9.19.2005

Emmy is a Hot Chick

The closest I’ve gotten to the Emmy Awards was when my brother-in-law, the Smug Overpaid Sitcom Weenie, asked me to babysit so he and his wife could go. Part-time nanny work seemed okay to me, since I was doing a lot of odd jobs to save for film school. Then it turned out his wife wasn’t so keen on having me around, since I can cook, and she doesn't like the girls eating a whole lot. This is the West Valley, where you can't be dropping off a happy little fatty at tap dance class.

His Overrated Alien Comedy lost to Frasier again that year, which made sense to me, since unlike Smug’s show, Frasier was known to hire women and old guys who gave it a little dimension.

Which brings me to last night. Why isn’t a so-called progressive like Jon Stewart embarrassed to be parading his closed club in penguin suits up and down the Emmy stage year in and year out? Though he again made some tired joke about hiring only Jewish Ivy Leaguers, this time he didn’t even bother to mention the flagrant absence of women among those ranks. If eighteen females had marched up there to the total exclusion of the male sex, The Daily Show would be known as the biggest dyke fest on the airwaves.

Certainly plenty of women turned out last night to receive recognition for their assorted contributions to television, and much to the Academy’s credit, many of them are no longer young and pretty. However, those recognized seemed mostly to be working in front of the TV cameras, where it’s a whole lot harder to marginalize the ladies since the entire medium was conceived to sell soap suds to housewives, desperate and otherwise.

I’m sure there will be a lot more talk today about how they looked in their dresses rather than their notable absence behind the scenes. Which leaves it to me to inform Jon Stewart and his pals—all of whom are undoubtedly readers of this blog, given their singular taste and refinement—that unlike Oscar and Tony, Emmy is a girl. According to my research, some forty-eight statuette designs were rejected before Louis McManus brought in the winged “golden girl”—modeled after his wife Dorothy—holding up the universal symbol for the electron. Even the name Emmy is a feminization of "Immy," a term used for the early image orthicon camera tube.

The boys should also know that the very first Emmy back in 1949 went to a babe of all things—Shirley Dinsdale, a 20-year-old ventriloquist who surely did her own writing. Since then, several other women—Gracie Allen and Carol Burnett come to mind—have written a good bit of their own material on the way to becoming comedy legends. In 1951, Red Skelton accepted the Best Comedian award by saying, "I think this should have gone to Lucille Ball."

I do hope I’m not sounding as resentful as Lily Tomlin, who said after picking up an Emmy in 1974, "This is not the greatest moment in my life because on Friday I had a really great baked potato at Niblick's on Wilshire." 

It seems bitterness has always been the provenance of comics, regardless of the level of success we have or haven’t achieved. Perhaps the best Emmy acceptance quote of all time belonged to Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels, who thanked all of New York City "for providing the rejection and alienation that keeps the comedy spirit alive." Now there’s a late night guy who took awhile to get it, since he was on the air for nearly three decades before figuring out it was time to let a girl run the show.

Another thing they won’t tell you in film school is that if Tina Fey hasn’t got a prayer of writing on The Daily Show, you won’t be working in late night TV unless you can pee standing up, holding an Emmy in one hand and your, uh, sense of humor in the other.

10 comments:

  1. Hi I just dropped by your blog while surfing wanted to say it's great. I'll be sure to drop by again soon.

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  2. Anonymous5:27 AM

    Once again, you mashed the societal zit right on the head. I am sure Stewart will send you a guilded apology for his oversight, too. I am glad they put 2 women in front of the camera there a year ago. Or maybe they were always there but just invisible, quietly serving coffee to the boys are they write their funnies. One of the guys finally looked up with his danish-filled mouth and said, 'Hey tits, I mean Sam, you have a goofy looking face. We could use you.'

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  3. I stopped tuning in when they created the Reality TV category, which also signified the end of television

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  4. I love that Lilly Tomlin quote.

    One of my favorite speeches was when Sven Nykvist won for CRIES AND WHISPERS. He said, [paraphrase] "I hope this will allow me to work more and do it better." He at least spoke the truth.

    The older I get the more disallutioned I become about these awards. It culminated a couple of years ago when I kept reading how Scorsese was campaigning and practically begging for an Oscar. It was sad and pathetic, and not really what you want to see a hero of yours sinking to.

    Then there was Jane Campion. When she won for best original screenplay for THE PIANO she said, [again, paraphrasing] "I used to sit around with my friends watching these ceremonies and making fun of everyone. Now that I've won I think it's the greatest thing in the world." At least she's honest about it.

    As far as the women writers is concerned, unfortunately I don't believe they will ever let enough Tina Fey's into the ranks to actually make a difference and change the status quo. I'm not exactly sure how you would change it beside somehow proving that women writers can make successful, profitable shows consistantly. But to do that, you need more than one to succeed. Damn, an entire book can be written on this one.

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  5. This was post with a bite. I like it very much.

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  6. I don't recall two women ever being among Jon Stewart's winning staff. Maybe Anonymous mistook the scantily clad models who escort the guys off-stage for girl writers. (Most of us don't look like that. Sorry.) I also have to say that "Hey, Tits!" sounds like a new Fox sitcom. Anyway, thanks for writing. Nothing better than a good old-fashioned dialogue to feed a wronged blogger's spirit. JGTH

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  7. K.C. Baxter10:28 PM

    Hey don't forget that "The Daily Show" actually had a good head female writer way back in 1997, 'til Craig Kilborn cheesed her off...

    http://us.imdb.com/news/sb/1997-12-16#tv4

    Of course it pre-dates Stewart by years, but hey...

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  8. I could not love this more. After a week off so he can go to Maui, the second part of Craig's punishment is his own network show, which sucks so hard it gets canceled. Meanwhile, the Jon Stewart team probably thinks they started winning Emmys because they got rid of the problem chick. Thanks for writing, K.C.

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  9. K.C. Baxter4:25 PM

    You're welcome. But wait, it gets better! Who co-created "The Daily Show?

    http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0935540/bio

    That's right, *two women*!

    P.S. You're tied for second (with John August & Do Bats Eat Cats) for my favorite screenwriting blog! "I find your lack of faith" being my first but you make me laugh more than all but the latter.

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  10. Aw, shucks. Do me a favor and share that sentiment over on the Big Boy Blogs. Little too much hero worshipping going on over there for my taste. Craig Mazin was nice enough to link me but the other two would rather pour hot oil over their heads.

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