Decade after calling out late-night and Dave Letterman, Nell Scovell receives reconciliation, and late-night hires more women writers

In 2009, TV writer Nell Scovell called out late-night TV for continuing to be a boys club, and called out her former employer, David Letterman, in particular.

Well, Nell and Dave recently met up for the first time in a lot longer than 10 years, and it went, well, well.

As Scovell recounted for Vanity Fair:

Dave’s CBS show went off the air in 2015 with one female writer,** **the same number his NBC show had when it debuted in 1982. Merrill Markoe was Late Night’s first head writer, inventing classic segments like Stupid Pet Tricks and making perhaps the first dog video to ever go viral. With Merrill in the writers room, the show won the Emmy for outstanding writing four years in a row. After she left, the show never won that category again.

“Merrill was a huge factor in the creation of that show—an outsized building block,” Dave told me. “So [the concept of female writers] was never foreign to me. I don’t know how it got sidetracked. It just did. It was sloppiness. Inertia. I see it differently now and if I were to start a show today, holy God, I’m certain there’d be mistakes, but not the mistakes that were just so gosh-dang obvious.”

Letterman apologized.

“When I read that document you wrote 10 years ago,” Dave said, “I just thought, There’s nothing to be upset about here. It happened, that’s all true.”

Scovell wrote: “Even better than making Dave laugh is having Dave acknowledge that I told the truth. In the past decade, I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words about women in the workplace, but the main point boils down to six: Believe women. Hire women. Respect women.”

On Thursday, the show that replaced Letterman, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, announced it had promoted Ariel Dumas to be head writer. Dumas previously had served as a writer and digital producer for Colbert, going back to his Comedy Central days.

Over at NBC, Amy Ozols became head writer for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in 2018. Ozols had been co-EP for James Corden, and previously a writer and producer for Fallon from 2009 to 2012. This year, Fallon hired 28-year-old Nedaa Sweiss as the new head writer. She was just featured in Variety’s “New Leaders of TV” roundup.

And Molly McNearney continues as co-head writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live on ABC.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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