Stephen Colbert's Glib Apology for "One Woman" Comment Leaves a Lot of Room for Improvement
Hooray for the Colbort Rapport, or something like it? Stephen Colbert and his team won the Emmy on Monday night for Most Outstanding Variety series — the last opportunity for the show to win, as Colbert will be leaving in the fall to take over David Letterman's post. The Emmy was a sweet cherry on top of nine years of success for the faux pundit on his Comedy Central series, for which much credit is due (and given by Colbert in his speech) to his friend over at the Daily Show, Jon Stewart. Colbert had many people to thank in last night's speech after he took the mic back from his proxy Jimmy Fallon, and among those he's grateful to are his writers. And good thing he reminded us what a white, boys' club writers rooms still are, otherwise we might have forgotten.
In his speech, Colbert says, "I'm so proud of those guys... and one woman." Nervous laughter from the audience. "Sorry for that, for some reason," he glibly brushes off the comment. Annoying, Colbert. Super annoying. Colbert's writing staff, which won an Emmy last week at the Creative Arts Emmys for best writing, is made up of 19 men, and as Colbert reminded us, one sole female. What's so frustrating about his jokey acknowledgment of this lack of equality on his writers' staff is the sense we get that Colbert just really does not give a crap that in the nine years of his show, he didn't bother to hire more women writers. I guess the very thin but still present silver lining here is that the acknowledgment itself at least carves away a bit at the Myth of Colbert; as much as he mocks the far right for their sexism, it still permeates his own staff.
It harkins back to 2010 when Jon Stewart was accused by former staffers of being a sexist tyrant on his show by women who had left the show, but to that end, his current female employees at the time — including then correspondent Olivia Munn — came to Stewart's defense in an open letter. The letter was signed by more than 30 women on Stewart's staff. Stewart was nominated this year also for Best Variety Program; of the 16 writers on his nominated team, three were women. Not to compare the two, because it's not a contest... oh wait, it kind of is, and Stewart seems to be winning.
In all seriousness, the progressiveness of Colbert's content is undercut by the lack of women on his staff, and even more so in his "funny ha ha, I don't care about women writers" comment last night. I love Colbert's commentary and the value his show adds to the news cycle, and in criticizing the often ass-backwards behavior of media outlets, but it's only adding to the ever-present problem that in the last year of his show, he still only had one woman on the stuff. Lead by example, Colbert! He has a chance to diversify on Late Show, and now that he's made that comment and got people talking about the glaring lack of women on his staff, hopefully he'll fulfill that responsibility. I nominate Chelsea Peretti for a spot.