It was the ping heard round the internet, which in the land of the 24-hour LiLo-prison-meltdown-Oprah-latest-weight-gain-reality-couple-split infotainment news cycle is saying a lot. On June 23, Jezebel.com, a media site for women, posted an article excoriating the popular Daily Show with Jon Stewart for systematically alienating and marginalizing its women creatives. The article comes in response to the show’s recent hire of actress Olivia Munn as a new correspondent whose credentials include host of G4’s Attack of the Show and a Maxim cover shoot. Jezebel, as well as other media outlets, questioned Munn’s comic chops, a necessary skill to keep up with the rigorous intellectual and political pacing of the show, and pointed an unmanicured finger at Stewart for allowing sex appeal to trump comic ingenuity, expertise, or talent. The piece prompted an open letter from female Daily Show staffers to “People Who Don’t Work Here,” offering a rebuttal to Jezebel’s, in their words, “inadequately researched” blog post. In it, the women of the Daily Show defended their hard work and the man partly responsible for giving them room to create on the show, Jon Stewart.
Today, Samantha Bee, Most Senior Correspondent, and the current female face of the Daily Show appeared on NPR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook to discuss her book, I know You Are, But What Am I? and to speak candidly about Jezebel’s accusations and about achieving success in the male-dominated comic industry. Like her Daily Show cohort, she made it clear that the types of gender biases cited by Jezebel were either erroneous or exaggerated at best. Bee spoke about finding the piece particularly hurtful to herself and the other women associated with the show, underscoring that she had never experienced any kind of gender bias on any level, and was tired of being told what it is like to work at the show by uninformed, reactionary people.
Bee also addressed the notion that Stewart was full of “joyless rage,” stating that she took a particular issue with that assessment. “Comedy is a serious business,” Bee remarked. “Sometimes making things funny is arduous. Jon is dedicated and very joyful; he makes it a point to know all the interns names. He’s social and avuncular.” The subject of Bee’s newest on-air colleague, Munn, did not come up, perhaps because Munn’s first full-length segment has yet to air or perhaps because people are less interested in talking about a woman’s body and more interested in hearing about the woman involved in the inner workings of a show that has usurped many “legitimate” news casts in both popularity and influence.
Like other strong female comediennes such as Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Kathy Griffin, and Jane Lynch, Samantha Bee presents a new model for women in comedy. Her presence on the show along with her success in this particular comedic genre places her talent, acumen, and ability in the fore, thereby raising (if not leveling) the playing field to meet her fellow, funny male colleagues in the business.