Cosby Show Writer Describes Being the Only Female in the Room: ‘Sit Down and Shut Up’

Photo: Rob Kim/Getty Images

Talk about a rough first gig. On Tuesday, at a New York Comedy Festival panel, "Tales From the Dark Side," which assembled a group of female comedy writers, Susan Fales-Hill described the experience of being the only woman in the writer’s room at The Cosby Show in the mid-'80s. While the sitcom featured some of the earliest depictions of accomplished black women on television, it was clear the writers didn't share the same Huxtable family values. "It was really, Sit down and shut up," she said. "They were pretty sexist and they would talk about professional women as being hard bitches. And what I learned was, does it really matter that they’re saying that? No. Lose the battle and win the war."

Fales-Hill won the war by eventually becoming a writer for the successful spinoff show A Different World. But even in that room, where female writers outnumbered male ones, Fales-Hill said that not everyone was onboard with smashing the patriarchy. Particularly the men:

The men turned very wimpy and would say, “We’re really tired of hearing talk about fashion. No one’s talking sports and I just really feel discriminated against.” Men are very bad minorities, is all I can say.

Different world, same male insecurities.