Earlier this year, Vanity Fair released a portrait featuring all the major late-night show hosts—or at least almost all of them. Notably, they left out Samantha Bee, who recently began her job as host of the late night satirical news show “Full Frontal.” Her absence was especially notable, seeing as she is currently the only woman with any major late-night presence. The photo itself was ultimately a representation of late-night television’s tendency to be a boys’ club, a microcosm of the unequal representation that looms large over the entertainment industry.
Two University first-years, Tatum Millet ’19 and Hannah Levin ’19, recently took matters in their own hands by writing and hosting of their satirical news show, dubbed “The BroadCast,” which debuted earlier this month. The program is designed to air every 28 days, corresponding with the average number of days in a woman’s menstrual cycle, and combines the reporting style of “The Daily Show” with The Onion’s fake news stories.
The show began as Levin’s brain child, sparked by an independent project she undertook during her senior year of high school in which she read and studied satire. It was over the course of this project that she noticed the paucity of female voices compared to that of their male counterparts.
“[I think it’s] the systemic marginalization of females in the entertainment industry,” Levin said, considering potential reasons for the disparity between female and male satirical voices, “[And also] the idea that women aren’t funny.”
Spearheaded by “The Daily Show” and its former host, Jon Stewart, satirical news shows have become increasingly significant as of late, not just due to their pervasiveness in the late-night world, but also because of the extent of their influence over their viewers.
“If we think about the impact ‘The Daily Show’ has, not just on comedy but also on how people are getting their news and political perspective, it’s incredibly important to have a female voice,” Millet adds. “Those shows are such a powerful force in our country in terms of shaping politics.”
Despite the fact that “The BroadCast” has only just released its first episode, the show seems to have already established the object of their criticism.
“At the core, [our goal is] satirizing the news,” Levin states. “We’re striving [to critique] not only the way news is analyzed on camera, [but also] the persona and banter between anchors. Because the news stories are fake, we are also satirizing what is happening in the news.”
In a conscious decision to reach beyond the Wesleyan campus, Levin and Millet have decided to make the focus of their show broad enough for them to vary the content from political pieces to more pop culture human interest stories, like the recent lack of diversity in the Oscars, all while delivering commentary that is, as their slogan itself says, “unbiased and right.”
Already, this slogan strikes a pointed blow at the mass media that “The BroadCast” aims to tackle. However, the tagline also establishes the expectation that this show does not stand on neutral ground. The views and thoughts of its two stars are unashamedly present in the show’s content.
“We’re both feminists, so whatever we’re going to write will reflect that perspective on what’s going on in the news,” Levin says. “[At the same time,] we’re not making a show where every joke is about the feminist agenda … The most overtly feminist thing about our show is the abundance of period humor.”
When it comes to the actual writing process, both Millet and Levin agree that some of their best material is born through the process of collaboration.
“We’re big on [being] sounding boards off each other. If something is not funny the other person will be like ‘yeaaah what about this?’” Millet said. “Often one of us will have an idea but not know how to bring it to realization, and after riffing on it and taking it to a bunch of weird places we’ll find out, ‘Oh, this is how that idea should work.’”
For both Millet and Levin, “The BroadCast” represents a kind of catharsis to discuss and release their frustrations about systems they feel aren’t working properly, as well as issues they feel passionate about.
“I think the way I intake news is often from the perspective of, ‘Are you fucking serious?’” Levin proclaims. “This is letting me channel that feeling of absurdity into something more tangible. Like, I finally get to realize my belief that Ted Cruz is a human Furby.”
“A human Furby with a very impressive educational background,” Millet adds.
Millet and Levin are currently the only writers for “The BroadCast,” though that is definitely something they’re interested in changing, particularly because a larger increased writing staff could expand the show’s content, enabling them to include a greater range of viewpoints. In addition to new writers, Millet and Levin are also interested in adding correspondents, ideally in a style similar to that of “The Daily Show,” whose correspondents create characters and then report on a particular beat as those characters.
In addition to increasing the size of the staff, Levin and Millet are already thinking about the show’s potential legacy and how they can build it up into a lasting institution.
“The way I envision it—and I would think Tatum and I are on the same page—I would like it to be a web series that has multiple seasons and comes out once a month for the rest of my Wesleyan career, or however long we want to do it,” says Levin. “[My hope is that] it can grow into an independent organization at Wesleyan.”
“I also think it would be totally rad to have people come in and become anchors just to see that the show can go on after we graduate,” Millet chimes in. “I just have this vision of two other young ladies on the show, just being hilarious. We’ll have a ceremony, maybe make some crowns, and, of course, pass out some tampons.”
Here’s hoping that day will come.