I know what you're going to say, and yes, some of the things that Joan Rivers and Chelsea Handler say are problematic, but you know what? Just the other day I was watching Conan call the Kardashians sluts, so we'll have to take a minute to accept that there is no gender bias when it comes to questionable late night monologues.
So why is Conan O'Brien so much more successful than Chelsea? Why is it that when he made the move to TBS he was met with so much support and adoration by his fans, while admitting you're a Chelsea Lately viewer is met by either "who's that?" or "ugh! I hate her! She's so annoying!"? Why did Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers move on to become late night hosts while Tina Fey and Amy Poehler did not?
I'm really glad Handler was not overlooked in Jezebel's piece on late night, because she usually is. Do we consider the E! Network a pivotal player in the conversation about late night television? Nope. It's a shame that a strong and successful comedic voice like hers deserves at least a bit more credit than Mr. Milk Toast Carson Daly, yet he's somehow pulling in 1 million 2 AM viewers.
I won't place Chelsea Handler or her show on a pedestal of perfect feminist entertainment. The truth is, it's very difficult to be a good example of all that is Feminism™ and be a successful female comedian at the same time. She's not perfect. Hell, she's not always sober on-air either, but she keeps me entertained when I'm snuggled up in bed at night.
There are plenty of reasons to like her though. For one, roughly half her writing staff is consistently women, Fortune Feimster gets a lot of spotlight at the round table and in plenty of sketches, her being a gay comedienne. Not to mention the round table comedians that are a prominent part of the show are probably the most diverse group you'll see on a comedy show, even compared to a lot of Comedy Central and other sketch shows. On any given day, you'll see black, Latino/Hispanic, Asian, Jewish men and women on her show. I think that deserves some credit.
Her show isn't all about her, or the guests, or the desk bits, it's about giving other comedians a voice as well, and when you watch Chelsea Lately you can tell that these people genuinely fit in, they're not just diversity for diversity's sake, they're a motley crew of late night misfits that Chelsea and Co. chose because she liked them. And that's commendable. And maybe the stakes are so low for Chelsea Lately that they can manage to be so diverse, and offensive, and diversely offensive, and somehow that makes it such an inclusive show.
But then why is she the only woman of late night right now? Women seem to be dominating the morning talk show circuit, but we're still at the bottom of the late night barrel in hosting and writing and producing. I really feel that we are not going to see more women or people of color writing for late night unless we get more late night hosts that reflect that. I don't know how many white dude-bro comedian late night cable shows I saw start and fail last year, but this class clown lunch table segregation needs to be put to rest. As much as I love Chelsea, her drunken antics on E! shouldn't be the only example we have of a female late night host. We should be able to pull more names out of our pocket than her and Joan Rivers, and a really short-lived Whitney Cummings. And we need to stop thinking of them as annoying, because they're not any more annoying or offensive than their male counterparts.