Former Letterman Writer Reveals Late Night’s Dirty Secret: No Women Writers

Today’s Vanity Fair article by former “Late Night with David Letterman” writer Nell Scovell starts out with some pretty pitiful statistics:

“At this moment, there are more females serving on the United States Supreme Court than there are writing for “Late Show with David Letterman,” “The Jay Leno Show,” and “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” combined. 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 is not shy about equating this dearth of the fairer sex to the scandal that erupted earlier this month that revealed Letterman’s proclivity for hooking up with female staffers. But what’s unique about her perspective is that it’s one that has been lacking from the whole Letterman debacle: the view of a woman on the inside. While we may not yet have heard the story from Letterman’s former assistant and reported lover Stephanie Birkitt (we’re waiting for exclusive primetime interview with her for sure) or any of the other women Letterman is said to have bedded, we at least have Scovell’s take:

“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. Was I aware that other high-level male employees were having sexual relationships with female staffers? Yes. Did these female staffers have access to information and wield power disproportionate to their job titles? Yes. Did that create a hostile work environment? Yes. Did I believe these female staffers were benefiting professionally from their personal relationships? Yes. Did that make me feel demeaned? Completely. Did I say anything at the time? Sadly, no.”

Would more women on writing staffs have curbed Letterman’s actions? Maybe, maybe not. But Scovell does make a case for including more women on the writing teams, and offers some good ways to do it, too. Now head writers and producers: what are you going to do about it?

Letterman and MeVanity Fair

Related: CBS Tries To Remove Unauthorized Videos Of Letterman’s Extortion Explanation

Publish date: October 27, 2009 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT