The 12th annual New York Comedy Festival kicked off on Tuesday, November 10. Among the many events held around the city was the Women in Comedy Panel, “Comedy Makers: Tales from the Dark Side,” at Caroline’s on Broadway.
The panel, moderated by Lizz Winstead, The Daily Show co-creator and former head writer, featured Susan Fales-Hill (The Cosby Show, A Different World, Can’t Hurry Love), Barbara Gaines (The Late Show with David Letterman), Jill Kargman (Odd Mom Out), Stephanie Laing (Tracey Takes On, Veep), and Elisa Zurtisky (Sex and the City, Odd Mom Out).
Winstead, calling all of the panelists groundbreakers, asked them about their beginnings in comedic writing, how it felt to be “the only woman in the room,” and who or what inspired them.
Fales-Hill said many women of color who inspired her were underemployed, and she aspired to be in a position to give them jobs. Gaines shared that she first began working for David Letterman as a receptionist, before her 19-year tenure as a Late Show with David Letterman producer and five Emmy wins. “Dave was my champion,” she said. “He kept helping me get promoted because I wasn’t going to do it myself.” Zurtisky said she felt fortunate to work for a network such as Bravo that embraced women audiences.
One of the final questions of the night from an audience member was simple: “What advice would you give your 25-year-old self?”
“Relax,” Fales-Hill said. “Sleep with that really cute producer from your first job.”
“You matter,” Winstead said. “Act like it.”
“Being in your 20s sucks,” Zuritsky said. “Getting older is the fun part.”
“Stop wondering,” Gaines answered in a deadpan manner. “You’re gay.”