Jon Stewart, the former face of “The Daily Show”, didn’t notice the lack of women in his writers’ room until he was called out on it.
After an article painted “The Daily Show” as a “sexist environment,” Stewart, who hosted the show for 16 years, was personally offended.
“I was very mad. I was like, ‘Are you saying I’m not a feminist?’ I was raised by a single mother. She wore a T-shirt that said, ‘A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.’ And me and my brother were like, ‘I think we might be men?’ So I was mad — how can they say such a thing?” he says during an interview alongside Dave Chappelle with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
An angry Stewart went back to his all-male writers’ room to complain about the slight. It was then that he realized the truth.
“I went back to the writers’ room, and I was like, ‘You believe this, Steve? What do you think, Greg? Dave? Tom? Mike?’ And then I was like, Oooohhh. And it was right,” he says, revealing that what he thought was the show’s gender-blind and colour-blind system of writing submissions was itself problematic.
“We had put in a system of getting writers where there were no names on it. We thought that’s colour-blind, gender-blind, et cetera. But what you don’t realize is the system itself — the tributaries that feed us those submissions — is polluted itself, so all we’re getting are white males who’ve been to Ivy League colleges and wrote for the Lampoon or funny Jewish guys from Brown,” he explains, admitting it was a “wake-up call.”
After his epiphany, Stewart says he began specifically looking for female and minority comedy writers when positions became available.
“It’s a systemic issue, and I think what can mostly help change is when you open up new tributaries to bring in talent,” he continues, adding that the more diverse voices now, greater representation will exist in the future. “Then they grow, and then they help grow their communities and tell their stories.”
You can watch Amanpour’s interview with Stewart and Chappelle in its entirety below: