Ex-Staffer: Letterman Environment 'Demeaning'

But not just because of sexual politics: It's time to hire female writers

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 27, 2009 9:50 AM CDT

(Newser) – Nell Scovell walked away from her dream job on Late Night with David Letterman thanks to the "hostile work environment" created by high-level male staffers having sex with their female employees. She writes about her experience in Vanity Fair—not to name names, but to point out the underlying problem with all the major late night shows: "Out of the 50 or so comedy writers working on these programs, exactly zero are women. It would be funny if it weren’t true."

Scovell recounts her experience, but ultimately wants to "pivot the discussion away from the bedroom and toward the writers’ room." Yes, the sexual politics of Late Night made her feel demeaned. But, she writes, "I don’t want a lawsuit. I don’t want compensation. I don’t want revenge. I don’t want Dave to go down. I just want Dave to hire some qualified female writers and then treat them with respect. And that goes for Jay and Conan, too."

In this Sept. 18, 2005 file photo Late night talk show host David Letterman makes a surprise appearance at the Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles.
In this Sept. 18, 2005 file photo Late night talk show host David Letterman makes a surprise appearance at the Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
In this image originally provided by CBS, David Letterman appears on the Late Show with David Letterman, in this Oct. 8, 2007, file photo, in New York.
In this image originally provided by CBS, David Letterman appears on the "Late Show with David Letterman," in this Oct. 8, 2007, file photo, in New York.   (AP Photo/John Paul Filo, CBS, File)
Television talk show host David Letterman walking out of The Ed Sullivan Theater during a taping of The Late Show with David Letterman, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008 in New York.
Television talk show host David Letterman walking out of The Ed Sullivan Theater during a taping of "The Late Show with David Letterman", Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008 in New York.   (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)
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Did Dave hit on me? No. Did he pay me enough extra attention that it was noted by another writer? Yes. Was I aware of rumors that Dave was having sexual relationships with female staffers? Yes.
- Nell Scovell

One frequent excuse you hear from late-night-TV executives is 'women just don’t apply for these jobs.' But that’s partly because the shows often rely on current (white male) writers to recommend funny (white male) friends to be future (white male) writers. - Nell Scovell

I’d like to see each show post submission-packet requirements on its Web site so everyone has equal access. Obvious, right? Unless the shows would rather complain about the dearth of female applicants than do anything to encourage them. - Nell Scovell

Male writers don’t want to be judged in the room. They want to be able to scarf an entire bag of potato chips while cracking fart jokes and making lewd comments without fear of feminine disapproval. But we’re your co-workers, not your wives. - Nell Scovell

I have a dream—that one day a late-night writers’ room will be filled with poop jokes and fart jokes and jerking-off-to-Angelina-Jolie’s-face-on-a-magazine jokes, and everyone will laugh, including men and women of all creeds and colors. - Nell Scovell

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