Full Frontal's Samantha Bee reveals hardest part of covering Trump administration on late-night TV
Toronto-born political comedian reflects on five years of making people laugh while in a state of disbelief
Samantha Bee was horrified but not surprised when an angry mob of U.S. President Donald Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol in Washington, D.C., last Wednesday.
"Nothing that's happening is really surprising, but it's always shocking when your worst vision comes to pass," said Bee.
The Full Frontal host, who was formerly one of The Daily Show's senior correspondents, watched the events unfold at the Capitol from her home in New York with her husband and their three children.
"I felt really paralyzed. We were really scared," Bee told host Tom Power in a new interview with CBC Radio's Q. "I felt such a mix of emotions, but mainly I felt so sad and so angry. We were in tears."
After the insurrection, Bee was "grateful" not to have to shoot another episode of Full Frontal for the week (the show currently tapes on Tuesdays and airs once a week on Wednesdays), adding that the show will be much better able to cover the story this week.
She admitted that as political tensions in the U.S. soar, she and the Full Frontal showrunners have found it challenging to write jokes that will make people laugh while they themselves experience a state of disbelief.
"All around you can see the damage that is being done. It's so overwhelming and overbearing. It's just been a parade, a carnival of horrors the entire time. So you can make comedy and we can all make fun of Donald Trump, he's just obviously the worst person, but the depths to which he sank were shocking to me — gullible Sam Bee — and so I just can't wait to be rid of [him]."
Tomorrow, Full Frontal will be in its sixth season, which means Trump has been in the show's orbit for nearly its entire run, if you include the 2016 race for the White House.
Looking back at Trump's presidency, Bee commented on the difficulty of mining comedy from current events, particularly as it relates to the hundreds of children who have been separated from their families and detained after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
"We are a comedy forward show, like no question, but wrestling with that material was really, really challenging and we never really got to figure out who we were as a show without the spectre of this horrible human being and his ridiculously, comically evil family."
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As a dual citizen of both Canada and the U.S. since 2016, Toronto-born Bee was able to maintain some degree of separation from American politics, feeling that she was "in it, but not of it." She added that it was "an effective tool" for writing political comedy.
When it comes to the demanding task of making the show every week, she said it helps that she doesn't think much about her audience or trying to reach viewers who don't agree with her.
"[Trump supporters are] practically unreachable, actually. There's just very little crossover between worlds right now. And that is a failure of us to really understand."
As for how she feels about the incoming Biden administration, Bee said "bring it on."
"I just want to pause the frenetic activity — I just want a functioning, kind of boring government, [that] has the objective of doing great things. That will be such a breath of fresh air."
Hear the full interview with Samantha Bee near the top of this page, where she also talks about the first five years of Full Frontal, becoming the first female host of a late-night satirical news show and what lies ahead.
Written by Vivian Rashotte. Interview produced by Stuart Berman.