Published Jun 18, 2019While much noise has been made about the lack of diversity in comedy writing rooms, little has actually been done to rectify the problem. Standing out from the crowd, British network ITV has now taken a major step by banning all-male comedy writing teams.
As the BBC reports, ITV's head of comedy Saskia Schuster has started a new initiative called Comedy 50:50. As its name suggests, the goal of the project is to reach gender parity in writers' rooms. For now, they've started by outright banning all-male writing staffs.
"An awful lot of my comedy entertainment shows are made up of all male writing teams," Schuster said. "In scripted commissions there has been a significant lack of shows written by women or with women on the writing teams."
After careful consideration, Schuster arrived at a new rule: "I won't commission anything with an all-male writing team."
In a lengthy statement on the Comedy 50:50 site, Schuster opened up about some of the other challenges she noticed in her research:
• Female writers aren't being hired onto writing teams because they can't compete with male writers who commonly have accumulated more writing credits. This reflects the long standing culture of comedy being male dominated.
• Female writers find it hard to find producers to work with who 'get' their voice and can thereby develop a script to its full potential. This reflects the difficulty of broadening personal networks and producer/writer relationships — partly relating back to the problem of not gaining enough writing credits to even get that first meeting.
• Female writers often don't thrive as the lone female voice in the writing room. Too often the writing room is not sensitively run, it can be aggressive and slightly bullying. There can all too often be a sense of tokenism towards the lone female. Or the dominant perception is that the female is there purely so the production can hit quotas. Many women don't want to be or don't enjoy being that lone female.
• Producers often don't know how to expand their circle of female writers with whom they work and many feel frustrated that they know only a small pool of talent upon which to draw.