What the Lack of Women On Late Night TV Means for Election 2016
With the return of "The Daily Show" with new host Trevor Noah this week and Stephen Colbert's recent debut on "The Late Show," Glamour's resident conservative and liberal voices — S.E. Cupp and Krystal Marie Ball, respectively — wondered what the late night election coverage would look and sound like if just one of the shows had a woman host. The two friends and political opposites face-off, here, in their latest Political Words with Friends column.
SE: With so much comedy in the 2016 elections on both sides, I wondered what you thought about the lack of women in late night. Did you see this?
— VANITY FAIR (@VanityFair) September 14, 2015
KB: Wow. Pretty stunning when you see that whole frat party all together. At least they're not 100 percent white (anymore)!
SE: Well, I subscribe to the Jerry Seinfeld school of comedy: it just has to be funny, not accurately represent the census.
KB: But I’m pretty sure that leaving out half the population is a sure way to miss out on a lot of comedic genius. The two of us could spend this entire convo just listing brilliantly funny ladies. But for some reason, everyone seems to think that it's still too big of a risk to give a woman a late night show—despite the fact that you have comics like Amy Schumer killing it right now and proving that audiences want to hear women’s voices.
SE: Well, Amy Schumer was offered the Daily Show and turned it down. Maybe it’s not a job some women want? But specifically when it comes to this election, I do feel like we're missing a perspective by not having women comedians on late night. We have two women running. Might be nice to have a funny lady to satirize them both!
KB: Agreed! Jimmy Fallon’s Donald Trump impression has been spectacular but something tells me he might have a hard time pulling off Carly Fiorina. And as amazing as Kate McKinnon has been as Hillary Clinton on "Saturday Night Live," it'd be fab to have a regular late night lady presence to talk about and make fun of these two remarkable candidates! For instance, I would have loved to hear a woman comic take down the guys who thought Carly should have smiled more while she destroyed her debate competition.
SE: A woman comedian’s take on the Carly comments and Hillary's "softening her image" might have sounded a lot different. And beyond that, I think women could examine and skewer men in ways that other men might not think to — Jimmy Kimmel isn't going to talk about how Martin O'Malley is actually TOO attractive for politics but a woman might! (Or am I the only one who thinks this?)
KB: Ummm … yes you are definitely the first person I’ve heard voice this concern. The other thing for me though is that it's not just about the comedy, it's about the interviews. A lot of folks (and especially younger Americans) will be getting to know these candidates through late night.
SE: You’re absolutely right that the interviews late night show hosts like Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher do during presidential years are super important. The way a candidate prepares and acts in an interview on a late night show is totally different than a Sunday show. We might test Chris Christie or Hillary Clinton’s policy prowess on State of the Union (CNN every Sunday at 9 a.m. ET — wink!) but we get to see more of their personality on Conan. I wonder how a Tina Fey interview of Hillary would sound compared to a Jimmy Fallon interview?
KB: Or if we are going to dream, Amy Schumer interviewing Carly Fiorina. Something tells me she’d have a harder time dodging Amy’s questions about what was really in those Planned Parenthood videos.
SE: Something tells me Carly could handle any questions Amy Schumer would have. But here’s another good one: Chelsea Handler interviewing Bernie Sanders?! (Did I just blow your mind?)
KB: Mind. Blown.
It's not just about women comedians being able to relate to women candidates on so-called women’s issues. You really do get a different perspective, different style, and different questions depending on who you have in the chair. Probably the most powerful late night moment this year was Colbert's interview with the Vice President. The VP was unbelievably vulnerable with Colbert in part because of their shared faith and their shared history of loss. So yeah, it matters who's in the chair.
SE: Not to overly generalize, but I also think men are better bullsh*tters than women, so they have a higher tolerance for it. Trump is the master of factless distraction and meaningless word salads. Maybe a woman comedian would call him out more candidly — you know, the way we do with our husbands when they fail to make sense. Megyn Kelly was great at corralling Trump during the debate, but I'd love to see how he'd do against a woman comedian who wouldn't hold punches. Do you remember when Whitney Cummings roasted Trump for Comedy Central? She was brilliantly brutal.
KB: Yep. And these bits have long-lasting impact: Just think of Tina Fey's impression of Sarah Palin and how that influenced politics. Tina’s impression was so spot on that people got confused about which things Palin had actually said and which were just Tina’s caricature (ex: I can see Russia from my house!).
SE: For sure, comedy is a powerful commentary on politics. And it seems practically medieval that the only images we'll see leading up to 2016 in late night are of men asking candidates questions.
KB: Ooh! Ooh! I have an idea! You work for CNN, can you get them to sub Amy Poehler and Tina Fey in for Anderson Cooper at the next debate???
SE: Ha! I adore Anderson, and when it comes to debates he's unmatched. But how about we get Amy to fill in for Colbert?
KB: Done. Now I just have to decide whether this is more of a White House We the People petition or change.org kind of thing. But until then, I guess I’ll just have to be content fantasizing about the Chelsea Handler/Bernie Sanders late night interview that the nation is waiting for.
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