Samantha Bee, a 47-year-old Canadian-born dual-citizen of Canada and the US, has been called the “comedian of the resistance” in the Donald Trump era. It is not a position she applied for, nor one she is especially happy to have assumed. When her weekly topical show, >Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, first aired on the US cable channel TBS in February 2016, in the process making her the first woman to host a late-night political satire, she imagined she would be overseeing the run-in to a Hillary Clinton presidency. Then, from her perspective, the unthinkable happened.
Trump’s victory has forced all the late-night comedy shows to take stock, but it is Bee, formerly a correspondent on The Daily Show for a record 12 years, who seems to have adapted best. She is withering in her dismay at “that pint of flat orange Fanta”, as she’s called Trump, and “the batshit telenovela” that is his administration.
Meanwhile, Full Frontal increased its viewership by 167% in its first year and became late-night television’s No 1 show with millennials (adults aged 18 to 34), leapfrogging Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon and James Corden. Earlier this year, Bee featured on the Time 100 list of most influential people in the world and last month Full Frontal was nominated for seven Emmys. She lives in New York with her husband, the comic actor Jason Jones, and they have three children.
Full Frontal is doing especially well with a younger crowd. It’s not easy to engage politically with that group – what do you think they are responding to?
Young people, particularly these days, are allergic to inauthenticity. And one thing I can truly say about this show is that it comes from a very authentic place. We don’t mince words: everything comes from real emotion, real passion. I mean, that’s why I like to do it, so I don’t blame them!
Does the “comedian of the resistance” tag please you?
Ha ha, it makes me giggle. I don’t particularly see myself that way. I’m just a hard worker trying to do my job. I don’t take praise that seriously and I don’t take people’s toxicity very seriously. I just keep my head down and do the work – it’s very Canadian. I would apply the same work ethic to, like, being a farmer. It’s just in the DNA.