Fire Olivia Munn

Olivia Munn is still working for The Daily Show, and I’m outraged.

I’m not outraged for the same reasons that girl-power blog Jezebel was when they wrote about Munn’s having been hired last July. The blog alleged that Munn—former Attack of the Show host and inspirer of ejaculate the internet around—was obviously only hired as eye candy, because The Daily Show thinks that’s all that women are. Their argument that the program has a gender “double standard” was supported by mostly off-the-record comments from female ex-employees who blamed their terminations on their lack of Y-chromosomes. Go-get-’em-girl comments abounded.

Jezebel’s conclusion ignored the fact that the show’s current alpha female correspondent—Samantha Bee—has worked there longer than any other correspondent in the show’s history (except Steven Colbert). It also ignored the 40% of the show’s current staff who are women, who soon after released a statement saying, “Go [email protected]#k yourself.”

A Slate response to the whole debacle put it this way: tirades like Jezebel’s hurt feminism more than they bolster it: “The vibe is less sisterhood-is-powerful than middle-school clique in-fight, with anyone who dares to step outside of chalk-drawn lines delimiting what’s ‘empowering’ and ‘anti-feminist’ inevitably getting flamed and shamed to bits.” The article then pointed to what it dubbed a paradox: that amidst all this fingernail scratching, few had seen the positive perspective that Munn, who embodies the neo-feminist ethos that women should be allowed to look and feel as sexy as they like, did get the job. Slate, like many online commenters, dug in its heels, ultimately applauding the hiring of Munn because she  “dares to seem to want to sexually attract men.”

Nobody, though, has gotten at why I’m outraged. As I see it, this shouldn’t be a debate about whether comedians can be good looking (that’s a tired conversation) or about gender inequality in comedy (an actual phenomenon and yet an even more tired conversation).

Now, there are plenty of things you could say about Ms. Munn. You could say she’s Megan Fox hot. You could say that she likes circus animals and deep throating mustard soaked hot dogs. You could say you’d give your left nut to eat that mustard soaked hot dog back out of her mouth because she’s Megan Fox hot and likes circus animals. Alternatively, you could say you wouldn’t anymore because you just read that she banged Dane Cook. Because my suspicions that she’s a tranny are still unconfirmed, even after hours of exhaustive searches (and lots of the other people in this café noticing the tranny porn on my screen), there’s only one thing I’ll say about her for sure: Olivia Munn is not fucking funny.

Watch her on the show to see what I mean. You can feel the writing and the other actors struggling to keep the sketch going despite Munn’s lack of instincts and charm, like a teacher clad in all black holding the hand of the special-ed kid playing the Wall in Midsummer.

I know something about being in “boy’s clubs”, as Jezebel said The Daily Show is. I’m writing this post for a blog called “Bachelors of the Arts,” whose small cache of posts have never before featured a female writer (largely because it’s taken me a few weeks to get around to writing this rant). Two of this blog’s creators and I were founding members of an improv comedy troupe as undergrads at Brown; I was the one female to the group’s four or five men. During those years of performing alongside them I did not learn that comedy comes more naturally to one gender and not the other. Such an argument ignores the unromantic fact that good comedy takes hard work. Like any comedians, where my cohorts and I were blind to our own faults we were unlikely to grow; where we gave ourselves entirely to one another and our craft, we maybe succeeded. Watching clips of the ex-Daily Show correspondents who whined to Jezebel, I for one am not convinced that the show has a pattern of firing women; I am convinced that the show has a pattern of firing people who aren’t very good. Perhaps I was predisposed to thinking so because the tenor of their remarks to Jezebel—their certainty that it was their genitalia and not their lack of collaborative mojo that did them in—struck me as being antithetical to the try-and-try-again attitude necessary to the production of good comedy.

It’s reasonable to infer that thousands of men and women alike have auditioned unsuccessfully for The Daily Show in its fifteen years, and that many have been hired only to be slyly fired a moment later. It’s also reasonable to infer that far more men have undergone this hardship than women. And it’s the show’s prerogative, if not its burden, to only keep around the best. This is especially true these days, as the program has more or less replaced that derelict institution SNL as our culture’s great comedy mine: Mo Rocca, Steve Carrell, Dave Attell, and of course Stephen Colbert got their breaks there. The Daily Show has to keep its standards up not only for its own ratings, but for the greater culture of comedy (a culture whose pantheon is arguably reigned by Mr. Stewart and Ms. Tina Fey).

The truth, is, we don’t know why Olivia Munn was hired. And we, like the sensationalists who wrote the original Jezebel piece can’t know, as we can never know the myriad reasons that anything happens in show business (unlike them, I won’t speculate, but not because this blog has journalistic ethics).

The real problem, now, is that the Daily Show can’t de-Munn. Because Jezebel took it upon itself to write this tirade and therefore politicize the issue of her employment, they’ve guaranteed that the Daily Show will keep her on, at least until this blows over, or else face a lot of flak. This in my opinion is the biggest setback of the whole scenario, from a woman’s standpoint. Where there may or may not have been a gender “double standard” to begin with, there’s certainly one now: Munn won’t be fired out of appeasement and meanwhile unfunny male correspondents can be hired and fired without a hitch. Olivia Munn will continue to appear on air with her whiny voice and blank gaze, all the while perpetuating the stereotype that women aren’t funny.

In an interview with the Daily Beast in the wake of the scandal, Ms. Munn intoned that she’s not a feminist because she believes that men and women should be treated equally. Equal treatment of the genders, of course, is feminism. I guess I forgive her for not knowing this—women’s blogs, after all, like women’s magazines before them, subsist off and therefore promote a contorted pro-woman, anti-man definition of feminism. (Also, she strikes me as being an idiot.) The actual feminist move here is to fire Ms. Munn precisely because women and men should be held to the same standards. Fire her, and replace her with someone better for the job, like me.

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4 Responses to “Fire Olivia Munn”
  1. Brian Danger says:

    Soooo true. Bad comedy is difficult to watch. Every time Olivia Munn does piece for The Daily Show, the comedic pace of the show comes to awkward crawl.

  2. Monica says:

    I doubt you’d be moved to write such an impassioned essay about any of the mediocre male correspondents, of which there have been many. Women get special attention and special criticism. Especially from other women.

    Go replace one of the men, Sandra. Then there’ll be a range of female talent on the show, just like there is a range of male talent on the show, demonstrating that (gasp) women are People after all.

    • Rob says:

      This comment would be astute, if it weren’t so knee-jerk and undergrad-y. Because, the thing that Sandra—and really, anyone who watches comedy with a critical eye—has noticed is that Munn just looks out of her depth; she’s utterly terrified and uncomfortable every time she’s on-screen, which in turn makes the audience terrified and uncomfortable. All of the other correspondents have experience performing in front of live audiences—Bee, Jones, and Riggle were in sketch/improv comedy troupes, Cenac and Oliver were stand-ups, and Mandvi worked on Broadway—whereas the only live audience that Munn ever worked in front of was the braying, half-stoned camera men at G4. So…no. What the Daily Show needs is to fire Munn, and get someone who can work a crowd.

  3. connor white says:

    Rob, that comment would be would be astute, were it not so asinine and childish. I applaud your efforts to bring the level of discourse on this blog to a graduate school level. Your critical eye of comedy has clearly elevated you to a possess a profound, almost god-like understanding of comedic performance. I wonder if you would like to come over sometime and explain some jokes to me.

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