Yes, it really looked like that alligator was chomping on that flipper-flapping turtle standing in for Jeb Bush, as Samantha Bee tore through her first show. She announced at the outset of Full Frontal With Samantha Bee how tough it had been, being on the sidelines all these months during the run-up to the Presidential primaries or, as she put it, “the most deranged political sh!tshow” of all time. Of course, the former Daily Show With Jon Stewart correspondent has had nearly as much hype as the weed-like political fauna during the months of preparation leading up to her debut, and during her first show she held forth at full throttle, as if all that sideline pressure building never had an escape valve. Bee was on.
Her first target, quickly dispatched, was the Democrats. Watching a clip of Hillary Clinton telling just folks that she “never thought I’d be standing here asking people to vote for me for President,” Bee hollered, “Oh f!ck off!” and pretended to puke. That was followed by a clip from last week’s New Hampshire debate, during which Hillary babbled on like “Hermione Clinton, while Sanders tried to flag down a waitress” — a satisfying reference to the Vermont Senator’s penchant for the double dip of arching an eyebrow while finger-wagging.
The Republicans (ground cover, to extend the fauna analogy), then ” laid out a banquet of all-you-can-eat crazy.” As SNL‘s “Weekend Update” had pointed out two days earlier, the Republican “debate” began with what Bee called “the first domino in a cascade of fail” as Dr. Ben Carson missed his cue to go onstage, leading to a backstage pileup.
Bee was determined to prove she can cuss with the best of her male colleagues while pushing the boundaries of taste as well as any 14-year-old. So not only did we get the turtle-chomping alligator representing Trump and Bush, but also an image of an abortion. Mocking Marco Rubio’s pronouncement that Secretary Clinton would allow abortions “up to and including the due date,” Bee said he was suggesting that babies were being born “into a Vitamix so that Planned Parenthood can sell it to Whole Foods.” A visual aid helpfully left nothing to the imagination.
Although the previews of Full Frontal had suggested a dependence on pre-taped segments, the half-hour debut included only one — a thoroughly depressing segment on Jeb Bush’s New Hampshire campaign swing before Tuesday’s primary. A little bit of leavening was offered in the form of what promises to be a regular bit, the “Elected Paperweight of the Month,” which went to Kansas state senator Mitch Holmes for trying to institute a dress code for women but not men, as a highlight of his generally useless legislative record. I’d like to think this was a tribute to the late great political columnist Molly Ivins, who once wrote of a Texas congressman that, “if his IQ slips any lower, we’ll have to water him twice a day.”
Much has been made of, and by, Bee for breaking the testosterone ceiling of male-hosted late-night comedy programs. Call me picky, but 10:30 isn’t late night, no matter how many F-bombs you get to drop, and once a week is a very different ballgame from the post-primetime daily programs. Still, Bee’s presence and POV are welcome, and if the comedy is raw and in need of a bit of downward attenuation (please, really, not so loud), well there are worse crimes in comedy. I’d just like some assurance that no animals (not to mention humans) were harmed in the service of gender balancing on TV. I’ll be watching.