It was the first rain-free day New York had seen in weeks and Samantha Bee and I were seated across from each other in her corner office overlooking the Hudson River. The host of TBS’ Full Frontal was gearing up for her first show back since taking Washington, D.C., by storm the previous weekend with her second, not annual Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
That special aired the same night as the actual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, which, for the first time in 16 years, decided to ditch its traditional comic performer in favor of historian Ron Chernow—after Donald Trump essentially demanded the change on Twitter. “No one should ever do what the president tweets at them!” Bee joked from the stage.
She echoed that disappointment with the White House Correspondents Association during our conversation for this week’s episode of The Last Laugh podcast. “You shouldn’t acquiesce to what the president wishes for your event,” she said, “he’s not going to show up anyway and of course he didn’t.”
During a rare hour-long conversation with the comedian who is, once again, the only female host on late-night television, Bee also sounded off on Trump’s fear of comedians, her longtime discomfort with “handsy” Joe Biden, and a lot more—including why after 12 years on The Daily Show and three at Full Frontal, she will never stop going after Fox News.
“What they get away with is incredible,” she tells me. “The number of old people they have ruined is—you can’t even quantify the number of grandparents they have destroyed.”
And of course, we got into what was, perhaps unfortunately, the most talked-about moment of Bee’s run on TBS to date.
It has been close to a year since she found herself under siege after she called Ivanka Trump a “feckless cunt” for failing to stop her father’s family separation policy at the border. Bee tells me she genuinely thought her show might be canceled—until she saw President Trump himself tweet, “Why aren’t they firing no talent Samantha Bee for the horrible language used on her low ratings show?”
“I was actually less worried about being canceled after he did that,” she explains.
Why she decided to revive the ‘Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner’
“That was the moment where we went, I feel like we should do it, because they’re bailing on the very basic premise of having a comedian there. You know, it’s their job to sit there and take some jokes for 10 minutes out of their year, that’s the social contract. But those are blowing up all over the place, so why not this? But you shouldn’t acquiesce to what the president wishes for your event, he’s not going to show up anyway and of course he didn’t. I can’t speak to what is going on in their minds, but I’m sure they’re in the camp of, ‘We’ve all got to find a way to be at these events together,’ and I’m kind of like, oh, fuck it. That’s not working. We’ll all get along after.”
On Joe Biden’s creepy apology video
“If you’re going to make a video about how you didn’t understand that your touches were so unwelcome, don’t do it from a physical angle that makes your hands look gigantic. The angle is so bad that I just want to volunteer my services as a media person for people. I can’t imagine doing a low-angle shot between his legs of his enormous hands coming into the frame. What are we doing, guys? And you know what another option is? Take number two. You can do it twice. Do another round. Get a cue card. This is a real campaign for the Democratic nomination.”
On ‘electability’ as code for ‘not a lady’
“There is a very interesting conversation afoot, and this is something we’ll touch on on the show, the idea of ‘electability.’ What’s the more important value to hold in your heart? Do you throw all your weight behind the person who you think can beat an incumbent president? Or do you throw your weight behind the person whose values you care about? I’m in the values category, personally, as a voter, but we’ll see how it shakes out. [Electability] usually means not a lady. That’s how people are interpreting it. Good on us, we’re doing great. We learned a lot. Terrific.”
How the Ivanka Trump controversy changed ‘Full Frontal’
“If it had any real impact on the show, it helped me to understand that—prior to that point, I really thought of the show in a bubble. I really did have an immature view of the show and my role at the show. In a way I was like, ‘I just talk about my passions and I just say stuff’ and I understood that we were an established show at that point. It took that long of doing the show for me to go, ‘Oh wait, we actually have a voice and have a place in this world.’ So I’m a little bit more mindful of that. So I’m not super-thrilled that everyone at my kids’ school was talking about it to my child. So I had a better awareness of our viewership and where we stand. It made me be a little more thoughtful moving forward. But it’s still literally the exact same show, I just don’t call the president’s daughter the ‘c-word’ anymore.”
Why she’s ‘bummed’ to once again be the only woman in late-night
“I am really bummed about that. Busy [Philipps] is great and her show was very unique. It was perfect for her. It was a very fun and very well-done show by a great group of people and I’m really disappointed. That really bums me out. They’ve had a very short runway. It takes a long time to find an audience in this world. There’s just a lot of television out there so finding an audience is challenging. Listen, it’s a reminder that ultimately the television industry is a business and they’re just not investing in things for the long haul in the same way that I think they used to and that is very unfortunate.”
Why she was ‘actually happy’ the president of the United States called for her show’s cancelation on Twitter
“I actually was happy that he did, in a weird way. I was happy and then unhappy, because I felt that if he actually called for the cancelation of my show, then canceling my show would become a First Amendment issue. So part of me was happy, and I couldn’t believe it. Trust me, nobody really wants that, it’s not a good thing in your personal life, it’s very ugly. But I did think that having the president tweet something about me took the issue into another realm; it pushed it into another category. And I was like, Oh my god, my show’s going to get canceled and then I’m going to have to go the Supreme Court and I’m going to be like Larry Flynt. Goddammit, that’s not what I had planned for myself! I was like, I’ll do it, I’ll take it all the way to the top, but it was a lot. I would not wish it upon anybody, trust me.
Next week on The Last Laugh podcast: Stand-up comedian and star of HBO’s Crashing, Pete Holmes.