Peter Yang
Fill 1
Fill 1
February 25, 2016

Free to Bee She

The saucy Samantha Bee breaks up the late-night boys' club.

Neil Turitz

It’s been a long time since anyone subscribed to the ridiculous notion that women can't be funny, but you wouldn't know it from the late-night television landscape.

That's where network executives mostly replace retiring men (David Letterman, Jay Leno, Jon Stewart, Craig Ferguson) with other, slightly younger men (Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Trevor Noah, James Corden). One male host rotates into a different spot (Colbert, Fallon) and is then replaced by another male host (Larry Wilmore, Seth Meyers).

So when TBS announced Full Frontal, a late-night Monday show starring Samantha Bee — a woman! — it seemed a bit strange.

"I know! It doesn't make any sense!" Bee said with a laugh prior to her February 8 debut. "Don't tell TBS what they've done! I don't think they fully understand yet what's happened, so maybe hold that information back."

The list of female hosts preceding Bee in post-primetime is extremely short. First, there was Joan Rivers, then Chelsea Handler and, for a single season in 2009-10, Wanda Sykes. With all of the women working in comedy today, why do those calling the shots still subscribe to the idea that members of the 51 Percent can't cut it?

"I don't think they do," Bee says. "I think it just takes a little vision. It takes one person to say, 'We could actually do this. Someone's right here and is available. You want to just try?' I think TBS wanted to do something different, and they took the opportunity when it was in front of them."

As Bee steps into the late-night fray (count her among the East Coast crowd — she shoots at the CBS Broadcast Center in Manhattan), what can viewers expect... or not? For one, she doesn't sit behind a desk. For another, she's not hosting a talk show, so she doesn't query actors about their upcoming movies.

Instead, she'll spend most of her time making hay about current events with the topical humor and field work that made her so successful on The Daily Show, where she appeared for 12 years as a correspondent. With the support of Jon Stewart, she built an impressive following with pieces spoofing the likes of Long Island secessionists, the cliquishness of the Occupy Wall Street crowd and the folly of Sarah Palin.

Her consistently hilarious body of work caught the attention of her new cable employer. TBS execs approached Bee and her husband — fellow Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones, with whom she has kids aged 10, 7 and 5 — to create two projects: a sitcom called The Detour for him, and Full Frontal for her, with the couple serving as executive producers on both.

While politics will not be the main focus of Full Frontal, this being an election year, "By necessity, it will be a big part of the conversation," the host says.

For instance, on this day, she and her team are taking unused footage from campaign commercials of Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz — released to his SuperPAC months ago, only recently discovered on the internet and featuring what Bee refers to as "soooo much awkwardness" — to create their own fake commercials and tweet them out to her followers.

Ultimately — and humorously — Bee's goal is pretty simple: "World domination!" But short of that, she has a more realistic ideal in mind.

"I'm trying to create something I would like," she says with a shrug. "I know that's super corny, but it is actually true. I'm just trying to create a comedy show that I think is funny. What else can you really do? I want to make a good show and see how long I can ride that train. I just hope people will go on the journey with me."

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