scene, I am tired of hearing the same exhausting excuses for the lack of diversity in comedy (or in media, generally). Take Jerry Seinfeld, for example, who broached the subject during his now-infamous interview with BuzzFeed last week. When asked about his position regarding diversity in comedy, the Seinfeld legend responded, "I have no interest in gender or race or anything like that, but everyone else ... with their little calculating 'Is this the exact right mix?' — to me, it's anti-comedy. It's more about PC nonsense than 'Are you making us laugh or not?'"
Really Jerry? Really?
For me to understand the comedy world that I love so much, I frequent many writer's panels, Q&As, and more and find that most, if not all, of the people onstage are white males. I always feel like that girl obsessed with race when I routinely ask, "Why is there such a lack of diversity in comedy?" The answer I always get? Something along the lines of "I don't know. It's not like I am trying to hire only white people."
The last time I asked this question was during last year's New York Comedy Festival at the Behind the Scenes at The Colbert Report panel. The Colbert Report is hands down one of the funniest and most intelligent shows to have ever existed, so when I saw the army of white men parade onstage, my heart sank. I knew there wasn't much diversity behind the scenes of the Comedy Central program, but seeing all the writers at once was jarring, to say the least. So, of course, during the Q&A portion of the evening, I became that girl that brings down the mood, asking Colbert, "Why is there always this common denominator in comedy?"
"What, that we're white? No, actually, some of us are Jewish," he joked. Colbert continued, "I don't know why that is. I don't say 'Bring me men.' I don’t know what race the person is when I’m reading the jokes. I’m just trying to see whether it makes me laugh ... I don’t know if there are a lot of African-Americans or Hispanic people applying for a job for my show or other shows, and maybe my tastes don’t match up or they didn’t have a funny packet, or maybe they’re not applying. I don’t get stats on that. The agencies send us people, or we ask around for people. It would be wonderful to have a diverse writing staff; I’m very lucky to have this staff. They were all so deserving.”
A familiar response to a question that has to be asked all too often.
As I continue my quest to find a more realistic excuse, I asked some writers, improvisers, comedians, and performers in NYC and L.A. why they think there is such a lack of diversity in comedy. Here is what they had to say.
Seinfeld, time to take some notes.
Image: Jemal Countess | Zimbio