There is a new #NerdProm in town and Samantha Bee is its queen.
Long before President Donald Trump had even announced that he would not be attending this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the host of Full Frontal decided it was up to her to honor independent journalism at a time when the president of the United States was calling the so-called “fake news” media the “enemy of the American people.”
Bee’s Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner event will air at 10 p.m. ET on TBS, just after Trump is set to deliver an anti-media screed at a rally in Pennsylvania and just before her former Daily Show colleague Hasan Minhaj will roast an empty chair on the dais at the White House Press Corps’ official event.
Bee’s #NotTheWHCD is not actually a dinner after all, and the show’s taping takes place at the early afternoon hour of 3 p.m. at Washington, D.C.’s DAR Constitution Hall on Saturday.
Before the big show got underway, The Daily Beast checked in with Bee inside the venue on the purple carpet in front of giant screens that displayed snarky tweets from the likes of Jake Tapper and Chris Hayes.
Wearing a white suit that nodded to Hillary Clinton and the women’s suffrage movement, Bee was noticeably excited but unnaturally calm as the long-awaited showtime approached.
Describing the “surreal” flurry of action happening all around her, Bee said, “It is very weird for me. I keep looking around and thinking, oh, this a real event.”
When Bee and her Full Frontal showrunner Jo Miller first dreamed up this idea, they thought the real WHCD might not even happen. So she's not surprised that Trump decided to ditch it.
“He doesn't need a reason to do or not do anything. He doesn't seem to do things with any rhyme or reason,” she says. “I assume he wouldn't want to walk into a room where people were apt to criticize him because he’s awfully thin-skinned. So it makes complete sense to me that he would not go.”
As for Trump’s counter-rally happening in Pennsylvania, Bee isn't thinking about it too much. “I'm so past worrying about what he does at his own parties and rallies,” she says. At the same time, she adds, “I have had no problem keeping my outrage at Defcon 1” when it comes to the Trump administration.
“Honestly, we just want to have a good time tonight,” she adds, hesitant to give anything away about what will happen on stage during her show. “We’re just trying to find any sliver of joy in our lives.”
One of the only female figures in late-night television and the strongest critic of Trump in comedy, Bee says she tries not to get weighed down by the “pressure” of being the voice for progressive women at this perilous time in our country.
“It's actually too much, it's just an unbearable weight,” Bee says. “I don't think I would be having any fun if I thought about that too much,” she adds, again stressing her preferred “f-word” of the day. “I allow myself to tap into for a fleeting moment here and there, but it's not something that I constantly carry with me. Otherwise I could not go about my business, I'd be too scared to say anything.”
The power that she wields as a feminist voice is not only present on her weekly show and a special event like this one, but also when she was chosen to introduce Hillary Clinton at the Women in the World conference earlier this month, an experience she found particularly “meaningful” after everything that happened in her campaign over the past year.
It was only the second time Bee had ever met the former Secretary of State and she says she managed to only say one thing to her when they crossed paths. “The only thing I did was blurt out, ‘Will you please come on my show one day?!’” Clinton nodded politely, not exactly committing, but not saying no either.
“We’ll see,” Bee said, a glimmer of hope in her eyes despite it all.