Olivia Munn had an extraordinarily difficult start as the newest correspondent on The Daily Show. Her hiring was almost immediately undermined by a firebomb of a Jezebel post that suggested that, given her fame and previous experience as a video-game show hostess on a boys’ network, TDS producers wanted Munn on the show solely for her looks. Munn’s tryout and subsequent hiring quickly and unfairly made her a lightning rod for feminist TDS fans, who had a legitimate complaint in Jon Stewart & Co.’s broad neglect of women’s issues, including the show’s obvious lack of female correspondents.
I am one of these disgruntled fans, but I wanted to give Munn a fair shake. Showbiz is a hard life, but especially for actresses and comediennes, so I don’t fault Munn for posing half-naked for jerk-off rags like Playboy, Maxim, or Men’s Health the way the Jezebelians do. And in any case, I wanted Munn to succeed. Not only would I like to see more women on TDS, I’d like to see more nonwhite women on screen. (Wikipedia states that Munn is half-Chinese.) The current lineup of TDS correspondents — Samantha Bee, Wyatt Cenac, Jason Jones, Aasif Mandvi, and John Oliver — represent one of the most diverse casts on television this side of the American-Canadian border. Regardless of whether diversity is a priority for TDS producers, the show is certainly seen by many as a rainbow coalition (in a good way). And while Samantha Bee and Kristin Schaal undoubtedly contribute tremendously to TDS, sexism can’t be solved by white women receiving all the benefits, and American women can’t always be represented by white ladies, no matter how talented.
Unfortunately, Munn’s already proven herself to be a bad fit for the show. During election week, she unironically pronounced Missouri as “misery” and Speaker of the House-elect John Boeher (pronounced “bay-ner”) as “John Baymer.” Part of the correspondents’ charm (or if you prefer, schtick) is that even when their personae are dickholes (Rob Corddry) or meatheads (Rob Riggle), we trust that the comedians themselves are intelligent entertainers who keep abreast of the subjects they satirize. In fact, this assumption is crucial to TDS’ contract with its audience: we can’t laugh with the show if we’re not sure that the show gets it either. Munn’s marblemouth breaks this contract; I can’t laugh if I’m wondering whether she gets all the jokes she reads on the teleprompter.
Munn wasn’t in any of last week’s episodes, but it looks like she’ll be in for the long haul, since Stewart looks to be digging in his heels about Munn’s place on the show, either to meet producers’ demand for hot ladies or because he really, actually does find her hilarious (as Munn proclaims). At the very least, Stewart could do us all a favor and get her some elocution lessons.
And GET RID OF THAT TIRESOME YELL-MONSTER LEWIS BLACK.