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‘Full Frontal’ host Samantha Bee stops by the NewsHour

Samantha Bee, the host of “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” on TBS says it’s been harder for her comedy writing team to mine the Democratic convention for material than it was the Republicans. “What better gift” than the “offensive” Donald Trump, she tells Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill. Bee also weighs in on her show’s “salty” language and the underrepresentation of women in late-night comedy.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Gwen Ifill:

    Now for a lighter take on the convention that is nominating its first woman, we turn to Samantha Bee, the former “Daily Show” correspondent who became host of “Full Frontal” on TBS in February.

    She’s one of only two women hosting a late-night comedy show, which means — we’re two women, Judy and I. And people ask us this question all the time.

  • Samantha Bee,, “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee”:

    Host Yes.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    Means exactly what?

  • Samantha Bee:

    I don’t know what it means. I’m just doing my job. I’m just doing the work and keeping my head down and my eyes forward, as I’m sure you do every day.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    Most of it is politics, though, isn’t it?

  • Samantha Bee:

    Well, yes, but isn’t all of life?

  • Gwen Ifill:

    You told “Rolling Stone” that having Donald Trump as the nominee of the Republican Party had been a godsend for you. What did you mean?

  • Samantha Bee:

    Well, I mean, when you’re trying to launch a satirical — a politically topical show, what better gift could you possibly ask for than someone who turns out — turns out offensive ideas and statements on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times a day? It’s been — it’s been — we have been lucky.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    Would you say you’re a Democrat or Republican, or neither?

  • Samantha Bee:

    I would say I definitely — I think my leanings are very clear from the show. But I actually prefer to think of myself in a more independent way.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    Why?

  • Samantha Bee:

    Because…

  • Gwen Ifill:

    Why not just embrace…

  • Samantha Bee:

    I do embrace it.

    I definitely am excited for Hillary. I don’t think there is any question about it. I like to be able to make jokes about both sides of the aisle. So, I tend to give myself — I like to give myself a little freedom.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What kind of material, though, does Hillary Clinton provide? If Donald Trump is the gift that keeps on giving, what about her?

  • Samantha Bee:

    Yes.

    Well, it is a little bit more challenging, actually. I mean, definitely, last week, we found ourselves with such an abundance of material from the beginning. I mean, from Monday to Thursday, it was incredible. It was an overflowing basket of goodies for us to choose from.

    And, in fact, we do a show that’s three acts long and 21 minutes, and we ended up writing six acts of comedy and just doing everything, doing all of the extras as Web extras and putting them up on the Web.

    This week is — we’re finding it, but it is a little bit more — you know, we’re having to find a sliver, a way to get in. It’s a little more nuanced. It’s not just a banquet for us to select from. So, we’re having to be a little more careful a little bit — and digging a little deeper, for sure.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    Your show is tough. You use tough language.

  • Samantha Bee:

    Thank you. Yes.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    We could not really air it here.

  • Samantha Bee:

    I know. I know. It’s a salty show.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    It’s a salty show, which women are not used to hearing from — people are not used to hearing from a woman.

  • Samantha Bee:

    No, they’re not that used to it.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    What kind of feedback do you get?

  • Samantha Bee:

    I don’t — you know, I think I stay out of the feedback loop, to be perfectly honest with you.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    Really?

  • Samantha Bee:

    I don’t engage with it too much, because I know that I’m doing a show that comes from my heart. We’re doing a show that comes from a place of passion and interest.

    And we use salty language, because that’s the language we feel like using to express our thoughts and our concerns. And it’s really cathartic for us. And I tend to not drop in to the criticism of that. I tend to just — I prefer to do my own thing. I prefer to steer my own ship, and not — you know, I think that any time you try to create comedy or you try to create a piece of art by consensus, you — I mean, it’s impossible to do a quality product.

    And I think — so, I don’t listen to critics all that much. I don’t read about myself. It’s much better.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    Sounds good. I’m going to try that.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Samantha Bee:

    It’s actually paradise, if I may.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Samantha Bee:

    You can live in a bubble in which you think you’re doing a good job all the time if you don’t read what other people say.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Samantha Bee, you have expressed some views on how few women there are doing what you do, doing late-night comedy or any kind of comedy, having their own show.

    Why do you think there aren’t more women doing that?

  • Samantha Bee:

    I wish that I had a great answer for that. I wish that I had a funny and creative answer.

    But the truth is, I just don’t — I really don’t know. And I do think that that will change, and I certainly hope that it will change. I would love to have a sisterhood of late-night comedy hosts.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you think it puts more pressure on you?

  • Samantha Bee:

    It doesn’t — well, as I said, I stay out of — I stay out of that feedback loop.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    Pressure…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Samantha Bee:

    So, the pressure — I don’t allow that pressure to really infiltrate. I let that conversation be held by other people.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Gwen Ifill:

    Let me ask you this. Diversity in newsrooms certainly is a big issue. What you see on the air is often — reflected the interests of the people who are deciding they’re going to tell you what you need to know.

    In a comedy writer’s room, how is that reflected? Do you have more women? Do you have more people of color than we normally see?

  • Samantha Bee:

    We do. We do. I believe we do.

    And we certainly made an absolute effort to — we wanted to create a diverse workplace. That was one of our missions from the very start, because the show runner, Jo Miller, and myself, we are both women who, we feel like we didn’t naturally — we didn’t fall into comedy and comedy writing in an obvious way.

    We didn’t set — we didn’t begin our lives thinking, I’m going to be a comedy writer one day and I’m going to host my own show. We both worked on the fringes. We worked in other jobs. We came to it rather late in life.

    And so we identify with people who don’t have access to comedy rooms. And we wanted to definitely create a space in which we could bring people in from the outside, people who wouldn’t expect to naturally work in comedy. And we make efforts to do that, I mean, every day and in every way.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we will keep looking for you here in Philadelphia.

  • Samantha Bee:

    Thank you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Samantha Bee, “Full Frontal,” thank you very much for dropping by.

  • Samantha Bee:

    Thank you so much for having me.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    Thank you for making us laugh.

  • Samantha Bee:

    Oh.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    We could use that.

  • Samantha Bee:

    We could all use a laugh.

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