Late night talk show hosts are predominantly male and, for the most part, a considerable amount older than the women they interview. This can invariably lead to some uncomfortable moments where we all get to witness some good-old-fashioned sexism on TV. But before we get all #NotAllLateNightHosts, we can all acknowledge that some of these guys are far worse than others. The now-retired David Letterman, for instance, or the messed-around-by-Jay-Leno Conan O'Brien, are two dudes who can't seem to help themselves when they're around a pretty, younger woman.
Let's take a look through some of the more irksome displays of misogyny on late night shows and see where the most egregious examples of late night latent sexism fall.
This 2015 interview's misogyny becomes especially apparent as Munn is surrounded by her male co-stars who aren't leveled with a line of questioning as glaringly sexually as she is. Munn is joined by seven of her male co-stars from X-Men: Apocalypse and is immediately asked about her skin-tight costume and boob size by Conan O'Brien. Most people probably aren't clambering for hard-ball questions to be aimed at stars of superhero franchises, but something besides body type and latex could (maybe?) be skipped in favor of character origins or superpowers. Not in this case – James McAvoy even gets a crack in about how Munn had to use lube to get into her costume. Sexy stuff.
In this instance, late night sexism has nothing to do with the host. Rather, a drunk and jet-lagged Mark Whalberg gets increasingly hammered and handsy while on The Graham Norton Show. He focuses his sexual energy on fellow guest Sarah Silverman, as well as the host himself. On top of that, Whalberg continually interrupts Silverman's story, talking over her, while the comedian is clearly in the middle of a bit. Over the course of the interview, he attempts to kiss Silverman a couple of times and clambers onto Graham Norton's lap, stroking his nipples.
One of the originals and one of the skeeviest late-night-talk-show examples of misogyny took place on British talk show Parkinson in 1975. Helen Mirren is met with a barrage of questions that dismiss her acting abilities – and instead focus on her boobs – by Michael Parkinson. Right off the bat, Parkinson introduces Mirren as a "sex queen" and picks the most sexually charged critic's quote he can find, which refers to her as "especially telling in projecting sluttish eroticism." When he talks to her, he puts air quotes around the words "serious actress," digs an even deeper hole by clarifying to her that he means she's an "unserious actress," and refers to her breasts as "equipment" that hinders her from getting serious roles. Mirren later referred to Parkinson as a "sexist old fart" when asked about the interview by The Telegraph.
Before Madonna even stepped foot onstage for her 1994 Late Night interview, Letterman introduced her, listing her numerous musical successes before taking the intro down a more sexual path; he capped off her achievements by listing the last one as her having "slept with some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry." Way to reduce a woman down to just her sexuality, David! Madonna was not here for this stupidity and shut Letterman down by cussing him out live on air, calling him a "sick f*ck."