Samantha Bee's televised revolution against Trump
The late-night TBS host is mad as hell — and she doesn't want you to take it anymore
I hopped on the subway to head uptown to the taping of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee on the heels of President Trump's labor secretary nominee Andy Puzder announcing that he was withdrawing his name from consideration. Earlier in the day, revelations about Trump campaign aides' alleged contact with senior Russian intelligence officials had continued to surface. The day before, the news was focused on former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's resignation. It was Wednesday. The workweek was just halfway over — Trump's infamously bombastic press conference hadn't even happened yet — and already we were all consumed by a torrent of Trump.
Just in case this all sounds like 100 years ago to you — it was barely three weeks ago. But such is the passage of time in the Trump presidency. We have all seemingly aged years in a few short weeks.
I was eager to get Samantha Bee's take on it all. After all, Bee is the only woman with her own late-night comedy show, and she's arguably more adept than all the guys at skewering Trump without getting petty or personal. And let's face it: The fact that Bee is a woman makes her act all the more effective. When comedian Melissa McCarthy stood in for White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Saturday Night Live, Trump's biggest problem with the mockery reportedly wasn't the jokes, but the fact that a woman was making them.
Trump is Public Enemy No. 1 on Bee's show, and her largely progressive and young audience gobbles it up. Before our taping started, warm-up act Allana Harkin led a cheering contest in which the loudest section wins. Harkin divided the crowd into four groups, with each given a progressive cause to cheer for: women's rights, gay rights, Black History Month, and immigrants. These people all seemed fired up and ready to fight Trump.
Bee took three questions from the audience before our taping began, and each revolved around Trump. The first: How will she cover Trump's impeachment? Bee giggled and dodged. The next audience member wanted to know how Bee chooses what to cover in her show when there's just so much material. Bee said she picks what's closest to her heart (apparently that's all things anti-Trump). Because this was the first episode of Full Frontal's second season, the third questioner asked how Season 2 will be different from Season 1. Well, Bee practically shrieked, Donald Trump is president now.
For the next half hour, the Trump theme continued. Sure, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) caught some flak, but it was directly related to his failure to stand up to Trump. Indeed, from the warm-up to the wrap-up, Trump permeated everything. While Bee and other late night hosts have always been political, the level of outrage over Trump's administration already seems to have reached a point where every joke leads back to the president. Suddenly it's impossible to talk wolf pups or Taylor Swift or even the tufted titmouse without Trump coming up.
Bee is funny — very funny. And she's ruthless when it comes to attacking Trump. She's mad as hell — not in a Howard Beale sort of way, but in a "she clearly cares about this" kind of way. She manages to weave valuable information between the laugh lines. She flashes the name of the bills she's talking about on the screen, as well as the dates when Congress will vote on them. She delves into the nitty gritty of what a Congressional Review Act is — and manages to make it not only interesting, but funny. She quips about taking four minutes to call your congressman as she heads into commercial break. She clearly doesn't just want to poke fun at Trump. She doesn't even just want to take him on herself. She wants to urge you to take him on, too.
Bee clearly knows exactly what she's doing. And yet, even as I sat there watching the behind-the-scenes moments, none of it felt inauthentic. Bee isn't doing this for the laughs or for the exposure — she's doing it because she cares.