In a small editing bay, seven men are focused on Charlotte Wilder. They are producing and editing as she films an episode of her new show, “The Wilder Project” for Sports Illustrated TV where she is interviewing comedian Tony Rock. Midway through the monologue, her producer stands up and asks the room, “Did Charlotte just say ‘Athletes” or ‘Ass-letes?'” Second later, Wilder looks directly into the camera and asks, “I said ‘Ass-letes,’ didn’t I?” The room erupts in laughter.
The 29-year-old, Wilder, has created a niche for herself and has become one of the most recognizable sports comedy writers. Now a senior writer at Sports Illustrated, she has written for SB Nation, USA Today, the Huffington Post and the Boston Globe and has appeared on NPR. She has been written about in Bleacher Report and the NY Post after causing controversy when she asked women who wanted to get into sports journalism to direct message her on Twitter earlier this summer. She has become known for articles that do everything from discerning ‚Äúsports‚ÄĚ from non-sports‚ÄĒThe Bachelor and dive bars are sports, LaCroix, unfortunately, didn‚Äôt make the cut‚ÄĒall the way to the secret world of competitive air guitar.
Right now, Wilder is the host of the “The Wilder Project” which she started in July as part of SI TV. In each episode of the weekly series, Wilder riffs with a guest on topics like the best sports feuds and funny commercials athletes have appeared in, then they move on to an interview with the guest. Finally, Wilder ends the show by delivering a late-night style monologue.
The first five episodes are now out on SI TV and feature guests such as TV personality Desus Nice and comedian and writer for ‚ÄúLast Week Tonight,‚ÄĚ Josh Gondelman.
It is not often that young women are given the reigns to their own comedy show, especially not one about sports. For much of her career, Wilder wrote typical sports pieces, but over the years she has shown that her humorous take on sports enables her to connect with an audience that loves it. ¬†
She explains when she was in meetings figuring out whether she would join SI, managing editor, Chris Stone, told her, ‚Äú’I don’t want you to change your voice. If you are going to write for us, do this show for us and have a podcast, we want you to keep that voice‚Äô and that was the biggest vote of confidence.” Wilder writes the entirety of the show herself.
While SI TV‚Äôs programming has always included less than traditional sports shows like ‚ÄúNFL Players and Their Dogs,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúThe Wilder Project‚ÄĚ stands out. In a list of programs that center around a topic, ‚ÄúThe Wilder Project‚ÄĚ is one of the few that centers around a person.
Some might think that it would be a gamble for SI to choose someone who has never worked in TV, but for Wilder, the transformation from writer to TV host was easy. She laughs it off ¬†saying, “I have always been kind of a ham.” ¬†She explains, ‚Äúhoning the writing first was really important for me… the show is so much about writing.”
Wilder has been writing humor since editing yearbooks and sneaking jokes into 7th-grade classes, She says of the writing for TV, “it needs to be sharper. I think in tangents… when I do that, I have to edit it.” She recalls her first drafts of sometimes 900-word monologues, “I have to strip away to the things that pop and I have to trust the audience more–trust them and yourself to have a line be funny.”
Sports hasn’t traditionally been a welcoming industry for women but neither is comedy. Wilder is a comedian but is slightly shy about admitting it. She says, “calling myself a comedian seems too good to be true. Yes, I would love to, but that almost felt like a dream that was too big to hope for.” She is far more confident about her place in the world of sports even if she had to fight her way into it.
Wilder describes early on, she knew that in sports there is often only one woman in the room and would think to herself, “Cool, I will be that woman.” But now she is working at getting more women into the room with her. She tells stories about reading a 20-year-old female intern’s article and helping her punch it up or about how a young woman wasn’t going to apply for a local sports job but said Wilder had motivated her to go for it and she made it to the second round. She explains, “societally, this has been such a male space. You go out to the bar for a beer with your dudes to watch the game or your man-cave and your wife makes you buffalo chicken dip, that is the stereotype, right?” Wilder describes it as a “duty to help women trying to get into this space. [She] will email them back, [she] will call them.”
‚ÄúA lot of my career was, ‚Äėjust let me in, let me get my foot in the door and now that I feel like I have two feet in and am standing pretty firmly,” she explains, “I can help anyone else get into [sports].” She continues, “the more women we get in this space,.. the better. And I have talked to a lot of young women who feel like they don’t belong in this space.”
This approach has cemented her ability to make a show that crosses genre lines. She explains, “I want to make a show that my mom, who doesn’t follow sports, will understand, to lower the barrier to entry and comedy does that.” She continued, “you can get the full range of human experience in sports.”