The Top 5 Things We Learned About Samantha Bee
At Drew, satirist explains making comedy gold.
October 2017 – Samantha Bee explained the art of finding laughs in hard news during a wide-ranging interview at Drew University.
Bee, a guest of the university’s Drew Forum speaker series, peeled back the curtain on her weekly TV show Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, revealing where its ideas come from and how they’re turned into comedy gold. Responding to questions from New York magazine writer-at-large Rebecca Traister, the former Daily Show correspondent also reflected on her unlikely career path to satire.
Drew Forum is supported by the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation. Here are the top five things we learned about Bee.
She mines journalism for satire.
Some of Full Frontal‘s more than 60 staffers used to work at media outlets. So, quite naturally, many of their ideas stem from news reports. For example, this New York Times Magazine feature about Russian trolls on the Internet sparked this field piece that Bee shot in Russia.
John Boehner is on her wish list.
Yes, not many conservatives appear on Full Frontal. But it’s not for lack of trying. For a while Bee has extended interview requests to the likes of former Speaker of the House John Boehner (“I would love to just pick his brain”) and U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (“We just keep reaching out”)—thus far to no avail.
She wanted to be an actress.
Before finding nirvana in satire, Bee considered becoming an attorney and set out to be a serious actress, even landing a role as a “talk show lady” on Law & Order. The reaction was less than encouraging. “I gave it my all. On the first day, I was like, ‘This is so dramatic and I’m doing such an amazing job.’ And they said, ‘Cut.’ And then the director came over. He was like, “Hah, hah, hah! That was really funny. But can we try to do it a little more low-key this time?’” Bee recalled. “And when my mom watched the episode, all she said about it was, ‘I really liked your hat.’”
She loves field reporting.
That’s how she first made a name for herself on The Daily Show. In addition, it enables her to escape the daily “stew of horrors” that’s reported in the media. As Bee explained, “Traveling and doing field stuff helps me a lot because you’re out in the world and it’s a completely different perspective.”
She finds hope in activism.
Asked simply what gives her hope, Bee pointed to men and women working on a grass-roots level, be it volunteering, protesting or building affordable housing. “People’s level of engagement—young people’s level of engagement—is so high,” Bee said. “Everybody is kind of waking up and they’re like, ‘Oh, right. There’s some shit happening. We should fucking fix it.’ And we can actually do that on a very personal level.”