Tina Fey understands the problems that plague late night better than anyone else.
The Saturday Night Live star spent years making us laugh on the late-night sketch comedy series and, while creating and starring in her hit NBC comedy 30 Rock, there were even rumors that Fey herself might get behind a desk at some point. She’d successfully manned SNL’s Weekend Update segment with Jimmy Fallon and Amy Poehler and she knew how to deliver hard-hitting news with a punchline.
But while a Fey-hosted talk show just wasn’t meant to be, that didn’t stop the comedian from taking her male colleagues to task over the lack of female writers in the late-night landscape. During a talk with David Letterman for his Netflix series, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, Fey confronted the host, who ran a notoriously testosterone-driven team during his time with CBS, about why he just couldn’t seem to hire women to write his jokes.
“I didn’t know why there weren’t women writers. There was no policy against women writers,” Letterman told Fey when she brought up the issue.
“I always thought, well, geez, if I was a woman I don’t know if I would want to write on my nickel-and-dime, dog-and-pony show anyway because we’re on at 12:30.”
As lame an excuse as we’ve ever heard. Letterman was in charge on his show — you don’t amass a 33-year career in the business and become a network icon without having a hand in everything going on behind-the-scenes — so to say that he had no idea his show wasn’t hiring women writers seems a bit sketchy. At least, it does to Fey who happily pushed back on those statements with a clipped, “Yeah, we did want to write on it though.”
That straight-forward rebuttal drew an apology from Letterman who admitted he might have been complicit in fostering a male-dominated work environment, saying he felt bad for his ignorance of the whole situation.
Fey issued an apology of her own later in the episode when she addressed her poorly received commentary on the Charlottesville white nationalist rally. Fey famously starred in a sketch on SNL that saw her sporting a UVA sweatshirt and touting the powers of sheet cake as a response to the violent marches that happened in the city. Critics were quick to condemn the comedian for what they saw as an out-of-touch performance and it looks like Fey thinks they were right to speak out.
“If I had a time machine, I would end the piece by saying … ‘Fight them in every way except the way that they want,'” she told Letterman, suggesting she had even considered creating a Twitter account to apologize.