When President Obama appears on late-night television, he tends to play to the host’s strengths. He’s slow-jammed the news with Jimmy Fallon and recited mean tweets with Jimmy Kimmel. Perhaps later this week we’ll get to see him endorse marijuana and atheism with Bill Maher.
But first, Obama brought his election season late-night tour to Samantha Bee for what she joked was her first “annual Halloween presidential interview” Monday night. The pre-taped segment found Bee flexing the field reporter skills she honed at The Daily Show but has all but given up on Full Frontal, where she is mostly seen railing against the week’s biggest outrages directly into the camera.
The subtly antagonistic style that she brought to those infamous Daily Show interviews with low-level lawmakers remained intact even in her conversation with Obama, and he was more than game to play along, much as he did with Zach Galifianakis on Between Two Ferns.
After Monday’s taping, I asked Bee if Obama’s team approached her for the interview and she said, “God, no,” adding that they first talked to the White House about getting the president on the show about six months ago. It wasn’t until Obama started making the late-night rounds to stump for Clinton that he finally agreed to make an appearance.
“When you interview the president you have a very short period of time to get what you need,” she added. During the taping, Bee told the audience that she had exactly 20 minutes with Obama and there was a staffer standing off screen with a stopwatch. “We just wanted to make it as natural and comfortable for me as possible and that’s the milieu in which I’m comfortable,” she said of the field piece style.
She both began and ended her interview by focusing on the Halloween theme. After explaining that as a woman over 40 on television, she is always dressed as a witch, Bee asked Obama where his Halloween costume was.
“I’m dressed up as what happens when young people vote,” Obama replied, to which Bee fired back, without missing a beat, “Someone gets really old really fast?” Bee responded. “So is that like, white spray paint or fun Halloween cobwebs up there?”
From there, Bee pretended to be a millennial and asked Obama to convince her to vote. “I don’t even know if there’s, like, any point in voting,” she said, making the president laugh. “They’re both so totally flawed, like don’t you think it’s time to, like, upend the whole system and break everything?” As he made his earnest pitch to young voters, Bee pretended to Snapchat herself as a bottlenose dolphin.
When Bee asked what Clinton’s birther-style conspiracy will be if she is elected, Obama predicted that she would be framed “tired,” “moody” and “emotional,” in other words a “nasty woman.” When she wondered if Obama would end his presidency by whispering, “You were right, I wasn’t born here,” just to “mess with” Trump, the president replied, “I think it’s fair to say that I will be organizing my post-presidency where I’m not close enough to him to whisper in his ear.”
Finally, Obama shared a “spooky story” about what could happen if young people don’t get out and vote on November 8th. He only needed three words: “President Donald Trump.” Bee one-upped him with “Supreme Court Justice Corey Lewandowski” and “House Speaker Louie Gohmert.”
“That was pretty scary,” Obama said. “I’m not sure I’m gonna sleep well tonight.”
In a comical press release announcing the Obama interview, a spokesperson for TBS wrote, “The conversation with America’s male president, who wore a flattering wool suit paired with sensible leather flats, follows Samantha’s Oct. 24 interviews with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Marshallese President Hilda Heine, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, along with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.” Bee added, “Talking to Secretary Albright was especially inspiring. I hope to interview other former secretaries of state in the very near future.”
As much as Bee seemed to enjoy getting the chance to interview a sitting president, you could tell she really has her eye trained on Hillary Clinton. If the former secretary of state does manage to overcome the latest FBI uproar and make it into the White House, don’t be surprised if she makes Full Frontal her first late-night appearance.
Bee and her team have reached out to Hillary Clinton about appearing on the show, but at this point she told me she doesn’t know how exactly she would approach an interview with the possible first female president. “I’m not sure if she would say yes to us, but I’m sure we’ve asked her probably 50 times,” she added. “One day.”