Late night television has been dominated by white men since time immemorial, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t women holding it down in the late night world. Yet, time and time again, women’s contributions to late night television are sidelined, and it’s just happened again.
A Hollywood Reporter article on Friday about late night television becoming increasingly political since Donald Trump took office looked at hosts like Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, and Seth Meyers, all who have included a lot of political rhetoric in their shows. The article discusses how the hosts tackled issues like sexual harassment and Harvey Weinstein, health care, the gun debate, and Charlottesville, and managed to give Fallon a filmsy shoutout, but there is absolutely no mention of the women of late night.
Samantha Bee of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, who hosted Not The White House Correspondents’ Dinner in protest of Trump, was nowhere to be seen, and neither were Robin Thede or problematic fave Sarah Silverman, whose late night shows The Rundown with Robin Thede on BET and Hulu’s I Love You (respectively), both debuted in October. I get that two months of content is not a lot compared to 11.5 months, but to ignore them completely is a huge omission nonetheless.
And it’s not like the women weren’t included because the article was focusing on network shows on NBC, ABC, and CBS or because the article weren’t looking at shows that are perhaps “inherently” political. The article highlights Comedy Central’s Daily Show with Trevor Noah as well as Conan which is on TBS, the same channel as Full Frontal (although John Oliver of Last Week Tonight on HBO, which is premium cable, was also omitted). THR also dedicated a portion of the article to hosts who traveled abroad, highlighting Colbert’s trip to Russia and O’Brien’s trips to Mexico and Israel, conveniently forgetting Bee traveled to Iraq earlier this year (and Russia and Jordan last year!).
Instead the only women included in the roundup appeared to be Gayle King, who appeared on Colbert’s show to discuss the Charlie Rose scandal, and the women in Seth Meyers’ writers room who discussed Weinstein on air—all of whom were meant to bolster the male hosts’ ability to speak to the issues.
All of the late night shows fronted by women are inherently political and have been consistently tackling political issues. So it’s not that late night television itself is becoming more serious or more political. It’s just that the white men on network late night television are.
Meanwhile the women who have been sidelined over and over again, perhaps because they’re forced to wear their politics more openly by nature of being a woman, receive no credit for the work they’ve been doing the whole time.