Kat Radley spent the better parts of 2016 and 2017 submitting writer’s packets to late-night comedy shows.
“I think I lost count at one point, but if you name a show, I pretty much sent a packet for it,” Radley told me.
Last August, the first packet she’d submitted turned into a job offer. Since then, Radley has written for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.
Radley will headline a show Saturday at the Women In Comedy Festival in Cambridge, Mass. The festival this year, running from Wednesday through Sunday, also includes performances from Wanda Sykes, Tig Notaro, Gina Yashere, a world premiere screening of the second-season opener for Showtime’s I’m Dying Up Here, and a selection of industry panels and workshops.
She has attended WICF several times before, but just as a visiting comedian. In 2014, Radley had recorded a sit-down with festival co-founders Maria Ciampa and Elyse Schuerman.
Radley’s own path to success began in Los Angeles, where she studied improv for seven years with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. Once she began performing stand-up, she thought more about late-night TV opportunities. “I realized the best way to make a living was to be a late-night staff writer,” Radley told me.
And so she devoted more time and energy to writing sample monologues and sketches that she could include in writing packet submissions.
Radley enjoys the fact that WICF includes men, too, despite the festival’s title. “They stand by their message of wanting to be inclusive,” she said.
Is the industry as a whole, though, getting better at including women in 2018?
“I think people are definitely more aware of women’s roles in comedy and how they’re treated. #MeToo and #TimesUp made everyone realize the extent of the problem,” she said. “It’s no secret women have always been in the minority in comedy, and that it’s known as a man’s world. Which it is, and isn’t.”
But Radley said people are starting to ask and acknowledge they may accidentally be excluding women from the conversations, “which is welcoming.”
“I don’t know if it’s the industry itself’s fault, as much as a systemic issue,” she said. “Women are not encouraged to be funny. So there’s fewer women trying to be comedians compared to men….We need to start telling 5-year-old girls that they’re funny…sit them down in front of SNL when they’re 12.” Then these girls can have the same comedy dreams that boys their age have.
How can men serve as allies?
“Step one, chop your dicks off. I’m just kidding!” she joked. “Asking these questions and just being great listeners is a great start.” She also suggests “listening to people who are in those groups who are underrepresented.”
Radley’s experience so far at The Daily Show has been awesome. She credits the show’s policy of reading writers’ submissions blind as one reason for that. “That’s a great way to start. If you look at the number of people who apply, most of them are men,” she said.
But once young girls can see more women working as writers, directors, and producers, then they can see themselves in those roles when they grow up.