Since its debut on TBS on February 8, Full Frontal With Samantha Bee has been full on in claiming its space in the late-night solar system. The TBS Monday night show has been tackling issues like rape in the military, abortion, the backlog of untested rape kits, guns and mass shootings and, of course, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and this year’s unprecedented race for the White House.
After the terrifying massacre Sunday of 49 people in an Orlando nightclub by a lone shooter wielding an AR-15 he bought legally, Full Frontal started off the next night with Bee asserting that the “love conquers hate” response was not enough in a nation where such killings are becoming commonplace. “Love does not win unless we start loving each other to solve our f*cking problems,” she told her audience.
Coming off a night of live tweeting the 14-hour-long Senate filibuster to force a vote on gun control, the former longtime Daily Show correspondent spoke with me today about the reaction to her and Full Frontal‘s reaction to the Pulse nightclub tragedy and why she isn’t done talking about guns. With Full Frontal a leading contender for a Variety Talk Series Emmy nomination, Bee also addressed covering the “confusing” candidacy of Trump and why he is no longer “amusing” to her. Additionally, after ex-Daily Show host Jon Stewart’s cameo on Full Frontal on June 6, Bee talked about the “thumbs up” she gets from her old colleague and how the show plans to cover the general election this year.
DEADLINE: When you came on the air on Monday’s show, you made short shrift of being merely solemn and offering platitudes in response to the mass shooting in Orlando and you got specific, activist and angry about gun-control reform. That’s not the standard late-night approach, so why did you go there?
BEE: I think we just spoke from our heart and from our guts, actually. The whole point is I want this story off me and onto this issue. We’re not kidding when we say we want change on the show. We have had it and I think as a nation, we’ve really had enough with these shootings. So, it was the only way we could have reacted I think.
DEADLINE: What do you say to those who say you were too angry in your approach and remarks?
BEE: I will claim that anger because I am angry. I’m angry, I’m frustrated, and we all are. So there was really no other way for us to do the show. It was not even a conversation that we had, because it would be impossible for us to address the shooting in some small way and then pivot to some other comedy. It’s not that type of show – we’re not beholden to any specific type of format anyway so it was an opportunity for us to say some stuff that is important to us.
We will continue to take those opportunities as they present themselves but I hope that never happens again for a million obvious reasons. I hope we never have to speak of it again. Unfortunately I think we might have to. I don’t look forward to that but in any way that we can be helpful or speak about this, we will use our platform to speak about things that are important to us.
DEADLINE: Now we see GOP candidate Donald Trump saying he might take on the NRA, which has endorsed him for President, over not allowing people on terror watch lists or no-fly lists to buy guns…
BEE: I know, it’s a roller-coaster ride, isn’t it. I certainly hope someone takes them on.
I will be meeting with the NRA, who has endorsed me, about not allowing people on the terrorist watch list, or the no fly list, to buy guns.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2016
DEADLINE: Do you think this is real on his part?
BEE: We’ll have to see how it plays out. In this election the days are so topsy-turvy, especially with Trump. It starts out one way and you end the day another. Trump’s candidacy was so unexpected and his process is so confusing. So, it feels rather haphazard to me. It’s difficult for me to predict, we could be in a totally different position with Trump by day’s end, don’t you think? Or a completely different situation by lunchtime. It feels like a very seat of your pants candidacy.
DEADLINE: What is the Trump phenomenon like for you to cover, both comedically and seriously?
BEE: It certainly is a phenomenon, isn’t it? His unpredictability makes him very interesting and very comedic. Unfortunately, I also have good thoughts about the place where I live and I care about the future of this country, so it’s getting less amusing over time. I’m not really amused anymore.
— Full Frontal (@FullFrontalSamB) June 15, 2016
DEADLINE: Though Full Frontal is on once a week, you guys kept the shooting aftermath discussion going. For instance, last night, you guys took on a bit of C-SPAN’s space and went on social media to live-tweet the Democrats’ successful filibuster to force a Senate vote on gun control in the wake of what happened in Orlando.
BEE: I loved that we were live-tweeting it. It was so geeky and wonderful and it was so much what the show is about. It was a treasure trove.
— Full Frontal (@FullFrontalSamB) June 16, 2016
DEADLINE: Does being Canadian give you a different perspective on the issue of guns in America, the Second Amendment and the political response?
BEE: I would have said that a few years ago and I think I definitely had an outsider’s perspective when I first stated working on The Daily Show, a unique bird’s-eye view. But I’ve lived here so long now, over 13 years now. I have my American citizenship and I vote, my children are American. So now, I’m in it to win it and I’m completely invested. So I don’t know if I have that unique perspective anymore now that I’m fully invested.
DEADLINE: To talk about The Daily Show, you had Jon Stewart make a cameo on Full Frontal the other week. What was the reaction to that like for you?
BEE: We knew that people would respond to it because we all miss Jon, quite honestly. I mean he pops up here and there and he has this project at HBO that none of us really know too much about, but I think the world misses him. So having him on the show really felt right and then I think people responded to it with, ‘That guy, I love him!’ I’m happy that people liked it.
DEADLINE: Does Jon reach out to you about Full Frontal since it debuted?
BEE: If he likes something in particular, he’ll definitely email us and give us a thumbs up or a little love. He’s been really nice, lovely and supportive of the show.
DEADLINE: A show that is the only late-night offering hosted by a woman…
BEE: There could be more shows hosted by women, yes (laughs). I think, I hope, that we will see that emerge in the next little while. People have proven that there is an appetite to see more women in these positions. I’d love a little sisterhood up here. Nikki Glaser has a show, it’s a different type of show from us. Chelsea Handler has her new Netflix show and I hope we see the emergence of more female voices in late-night comedy and I think we will. I really do think we will. We have to, right? We need a level playing field and not an approach that is patronizing.
DEADLINE: Having launched in the middle of this unconventional election cycle, how is Full Frontal going to evolve as it covers the Presidential race going forward?
BEE: We’re going to the conventions, but we’re not doing our show from the conventions. But we will definitely shoot stuff there. As for evolving, I don’t know that we really have an end point but that we are making the show to please ourselves. I think if we continue on that path then the show will evolve in a really organic way and that’s what I want it to do.