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EXCLUSIVE: A “Full Frontal” chat with new late night host Samantha Bee
It’s a non-stop cavalcade of activity!” trills Samantha Bee over the phone from New York. I’ve caught the Canadian-born comedian (famously The Daily Show With Jon Stewart’s longest-serving correspondent) deep in the development trenches of her own late-night show, Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, premiering February 8 on TBS.
“I can hear people howling in the next room,” says Bee. “We’re having the best day combing through raw footage of [Republican presidential hopeful] Ted Cruz and cutting our own election ads for him, for no other reason than it’s fun.”
If Bee sounds like the best boss ever, it’s no accident. “I’ve thought a lot about the work culture I want to create at this show,” says the 46-year-old. “I want it to be a place where someone like me thrives, and I do my best work when I’m feeling good.”
It seems like a funny juxtaposition—a supportive environment for a show devoted to skewering current events—but that’s a bit like Bee herself. Her golly-gosh manner and Midwestern-y accent (she was actually raised in Toronto) belie a take-no-prisoners approach to comedy (which she’ll need as the only woman on late-night TV).
“The show is called Full Frontal, and that’s our MO—not so much in terms of nudity but audacity,” says Bee. “Some of the stuff we’re thinking about outputting feels dangerous. It’s titillating!”
Bee says that female-fronted comedy shows are fodder for Internet-troll attacks because, as she puts it, “When you’re a woman on television or social media, this we know: People will do their worst—they are the stuff of your nightmares.”
She jokes that the Full Frontal team is developing a “dark” way of dealing with it: “We’re setting up a social-media account to compile the death threats. Then we can get an intern to go through them, flag the ones that seem a little more realistic and send them directly to the FBI.” She laughs and then pauses. “It’s definitely a joke where the laughter trails off into a darkness.”
Bee grew up planning to go to law school until an acting class took her life in a totally different direction. “My parents would have loved a professional in the family,” she says.
“My mom still thinks I’m doing a cable-access show. She’s like, ‘Is that thing happening? Will it even air?’”