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Samantha Bee On Trump's Win: 'I Could Feel This Seismic Shift'

Samantha Bee doesn't sit behind a desk on her TBS show <em>Full Frontal</em>. She says, "For me, it would've been a crutch."
Myles Aronowitz
Samantha Bee doesn't sit behind a desk on her TBS show Full Frontal. She says, "For me, it would've been a crutch."

Full Frontal host Samantha Bee makes no bones about the fact that she was caught off guard by Donald Trump's victory on election night.

"We had a balloon drop planned. ... We had balloons in our rafters, and we had to call it [off]," Bee tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "We were able to do a reset, but it was not an easy process by any means."

For Bee and Jo Miller, the show's co-creator, Trump's win meant doubling down on their coverage of the White House, much to their chagrin. "There were so many other things we wanted to cover," Bee says. "It was kind of this endless pool of stories we wanted to tell."

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee is a satire news show with a feminist point of view. It's now in its second season on TBS. Among the postelection challenges that Bee and Miller face is finding a way to criticize Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway while also being sensitive to the misogyny many public women have to deal with.

"I know that [Conway has] gotten the same kind of personal, nasty, misogynist attacks that Sam has ... and that's wrong," Miller says. "We wanted to make sure that we didn't say anything that could be construed by anybody as being looks-ist or sexist or a personal attack on her, instead of the way she lives her life and does her business."

Bee and Miller will also be hosting an independent, televised roast of the president on April 29, at the same time as the annual White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. Bee says the special, called Not the White House Correspondents' Dinner, will be a "celebration of free press ... a chance for us to celebrate the people who have helped us lift our show."

Interview Highlights

On the harassment Bee experienced on Twitter during election night

Bee: As the election results were becoming more clear, I checked into my Twitter feed and the tone of people's @-mentions to me went into violence. Like, it is indescribable what happened. I felt like the whole world shifted in those few hours in a way that was — everything about it was so unexpected, but I could feel this seismic shift in the way that people were interacting with me. ...

Miller: We took your phone away.

Bee: Everyone took my phone away because it put me into such a dark place for a couple of really bad days. ... I could feel me personally being a target. ... It was vicious right out of the gate. And in that moment I kind of understood the way it was going to be from then on. And at that point everyone took away my Twitter because it was making me too depressed.

Miller: And it was like night and day when we took it away. It's like, "Oh, Sam's back!"

On what it was like to work in The Daily Show's male-dominated writers' room

Bee: I personally didn't have a very gendered experience there. ... I'm a hard worker and I'm a gold star-getter. I like to put my nose down and do the work. That's how I felt about the experience. No one ever didn't listen to my ideas there because I was female; people didn't listen to my ideas because they were sometimes bad ideas.

Miller: In 2009, when Hallie Haglund and I were hired as writers, it was an all-male room at the time. There had been women there; there weren't at the time. So we came into a very masculine environment.

Whenever you're in a room with 16 guys, you get talked over. People pick up the thing you said five minutes ago and say it and then get heard. Jon was always the best about making eye contact with the person who was quiet or who had just gotten talked over and locking eyes with them and saying, "No wait, talk. You." I really appreciated that. I think I was completely shy and scared for a while, and something flipped and I just started being a complete bitch with sharp elbows and talking over other people.

On why Bee doesn't sit behind a desk like other late night hosts

Bee:Personally, as a viewer and as a consumer of late-night shows, I just didn't want to see another one. I just didn't want to see another desk. ... When I sit behind things, I can't move my body. It's very constricting. It becomes like — well, for me it would've been a crutch. Believe me, I was very scared to not have a desk because I thought, Wouldn't it be great to have something to hide behind? I need something that I can scoot behind. ... But in the end I didn't need it at all, and I'm so glad that we really don't have anything for me to hide behind. It's better that way.

On deciding on Bee's look for the show (a blazer and sneakers)

Bee: It's very similar to the uniform that I wear in daily life. I wear blazers in my life — I love them. I feel very protected in a blazer. It's my uniform. When we were in the early days of doing test shows, I had it in my head that I had to wear a dress and high heels, I really did. I thought, OK, when you're a woman and you're on television you have to wear a dress and you have to wear high heels.

We did another test show and I was wearing high heels and the heels were such stilettos that the heels were poking through the floor of the set and it was terrible. ... And actually a couple executives from TBS were there and they pulled me aside after and they were like, "You were so comfortable, you seemed to be having so much fun in rehearsal when you were wearing sneakers and a blazer, and then you put on your outfit for the show and you seem like you're having a terrible time." And they were right. I was having a terrible time because I was so physically uncomfortable. And they were like, "Why don't you just do the show in the clothes you want to wear?" I was like, "You can do that? I think I will. Thank you!"

Copyright 2020 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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