Cannes Lions: Aidy Bryant, Vanessa Bayer Find Strength in Numbers on 'SNL'

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Aidy Bryant

“It’s been a great part of our power, putting our voices together,” Bryant said of the record seven women on the show.

With a record seven women on Saturday Night Live, stars Aidy Bryant, Cecily Strong and Vanessa Bayer say they have been able to join forces to create stronger characters.

“It’s been a great part of our power, putting our voices together,” Bryant said Tuesday during a Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity panel titled "Gender Equality Is No Laughing Matter."

Of the increase in female castmembers on SNL, Bayer said, “There used to be less women because they were used to having less women. But then once they got more women it was like, ‘Oh, there can just be more parts.’”

Bayer also talked about her parodies of rom-coms, while Strong discussed her “One Dimensional Female Character From a Male-Driven Comedy." She based it on scripts she was being given and movies like There’s Something About Mary. “There’s semen in your hair and something degrading happens to you and you’re never funny,” Strong said of those one-dimensional characters.

“We’re making fun of the way these women are written,” added Bayer.

As for the old adage that women just aren’t as funny as men, Bryant swiftly ended that discussion. “I’m sure people believe that somewhere out there, but if they do, f— ‘em. At this point I can’t even dignify that with a response,” she said to loud applause. 

The SNL stars were joined by NBCUniversal's ad sales and client partnerships chair Linda Yaccarino, who stressed the importance of increasing diversity at the company. “The commitment to women and to diversity is one of the top priorities of the entire company and probably the singular biggest priority for me as one of the female leaders of the company,” she said.

Yaccarino highlighted NBC's news division as a standout section for women, with females accounting for more than 40 percent of on-air talent. “And as we cast for new shows, it’s really, really important,” she added.

The SNL stars also praised other female comedy leaders like Amy Schumer, whom Bryant said is “blowing everything out of the water right now.” Bayer also highlighted Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal, one of only two late-night programs hosted by a woman.

“Thank goodness for TBS taking that show. It’s just a great show,” she said, dismissing concerns that the cabler isn’t high-profile enough. “TBS and these other newer cable channels picking up all these comedies has been really great for everybody because now there’s just so much more space. If you can get your voice out there no matter where, people are going to notice and it’s going to be a good thing.”

Strong noted that the opportunities are changing across comedy and drama, with viewing audiences becoming more female. “Women make up the bulk of the people that are watching shows at night. We are the audience,” she said.

Yaccarino added that she began her career in programming, where she was told a female-led drama had a much lesser chance of becoming a hit. That has been turned on its head in a post-Shonda Rhimes world. “What used to inhibit success has changed,” she said.