Lots of things piss off master satirist Samantha Bee, whose bouncy cheerleader vibe belies a wit so sharp it’ll leave those in her crosshairs needing a Band-Aid. That list includes but is not limited to assholes who refuse to wear masks, anti-vaxxers, sham crisis pregnancy centers, rape kit backlogs, and one Ted Cruz, whom she so aptly described as “a man who seems like he would lecture a starving kitten on personal responsibility, and then deport that kitten and his family.” Which brings us to the issue that really, truly guts her: The separation of children and parents at American borders. When her show, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, returns with new episodes on Jan. 13, she plans to devote as much airtime as possible to one of the most shameful legacies of the Trump administration.
“We should never forget that there were people in our government who will continue to be in our government who were totally fine with separating children and their parents,” she says, during an afternoon interview the day after domestic terrorists stormed the capitol, gleefully posing for pictures while ransacking federal property. Bee watched the marauding with dismay, distress, and a profound sense of loss.
“It has been truly mind-blowing to have a topical comedy show during this whole era. Not just this week, not just this month, but during the entirety of the Trump administration — it has been just whiplash and we’ve gone to just the depths of humanity. We’ve witnessed such horrors and I’m so glad for it to be over. So having a show in this moment in history — I’m so proud that we were able to really plant a flag on the right side of history. I’m proud to be able to tell my kids that we did that,” says Bee.
The mom of three, who’s married to comedian Jason Jones, talks about bonding with Kamala Harris, talking politics with her kids, and why her show matters more than ever.
What a week this has been, right? What a week.
I’m really looking forward to the world stabilizing. I don’t think that a new administration is going to solve every problem we have. I just don’t. I don’t think that that’s going to happen, but just to stabilize for a moment and just to undo some of the damage that was done in the last four years is such an enormous opportunity. And I cannot wait. I cannot wait for it. We just have to get through the next two very bad weeks.
How did you feel watching what was doing down in the Capitol, with the rioters and domestic terrorists?
We, like probably most citizens of this country, felt horror. We cried. It was very sad. It was tremendously upsetting. And I don’t think it’s over. The next two weeks are going to be very pressing, very urgent. I don’t know what happens. I kept saying this morning, ‘What happens next?’ I really don’t know. I don’t know any more than anybody else. What happens tomorrow or tonight, or what’s happening right now? And we just don’t know about it yet.
Speaking of the Biden administration, I know you’ve met Kamala Harris. Is she as great as I assume she is?
She has hobbies that I also have. She really likes to bake. She really loves cookbooks. I love to bake. I love cookbooks. So we had a lot of just outside politics stuff that I felt I could sit with her for three hours and we could go through a bunch of recipes and talk about stuff.
It seems like the best of times and the most insane of times to have a show dealing with politics, given how fast everything happens and you nail it every week.
It represents the work of 65 incredible people. So it’s not like I alone am forging forward. We’re a whole team of people and we all feel really passionately about everything. So my incredible writers and producers were all in lockstep, really thinking about the world in this way.
So there’s a time for analysis. Some things are just so awful. You really can’t find a comedic way to discuss them because I mean, we are a comedy first show. So there has to be a comedy version of it, or a way to kind of put jokes in a way that’s our delivery service. So it’s not always possible. And if it’s not possible, then we tend to leave those stories by the wayside.
You’re a mom. Do some issues resonate with you more than others, given that you’re raising three kids? Do you see issues through a prism of parenthood?
I don’t think about it in those terms. But I do personally gravitate toward stories that center around women. The journey of immigrants and refugees is something that I think about all the time. I try to imagine mothers carrying their children, going through these tremendous ordeals to save their children, to take their children out of harm’s way. And to be greeted with such hostility at our borders has been a story that has penetrated me. Children and parents being locked up at our borders is a story that I will never shake. I will never not condemn the people who aided that, who made that happen or stood by silently while that was happening. And the issue is not resolved.
How do you talk about politics with your kids, in a way that makes sense to them?
I’m actually just honest about my opinions. Kids don’t tend to want their parents’ opinions embedded in them. It happens kind of naturally, maybe by osmosis. I offer my own perspective. I just try to be truthful about it. I don’t really sugarcoat it, but I don’t also monologue. We have a lot of news on all the time because in the morning, the first thing I do is put on NPR and I’m listening to the news all morning. So they’re getting that as well. So they’re receiving the content that is constantly playing in our house. And so they form their own opinions and they’re also learning at school. So if they have questions, they come to me, and I’ll run them through the children at the border story.
You and Jason both have big careers. And there’s a pandemic. How do you juggle two careers, three kids, and everything else going on?
We have been together a really long time. We’ve been together since 1997. We have always had a kind of an ebb and a flow. So he’s worked and I haven’t been working or I work and he isn’t working and we are very able to just pick up where the other one left off. It’s usually pretty easy between us. My husband definitely took on a lot of the remote schooling during the pandemic because I was working more. I actually needed more time during the day then, than he did at that, in that moment. So he was spent a lot of time, especially early in the pandemic, just physically making sure that everyone had what they needed, all the equipment, that the connections were good, making sure they had their classes organized.
I always make the dinner. Like we, we have pretty good balance of who’s doing what, and we don’t generally have a social life. Nobody has a social life in the pandemic, but we never had one really going into it. So we have time to work those things out. We figure out where something’s needed. And one of us can usually fill in, since we don’t have normal work schedules, and that is very helpful. There’s no parallel in the real world. Like if you work in the financial services industry, you really don’t have what we have, which is a schedule that we essentially make ourselves.
Our kids are a lot older and we’re very lucky that they’re kind of self-starters too. So they understand the technology now, and they’re pretty good about their schedules. And then we all reassess at the end of the day, what needed to be better the next day? And some days we just fail. So spectacularly.
Do your kids have any idea that you’re a badass who is making a pretty big impact in the world?
I think they will think it is so cool when they are 25. So I have a 10 year old, a 12 year old and an almost 15 year old and we love each other. It’s not natural for children to think that their parents are cool. I want them to be cool on their own terms and not to think about what I do.
What are some topics you really want to dig into this season?
Let me think. I have such a bad memory. I get such bad brain fog. I would really like to, and I don’t really think we’re talking about it enough because we haven’t had time to talk about it enough, but I really would like to talk about the ways that the pandemic is disproportionately affecting women. Just people trying to juggle making dinner, but also doing lessons on the computer because the laptop is on the kitchen table and everybody is hungry. How do you do your work when there’s just 10 million things going on? And often that work does fall to the woman. Not always, but often. Yeah.