If you’re not watching the shows written by these women, get them in your queue now!
Comedy is subjective. Creating a list of funny people means first defining the qualifications — awards won? Money earned? Ratings? It’s also critical to understand that even hearing about a TV show means the creators were able to secure funding to create their project and then promote it and then get eyes on it. In a white and male-dominated industry, their biases keep women and people of color out of the game.
So this is a list of hilarious female TV writers over the past two decades (2002-2022) with shows that are worth watching for enjoyment, education, new perspectives, and — hell yeah — laughter. In no particular order:
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Parks and Rec is the only modern live-action sitcom to make Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Best TV sitcoms of all time. Originally a spin-off of The Office, this series distinguished itself as an uplifting story of Poehler’s plucky Leslie Knope and her ragtag group of colleagues and friends. Poehler was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for Parks and Rec, as well as for Russian Doll.
Poehler also discovered Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer — two women who will get special shout-outs here for brevity’s sake but who deserve to be their own category on this list — and greenlit their groundbreaking series Broad City.
Poehler also wrote for Saturday Night Live (and she was the first woman and second cast member to be promoted from featured player to full cast member in her first season on the show) and founded the Upright Citizens Brigade. The woman is comedy.
Kaling first gained recognition for starring as Kelly Kapoor in The Office, but behind the scenes, she was a writer, executive producer, and director. For her work on the series, she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series and five nominations for Outstanding Comedy Series.
After The Office, she created and starred in The Mindy Project as well as projects like Champions and Four Weddings and a Funeral, but recently she has begun to really make waves with Never Have I Ever and The Sex Lives of College Girls, two shows that explore the oft-stigmatized and ignored sexual desires of young women.
Kaling is the queen of giving a voice to the underestimated.
Another Saturday Night Live alum, Fey honed her comedy chops in The Second City before joining Saturday Night Live and rising to the position of head writer. In 2006, she then hit mainstream fame levels when she created the comedy series 30 Rock, winning the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series twice and earning another two nominations.
30 Rock slapped for years and Fey still wasn’t done, creating Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and cult classic feature film Mean Girls.
In addition to her Emmy Awards, Fey has earned Gold Globe Awards and Writers Guild of America Awards and in 2010 she became the youngest recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
Maya Erskine & Anna Konkle
PEN15 should never have worked. Erskine and Konkle (both grown women in their 30s) star as 12 year-olds growing up in the early 2000s alongside actual children. The series brilliantly shares the angst, mortification, and growing pains of pre-pubescent adolescence without flinching.
And it slays.
In 2019, the two earned a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series along with Stacy Osei-Kuffour and in 2021, Erskine earned a second nomination.
For their courage to show a throbbing vagina scarcely contained by a horny teenager’s granny panties, they have made this list.
The creator and star of Awkward Black Girl and Insecure has distinguished herself in recent years with a show that has received critical acclaim since its debut in 2016. In 2020 alone, the series received eight Primetime Emmy Award nominations, including the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series. Rae herself has received Golden Globe Awards, Critics Choice Awards, and a litany of other accolades.
It may come as no surprise that a series about the awkward experiences of a contemporary Black woman has received the majority of its recognition from organizations like the NAACP Image Awards and the BET Awards while fighting for reception from white-dominated outlets, but the strength of her writing and performance has kept her at the top, including the 2018 Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge seemed to come out of nowhere when Fleabag — and her oh so hot priest — tore the world asunder. By then the BBC comedy was in its second and final season, one that garnered Waller-Bridge a night of three Emmy statues (Best Writing, Best Acting, Best Comedy). Waller-Bridge is a writer who writes for the story and the story alone. Ending Fleabag right when its fame had just launched was a calculated decision. “It does feel like the story is complete… it does feel right to go out on a high. It doesn’t get higher than this. It feels like the perfect way to say goodbye,” she shared.
The surprising and unabashed series began as a one-woman show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and morphed into a masterpiece. Among Waller-Bridge’s other accomplishments are her understated Crashing (another six-episode British comedy), Killing Eve (technically a drama but I’d call it a dark comedy) — for which she garnered an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, Run, and more. Waller-Bridge has made such a name for herself with such an exceptional body of work (especially in such a short time) that her awards and nominations have their own Wikipedia page.
We are in the great awakening of women’s comedy and there are many other names that deserve to be on this list. Quinta Brunson is just getting started — make no mistake, everyone will know Abbott Elementary before long. Nida Manzoor’s We Are Lady Parts is giving us something rarely seen on TV with a breakout season that deserves more praise.
Lucia Aniello and Jen Statsky have already won Emmys for the first season of Hacks alone. Rumor has it, Russian Doll will finally return to us, the brilliant and trippy comedy that landed Natasha Lyonne, Leslye Headland, Amy Poehler, and Allison Silverman Emmy nominations across multiple episodes. And we haven’t even cracked the surface of the talent behind A Black Lady Sketch Show, which includes shining stars like Ashely Nicole Black (whose other credits include Ted Fucking Lasso, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, and The Amber Ruffin Show) and creator Robin Thede.
Now is the time for women’s voices to tell their stories in comedy and we have the women on this list (and decades of trailblazers before them) to thank.
Shannon Corbeil is a writer, actor, and filmmaker in Los Angeles with recent appearances on SEAL Team and The Rookie. An Air Force veteran, her articles have been published in Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, and Military.com. She has written and produced hundreds of digital videos with millions of views. You can read more about her on her website or come play on Instagram and Twitter!