Samantha Bee is Bringing Diversity to Comedy

by Leah Marsh ’19

Monday night marked the premiere of comedian Samantha Bee’s talk show Full Frontal. While the show is notable simply because of its well-wrought comedy (more on that later), it is unique particularly in that Bee is the only woman currently hosting a late-night talk show. In her first episode, Bee pulled no punches, ruthlessly attacking presidential candidates from both sides of the aisle and criticizing those who dwell on the fact that she’s a woman.

The show opened with a segment showing Bee at a press conference; the only questions being asked were various takes on “What’s it like being a woman in comedy?” Bee finally answered that it takes “hard work, a great team, and maybe just a little bit of magic,” at which point a clip aired showing Bee in a circle of witches, working said “magic.” For the rest of the show, Bee tore apart candidates and politicians alike: she called Donald Trump a “sentient caps-lock button,” ripped into a Kansas senator who tried to impose a dress code on women (but not men), and aired a hysterical segment on the sad state of Jeb Bush’s campaign.

While Bee’s satirical onslaught was unforgiving, it in no way came across as mean-spirited—her stage presence was formidable, and her delivery of the jokes was flawless. As audiences saw during Bee’s time on The Daily Show, her comedy is often right on the edge of what’s appropriate, but she didn’t step over the line, and she kept her audience laughing for the full half hour.

The success of Bee’s jokes can be largely attributed to the writing team behind them, and this is another way that Bee is breaking through barriers. Her writing team is reportedly 50% women and 30% people of color, which is revolutionary in the late-night comedy industry. This unusually diverse group of writers gives the show’s jokes depth and perspective that wouldn’t be seen in jokes by a mostly white and male writing team, and it also brings whole new levels of humor to the script. Bee’s stage crew also has more women than that of the average TV show.

Samantha Bee’s presence on late-night television and the diverse crew that makes her show possible demonstrate that we’ve come a long way in the comedy world. Other high-profile female comedians like Amy Schumer (Inside Amy Schumer) and Leslie Jones (Saturday Night Live) are also making waves in the industry, but there is still a long way to go before the stage is split evenly between women and men. Even looking beyond the gender gap, diversity in comedy is still lacking, but Samantha Bee and her crew are helping us get there.

Full Frontal With Samantha Bee airs Mondays at 10:30 ET.

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