Adult Swim Is Becoming More Female-Inclusive, But Problems Remain

On March 8, Adult Swim celebrated International Women's Day with special programming on its live stream. Every live show broadcast that day showcased female hosts, while segments between shows profiled women working in various positions across Adult Swim. The tone was lighthearted, positive and celebratory.

Left unmentioned on any of these streams was the sexism-related controversy surrounding the network earlier that week. In response to a tweet from the official Adult Swim Twitter account asking for two word show pitches, Bojack Horseman creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg tweeted "female showrunner," and then proceeded to share a 2016 Polygon article criticizing Mike Lazzo's excuse for why the network wasn't hiring any female showrunners at the time.

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In 2016, Lazzo admitted to once stating "women don’t tend to like conflict, comedy often comes from conflict, so that’s probably why we (or others) have so few female projects," though he retracted the statement, admitting the excuse was wrongheaded. The same year, he was also a big supporter of Million Dollar Extreme Presents: World Peace, a sketch comedy series whose creator Sam Hyde was increasingly expressing alt-right leanings. Turner management ultimately got World Peace canceled following the 2016 election, but Lazzo's support for the show combined with the lack of female creators at the network inspired comedian Brett Gelman to sever all ties with Adult Swim.

In response, a Twitter account that appears to be Mike Lazzo's went off, calling Bob-Waksberg a "bloviating chickenshit warrior." While the Twitter account has sat mostly unused until this past week, it's existed since 2011, is or was followed by various Adult Swim talent (the creators of The Brak Show, The Venture Bros and Too Many Cooks all follow it; programming head Kim Manning was following until the Twitter outburst), and is connected to a Turner email account. All signs point to this being Lazzo's real account. The only real question is whether it was hacked, or if the founder of Adult Swim had a shocking burst of unprofessionalism.

Lazzo also tried to sent insults to Megh Wright, the writer whose Splitsider article sparked the major discussion about Adult Swim's lack of female creators, though he ended up tweeting at the wrong account. He also went after Tim Heidecker, the co-creator of Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job, on the unrelated issue of Adult Swim's lack of promotion for his recent On Cinema special.

This Twitter breakdown is a reminder that not everyone responds well to criticism. Despite Lazzo's personal tweets, however, Adult Swim as a network has slowly been making progress when it comes to including women behind-the-scenes since the articles from 2016.

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tender touches

Adult Swim does finally have an animated series from a female co-creator in the soap opera parody Tender Touches, created by Lauren Payne alongside Maxime Simonet and David Bonawits, and has produced two Soft Focus live-action comedy specials with Jena Friedman. Amy Poehler's Three Busy Debras has recieved a pilot order, and a woman named Nicole received a development deal for her pilot Triple-Ex and the Dickmatist through the Development Meeting streaming show.

The recent stop-motion horror series The Shivering Truth owes much of its success to Cat Solen's co-direction. Producer Kahlea Baldwin similarly contributes a lot to the live-action/rotoscope hybrid sci-fi comedy Dream Corp LLC.

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Rick and Morty had an all male writer's room for its first two seasons, but hired four women for its third season. One of those new hires, Jessica Gao, won an Emmy for her outstanding (and hyper-memed) episode "Pickle Rick."

Robot Chicken has long had an inclusive writer's room. Former writer and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend creator Rachel Bloom was gave a shout out to the show's creators when this issue blew up on Twitter:

It would seem Adult Swim does have many such "good eggs" trying to improve the network's behind-the-scenes gender imbalance. Nevertheless, there is still a ton of progress left to be made. One can only hope that those at the top aren't standing in the way.

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