The Late Show with David Letterman just fired its booker Eddie Brill. The ostensible reason is some horribly sexist comments Brill made in the New York Times. The real reason is Letterman's festering woman problem.
Brill's firing became inevitable when his Times profile went online six days ago. The 53-year-old talent scout was revealed in the piece to have placed just a single female comic on the show in all of 2011. Then he told the paper that this was because "there are a lot less female comics who are authentic. I see a lot of female comics who to please an audience will act like men."
Speaking to the press, of course, has nothing to do with it. Nor, in all likelihood, was Brill fired for his chauvinist tendencies (he swears, predictably, that he's not a sexist). The Late Show knew what was up; it had the same statistics about Brill's comedy bookings that the rest of us did, after all. And given the sorts of things Brill said to the Times in an on-the-record interview, one can only imagine what he said to his professional colleagues.
The show also can't credibly claim to have learned from the Times of Brill's conflicts of interest, like the workshops he sells to comedians. It can't claim to have been ignorant of the fact that Brill booked himself to be on The Late Show.
No, what's going on here is that Letterman is covering a very vulnerable flank: his fraught relationship with the opposite gender. The host has admitted to having "creepy" sex with various female staffers, and was written up in Vanity Fair by one of his few female ex-writers for building "a hostile, sexually charged atmosphere." Now Brill is mouthing off about women comics being inauthentic? Letterman couldn't survive standing by those words.
What's sad is that he could stand by Brill's heavily male bookings. Not that Brill should have been fired over the numbers — even the hip young cats at South by Southwest claim they can't find women comedians - but he could have been pushed hard to improve them. Given his show's stand-up prestige and Letterman's public contrition over his sex scandals, there's no reason The Late Show shouldn't have been a leader in female bookings rather than a follower in PR damage control, helping the Times' promising, first-ever full-time comedy critic earn his first scalp.