Former Adult Swim Employee: “Our Boss Had Said He’d Never Let a Woman Be on Staff”
Back in June, we took a closer look at Adult Swim’s slate of upcoming TV projects and discovered that out of 47 series creators, there wasn’t a single woman listed in the bunch. At the time, a rep from the network said they were “always on the lookout” for new voices, but a quick glance at all of Adult Swim’s original programming reveals that they’ve never greenlit a series solely created by a woman, and just 1 out of every 34 credits in the network’s history go to women. The news was picked up by sites like Buzzfeed and Polygon earlier this month, which prompted Adult Swim exec Mike Lazzo to respond to an anonymous former employee’s accusations of sexism with an explanation on Reddit that was, well, not a good look:
What I actually said was-women don’t tend to like conflict, comedy often comes from conflict, so that’s probably why we (or others) have so few female projects. Nonetheless this was a dumb answer to a good question as Lucille Ball and Gilda Rather to Amy Poelher and Amy Schumer prove my statement a load of generalized nonsense.
I have always been very accessible to every person at work because I personally benefited from working at a company that allowed anyone, from any position, to pitch an idea-as long as the person was prepared to back up their ambition by doing any work required to justify the time or expense. If unnamed sources want to complain, complain about me after I’ve read the script you asked me to read or tossed you out of my office for pitching something I didn’t like. If you did come to me I bet I offered some decent suggestions on how to accomplish whatever you wanted to do.
Lazzo’s “women don’t like conflict” excuse turned into a punchline for a handful of writers, comedians, and TV show creators on Twitter:
— Paul Feig (@paulfeig) October 5, 2016
— Aparna Nancherla (@aparnapkin) October 4, 2016
I really love conflict.
— Emily V Gordon (@emilyvgordon) October 5, 2016
I know I should be mad at that guy who said women aren’t funny because they’re afraid of conflict but I’m too afraid to say anything :/
— Wendy Molyneux (@WendyMolyneux) October 5, 2016
Sounds like maybe its time for Mike Lazzo, Reigning King of Adult Swim, to debate Donald Trump about this ‘women hating conflict’ thing. https://t.co/6LR4TKgy9e
— Merrill Markoe (@Merrillmarkoe) October 14, 2016
Hey, Mike Lazzo, here’s some conflict: Go fuck yourself!https://t.co/loDOhAKgIE
— Raphael Bob-Waksberg (@RaphaelBW) October 5, 2016
Today, Paste followed up on the story by reaching out to various comedians as well as a few anonymous present and former Adult Swim employees, who all agree that the network has a longstanding problem with women. Here’s a particularly damning response from one former staffer:
One former Adult Swim employee I spoke to is a writer now happily employed on the staff of a popular network sitcom who came up in the industry as a production and office assistant at Adult Swim.
“When I was originally hired, I was told that I’d have a lot of access to the writers and, once production started, be able to me more involved in the show,” she said of her experience at Adult Swim. “Then, I learned that my boss only dated black and Asian women in their twenties—I’m black, and the other office assistant was a young Asian woman.”
While this didn’t stop her from pursuing the opportunity for further work with the company at first, she grew steadily less confident that those opportunities would ever be on the table.
“What struck me the most was that once I was hired I was told by the female production assistant that my interaction with the writers once production started would be limited, because having women around would ‘distract them,’” the source said. “The writer’s room was all men, and the production coordinator told me that our boss had said he’d never let a woman be on staff.” She, and the production assistant who had relayed the information, left the company shortly after.
Want to feel even more depressed? Here’s another former employee revealing that you can be a successful female employee there — just don’t get all bitchy and dramatic about all the sexism stuff:
“I’ve been the lone female writer in a ton of writer’s rooms,” she explained, “and I’ll say that while there has absolutely, 100% been sexism on their part, I always handled it well and never caused any ‘drama’ about it, and I’m still friends with most of those guys.”
Two sources confirmed to Paste that Adult Swim has been taking meetings with women since the news was originally posted over the summer, but as Paste argues, their lack of any sign of improvement since then — not to mention Lazzo’s bizarrely dismissive assumptions about women — has probably already cost them opportunities with a lot of talented people who might now go to other, more welcoming networks with their ideas. “As someone who wants to have a show someday, I probably shouldn’t call them out publicly, but if the gate’s already closed to me then what do I care?” BoJack Horseman designer Lisa Hanawalt — who has been vocal about Adult Swim’s terrible track record with women and whose aesthetic would make a fantastic fit at the network — recently said on her podcast Baby Geniuses. She added on Twitter: “Every time some ish like this happens, women like us are called upon to educate & speak out & list ourselves. I take a risk and exert time and energy every time I’m vocal on this stuff. I wish men would take more of the burden. I mean, it’s cool to hear women talk about this and give them a voice! I’m just so sick of these knuckleheads.” It’s been over four months since the news broke, but there’s still no evidence that Adult Swim is working to give female TV show creators a voice on their network. There seems to be a lot of evidence, however, that Adult Swim thinks they don’t deserve one.