As a female TV writer, I've dealt with my share of sexism. One of my worst experiences came at a show where one of a few women on staff quit two months into the season. It's never a good sign when someone whose dad directs porn for a living tells you this is the most degrading workplace she's ever seen, but I was trying to have a positive attitude. I believed that quitters never win and winners never quit. Instead, I refused to quit and got fired — a phrase you don't see on a lot of inspirational calendars.
The experience affected me and my career in all sorts of ways, but I've never written about it until now. I had my reasons. For one thing, it felt like an admission of failure. Successful women don't complain; they kick ass! Also, complaining about sexism makes you sound like the kind of easily triggered killjoy snowflake who complains about sexism. And who wants to hire her? Then there was the good old female self-doubt. Maybe my jokes just sucked. Maybe I wasn't as naturally talented as the guy who kept doing room bits about the Clapper, which is why I got canned and he lives in a house with a shower that takes up an entire floor.
Time passed. Funny women started revolutionizing the TV business. The more I saw women succeed, the more irrelevant my tale of sexist injustice seemed. Well, good, I thought. That story I never wrote about how sexism made me doubt myself? I was right to doubt. Besides, I was already more privileged than 99.9999 percent of the planet. I didn't want to seem like a dick.
Then something happened that changed my mind. I had drinks with a group of friends — all younger female writers. We started talking about work. And guess what? It turned out that every single one of them had dealt with inappropriate behavior from men they worked for or with. And just so we're clear, I'm not talking about dirty jokes. I'm talking about unwanted touching and quid pro quo offers to fuck. I'm talking about shit that's illegal. Maybe not Harvey Weinstein-level stuff, but still bad.
I finally realized it wasn't just me. Yes, a handful of super-talented women had broken through. Yes, some rooms were great. And, yes, it's still possible my jokes just sucked. But it was getting harder and harder to deny that there was a top-down attitude in our business that encouraged misogyny and creepiness. We all agreed that something needed to be done. Eventually, we settled on my snitching to this publication. I'm not sure why I ended up being the one. I'd like to think I bravely volunteered to sacrifice myself like that chick from The Hunger Games, but we might have just drawn straws. I can't remember. I told you we were drinking.
Anyway, here goes …
I was so excited when I got the call saying I'd been hired to write for I Can't Tell You or I'll Get Fucking Sued. A big step up for me! One thing you need to understand about comedy writing is that for a moronic business, it's pretty hard to get into. This job was so much cooler than my other jobs. Answering phones. Picking up dry cleaning. Coming up with awards-show patter for a plastic replica of Jennifer Lopez's ass.
As I've already touched on, TV writing isn't like other businesses. It's a freewheeling, creative environment where you can say anything you want. Because it's only by freeing our Jungian shadow selves that we can come up with lines like "I just threw up in my mouth a little bit." Writers rooms let you do things that would be firing offenses in a non–Bill O'Reilly workplace. It's usually fun, but the fun has a downside. When someone does cross the line, you can never be sure because … what line? Being sexually harassed by a sitcom writer is like being sexually harassed by your gynecologist. It can be hard to tell if the guy's being a pervert or just doing his job.