Comedy Categories Are a Rare Bright Spot for Female Directors at the Emmys

A version of this story about female directors first appeared in the Down to the Wire: Comedy issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.

This year was far from a landmark for female directors at the Emmys, with only 13 women nominated against 32 men across the seven directing categories. Sure, that’s better than last year, when 47 men and only 11 women were nominated, and it’s much better than 2018, when the lamentable total was 44 men and only four (!) women.

But this year’s total is a step down from 2020, when the record 16 female directors that were nominated made up a full 33% of the total; this year, that has slipped down to just below 29%.

Still, there’s one bright spot to make up for women being shut out of the Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special category or only managing one nomination each in the limited series, documentary/nonfiction and reality categories. The bright spot is in the Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series category, the only Emmy directing category where women outnumber men.

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Hiro Murai (“Atlanta”) and Bill Hader (“Barry”) grabbed two of the slots in that category for male directors, but the other five nominees are all women: Lucia Aniello for “Hacks,” Mary Lou Belli for “The Ms . Pat Show,” Cherien Dabis and Jamie Babbit for “Only Murders in the Building” and MJ Delaney for “Ted Lasso.” It’s the fifth nomination for Aniello (two for directing, including last year when she won), the fourth for Babbit (two of those for directing), the second for Delaney and the first for Belli and Dabis, a Palestinian-American director who made a splash with her 2009 Sundance film “Amreeka” and has since directed episodes of “Ramy,” “Ozark” and now “Only Murders in the Building.”

Women also landed three of the seven drama-series directing nominations with Cathy Yan and Lorene Scafaria for “Succession” and Karyn Kusama for “Yellowjackets.” That strong showing in the top two series categories makes up for a dismal one elsewhere, where Francesca Gregorini was the only female nominee for directing a limited series; Bridget Stokes and Liz Patrick the only two women out of seven nominees for variety series; Amy Poehler the sole female director for nonfiction and documentaries; and Nneka Onuorah not only the sole female director in the reality-program category, but the first in the five-year history of the category.

Read more from the Down to the Wire: Comedy issue.

Photo by Steve Schofield for TheWrap

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