Fans of The Daily Show should consider making a Bee line for TBS as well: The sharp-witted, former, and longest-serving correspondent Samantha Bee, 46, will host her own weekly, current-events-skewering talk show, Full Frontal With Samantha Bee (Feb. 8, 10:30 p.m.). The 46-year-old Toronto native plans to stand out from the pack — and not just by being the only woman in the late-night talk show landscape.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’re obviously different than the other late-night hosts. Do you feel a lot of pressure as the only … Canadian?
SAMANTHA BEE: There’s so much pressure as a Canadian to forge new ground. The Canadians are going to be watching with bated breath. Canadians will silently pressure you. It’s probably true that my Canadianness does put pressure on me: I’m a hard worker with a really Canadian work ethic. Like, I could just as easily work on a potato farm and I would put the same effort into my job.
Between The Daily Show and Last Week Tonight — which is hosted by another Daily Show alum, John Oliver — where does Full Frontal fit in? How will your show be different in voice or subject matter?
I do feel like just naturally I’m drawn to different kinds of stories. As I reflect on the test show that we performed last [week], the one thing I felt so exceptionally happy about is that it did feel like it actually was different than the other shows. It’s still topical, it’s still taking place on the stage, there are certain similarities but my voice is completely different. I’m just diving deeper into my opinions about things and my passions, and I’m letting myself explore riskier territory than I have in the past.
Can you give us a taste? You’re doing a piece on the VA not being prepared to handle the influx of female soldiers, and you went to Jordan to meet with Syrian refugees, right?
We went to the cultural orientation for Syrian refugees that were about to be resettled in the United States, which represents such a slim, slim minority of Syrian refugees. At the end of all of their safety checks which take years, they have to do this four-day class on how to live in America. We attended that class and we tried to help them out a little bit, but then we realized that it’s really Americans who need cultural orientation about Syrians. … There’s also a story brewing among female veterans. Women have been in combat unofficially, but with the doors flung open, [the VA is] just not equipped to handle large numbers of women coming through. Most of their VA hospitals and health clinics don’t have gynecologists. In many of their health care facilities, they don’t have women’s body parts in the computer system. It’s not really a condemnation of the VA, it’s more of a, “Are you prepared to handle this? Do you think that you should maybe update your processes?”… We are also doing a piece about persecuting pregnant women.
What is the mantra of the show? Are you declaring war against injustice?
Oh, I wouldn’t say that. I mean, I might unofficially say that. We’re just trying to shine our comedy light on stories that need to be told. But the only weapon we have in our arsenal is our comedy laser, so we’re trying to apply it judiciously.
Do you have a dream-get, holy-grail story?
I do. I can’t tell you what it is because we’re trying to get it. But I can assure you: It would be the most important interview of all time. You know what? If we get this interview, nobody else should ever interview anyone else for the remainder of human history. It would be that good.
What’s the toughest thing about being a woman entering a male-dominated arena? What about that challenge is appealing?
I don’t come from an experience of being really challenged due to my gender. When I lived in Toronto and I did sketch comedy, I did it in all-female sketch troupe. We created shows out of dust, it was such a DIY comedy experience. And then I got hired at The Daily Show, and I did not have a gendered experience. The job was difficult but not because of my gender. I always felt completely listened to. And then TBS swooped in and met me with an offer to create my own show so I haven’t really had that experience where I’ve been on the street, duking it out with men. I think I’ve actually had a very rare experience.
Why is a woman hosting a late-night show such a rare and radical concept?
I mean, Chelsea [Handler] did it. I’m not the only one who ever did it. But it is more rare, and I don’t really have the answer to that question. I do think there are women who have been offered late-night talk shows and haven’t wanted to do them. There is a quality-of-life issue to doing a [nightly] show and a pleasant life is very difficult to achieve. I certainly wouldn’t want to do it. My life would be destroyed, so doing a show once a week is perfect for me.
You Photoshopped yourself as a studly centaur shooting laser out of your eyes into Vanity Fair’s all-male late-night hosts photo. Did you ever expect it to go viral?
No. God, no. I think the moment you expect something to go viral, it immediately dies a horrible death. [Laughs] There’s no way to predict anything like that. There’s no way to even really hope for it. I will say that I was pleasantly surprised and I felt really vindicated. It made me feel really supported and happy to see how much it resonated with people.