She has written for hit television shows, created a sitcom herself and even helped a president get some laughs. But breaking into the world of show business, as a woman, wasn’t without its challenges, says Nell Scovell.
“They say dress for the job you want. The job I wanted, only men had, so I dressed like a guy, and I talked sports and I ate junk food,” she said, reflecting on her desire to fit in on the staff of former late-night host David Letterman. At the time, she was the only woman on the team.
The experience was just one of many the Newton native shared with "Greater Boston" host Jim Braude in an interview about her career and her new memoir, "Just the Funny Parts: And a Few Hard Truths About Sneaking into the Hollywood Boys’ Club."
Using the analogy of a “broken door bell,” to explain the obstacles women face when trying to break into show business, Scovell told Braude,“The talent is out there on the doorstep. They’re ringing the bell and no one’s opening the door.”
Asked why that is, Scovell responded, “I think there’s a deep cultural bias, and we’re all soaking in it.”
In addition to working for Letterman, Scovell have also written and directed episodes of "The Simpsons" and "NCIS" and was the creator of the 90’s sitcom "Sabrina the Teenage Witch." She also co-wrote the book "Lean In" with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.
But even those experiences, she said, were not without their difficult moments — like dealing with sexual harassment.
“I got company,” she said, noting that most women in Hollywood have endured sexual harassment or abuse by a person with power over them.
“The reason I included it was it didn’t slow me down and I knew I’d been taken advantage of,” she said, explaining why she decided to share those details in her book. “You know, a lot of women walk out of those situations and think, ‘I was so stupid.’ I knew I wasn’t stupid.”
In her book, Scovell also wrote about the opportunities she received beyond the world of television, including when, in 2012, she was recruited to write jokes for then-President Barack Obama to deliver at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.
“Well, he’s a great joke teller,” she said of the former president.
She said Obama didn’t deliver all the lines she wrote, so she included the jokes that were dropped in her memoir.
“I’m from Newton, which is arguably the most liberal city in the most liberal state, so writing jokes for President Obama was such a highlight. You know, it was my pleasure to serve my country.”
To watch the full interview with Nell Scovell, click on the link above.