David Letterman tried to talk to Tina Fey about women in comedy. He got it very wrong.

David Letterman has no idea why there were so few women writers on his late-night talk show.

At least, that's what the veteran host revealed on an episode of his Netflix interview show "My Next Guest Needs No Introduction." What Letterman seems to have taught his audience with this particular episode is how far things still have to go in terms of diversity and equality in the writers room.

In speaking with Tina Fey, Letterman (kind of) asked the celebrated writer/actress/comedian/producer about her thoughts on how Hollywood has treated women.


"I know this is a topic you don't like talking about, and it's a topic without an answer, but women in comedy," Letterman said. "And I know you've been very generous to women in correcting an oversight. Now, when I had a television show, people would always say to me ... 'Why didn't you, why don't you have women writers?' And the best I could come up with was, 'I don't know.'"

Letterman seemed to have raised a subject he clearly didn't really want to talk about.

If you're scratching your head about what Letterman's talking about, you're not alone. Because what happened seems to be Letterman trying to ask a question, answer it, and absolve himself of any guilt under the guise of ignorance.

As former "Late Night with David Letterman" writer Nell Scovell wrote, this kind of bluster "may have gotten a pass" in the time before #MeToo and #TimesUp. But owning up to "I don't know" isn't enough anymore.

"In addressing the issue with one of Hollywood's most successful comics, he could have admitted his failings. Instead, he attempted to dodge past criticisms. And while delivered with an air of complete logic, Letterman's argument is a master class in distortion," Scovell wrote.

Image via Netflix.

Tina Fey wasn't about to let the moment pass though.

While Letterman seemed ready to move on, Fey wasn't letting it go so easily. Especially when he suggested there was "no policy" against women writers, completely ignoring that, while there may have been no official "no women allowed" mandate, an overwhelming amount of evidence makes it clear how hard it has been to be a woman in comedy.

"I always thought, 'Well, geez, if I was a woman, I'm not sure I would want to write on my little nickel-and-dime dog-and-pony show anyway cause we're on at 12:30,' Letterman says by way of apology. (Although, what does the show's time has to do with it? Are women not allowed out past 10? This show didn't start in the '50s.)

Fey, however, was having none of it: "Yeah, we did want to write on it, though," she shot back.

Letterman truly missed an opportunity here.

Here's the thing: If you're going to raise a sensitive subject, you're going to have to grapple with all the uncomfortable feelings that come along with it. If Letterman had, this conversation could have been productive and even transformative. It would have been refreshing to have a powerful man in comedy own up to his mistakes and recognize that it wasn't just "the time" that was an issue (Scovell points out that even when Letterman moved to an earlier time slot, he still only had one woman on the writing team) and that discrimination is a real issue to which the answer isn't "I don't know."

If anything, Letterman's response is a master class of what not to do when discussing equality and diversity.

While Letterman ended this uncomfortable segment with a vague apology about his ignorance and a statement about things getting better, that's not going to change things. What's going to change things are in-depth conversations about this topic. And that doesn't start with apologies and absolution; it starts with listening and recognizing that change is not only necessary but beneficial.

True
Back Market

Between the new normal that is working from home and e-learning for students of all ages, having functional electronic devices is extremely important. But that doesn't mean needing to run out and buy the latest and greatest model. In fact, this cycle of constantly upgrading our devices to keep up with the newest technology is an incredibly dangerous habit.

The amount of e-waste we produce each year is growing at an increasing rate, and the improper treatment and disposal of this waste is harmful to both human health and the planet.

So what's the solution? While no one expects you to stop purchasing new phones, laptops, and other devices, what you can do is consider where you're purchasing them from and how often in order to help improve the planet for future generations.

Keep Reading Show less

Sir David Attenborough has one of the most recognized and beloved voices in the world. The British broadcaster and nature historian has spent most of his 94 years on Earth educating humanity about the wonders of the natural world, inspiring multiple generations to care about the planet we all call home.

And now, Attenborough has made a new name for himself. Not only has he joined the cool kids on Instagram, he's broken the record for reaching a million followers in the shortest period. It only took four hours and 44 minutes, which is less time than it took Jennifer Aniston, who held the title before him at 5 hours and 16 minutes.

A day later, Attenborough is sitting at a whopping 3.4 million followers. And he only has two Instagram posts so far, both of them videos. But just watch his first one and you'll see why he's attracted so many fans.

Keep Reading Show less
True

$200 billion of COVID-19 recovery funding is being used to bail out fossil fuel companies. These mayors are combatting this and instead investing in green jobs and a just recovery.

Learn more on how cities are taking action: c40.org/divest-invest


via msleja / TikTok

In 2019, the Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada instituted a policy that forbids teachers from participating in "partisan political activities" during school hours. The policy states that "any signage that is displayed on District property that is, or becomes, political in nature must be removed or covered."

The new policy is based on the U.S. Supreme Court's 2018 Janus decision that limits public employees' First Amendment protections for speech while performing their official duties.

This new policy caused a bit of confusion with Jennifer Leja, a 7th and 8th-grade teacher in the district. She wondered if, as a bisexual woman, the new policy forbids her from discussing her sexuality.

Keep Reading Show less

One night in 2018, Sheila and Steve Albers took their two youngest sons out to dinner. Their 17-year-old son, John, was in a crabby mood—not an uncommon occurrence for the teen who struggled with mental health issues—so he stayed home.

A half hour later, Sheila's started getting text messages that John wasn't safe. He had posted messages with suicidal ideations on social media and his friends had called the police to check on him. The Albers immediately raced home.

When they got there, they were met with a surreal scene. Their minivan was in the neighbor's yard across the street. John had been shot in the driver's seat six times by a police officer who had arrived to check on him. The officer had fired two shots as the teen slowly backed the van out of the garage, then 11 more after the van spun around backward. But all the officers told the Albers was that John had "passed" and had been shot. They wouldn't find out until the next day who had shot and killed him.

Keep Reading Show less