Tuesday, October 27, 2009

David Letterman: A female writer speaks out about "hostile work environment"

Former "Late Night" writer Nell Scovell writes for Vanity Fair about the "hostile work environment" she found during her brief tenure at the show (she "walked away from [her] dream job" after a few months). "I’d seen enough to know that I was not going to thrive professionally in that workplace," says Scovell. "And although there were various reasons for that, sexual politics did play a major part."

Without naming names or digging up decades-old dirt, let’s address the pertinent questions. 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.
Dave asked her why she was quitting, but "with [his] rumored mistress within earshot, I balked. Instead, I told him I missed L.A. Dave said, 'You’re welcome back anytime.'" She went on to write for "Coach," "Monk," "NCIS," and many other shows, and she was the creator of the long-running sitcom "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch."

About the dearth of female writers on late night programs ("Late Show," "Jay Leno" and "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" have not a single woman on their writing staffs), "the shows often rely on current (white male) writers to recommend their funny (white male) friends to be future (white male) writers. Targeted outreach to talented bloggers, improv performers, and stand-ups would help widen the field of applicants."


  1. Robin said...

    She makes some very interesting comments about the lack of women writers on Tonight, The Late Show, Late Night, and how male writers might be concerned about watching what they say in front of a female writer. Of course, the only reliably funny (and smart) shows on at late night (The Daily Show, Colbert) DO have female writers... and they say things that the other shows would never say.

  2. I said...


    [The Daily Show and The Colbert Report] say things that the other shows would never say.

    Isn't that because they're on a cable network, not a broadcast network?

  3. I said...


    After reading this article, do you remain unconcerned by the revelation of Letterman's affairs?

  4. Robin said...


    "Isn't that because they're on a cable network, not a broadcast network?"

    Exactly; it's foolish to be worrying about how a woman's presence will make a male writer mind his tongue when network "Standards and Practices" so sharply constrain what he can say in the first place.

  5. M.P.C. said...

    Talk Show News' could you please pass this message to Nell Scovell--

    Executive Producer for the Late show:
    Barbara Gaines
    and Maria Pope are females.
    and more than 58 percent of the employees on WWP are females.
    It really pisses me off when people like this bitch writes an article for money to sell a magazine (which are goin bankrupt right now)
    when the top ranking position is a female.

    There is no law that says you have to have 50 percent female and 50 percent male
    or you have to hire 10 female writers for 10 male---there are more males in some jobs and females on others--what the fuck is wrong with that??

    I think it is an insult to those female workers at the late show when u start writing articles about 'hostile work environment' to make easy bucks.

    And, people!!! expect more of these type of article to come out in the future coz it sells magazine.
    Thats the bottom line.

  6. Anonymous said...

    Well said M.P.C. I hadnt thought of it that way.