With the demise of ‘Full Frontal,’ Samantha Bee focuses on herself


When TBS canceled the fiercely feminist late-night show “Full Frontal” last summer, host Samantha Bee braced for a new dawn.

But after 12 years as a “Daily Show” correspondent and seven seasons hosting “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee,” the Emmy-winning comic had been plugged into the political-satire machine for the better part of two decades without interruption. As Bee mulled her career, she slowly but surely came to the realization: Her next step should be to take a step back.

“I did need to take some time,” says Bee, 53. “I’ve been very lucky, but I really haven’t spent any time not working in the last 20 years. So I tried to figure out not so much what I was going to do next but what I actually wanted to do. It gives you a little time to think, ‘What are the things you want to do under any circumstances for the rest of your life?’ So that was a gift.”

After a few months of decompression, Bee settled on her next endeavor: a live comedy show, titled “Your Favorite Woman,” which arrives at the Kennedy Center on Friday and tours the United States until mid-June. Speaking over the phone from her Upstate New York home earlier this month, Bee discussed “Full Frontal’s” cancellation, crafting a solo show and taking political comedy to the nation’s capital.

(This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.)

Q: Over eight months have passed since “Full Frontal” ended. Now that you’ve had time to reflect, what do you make of the show’s run?

A: I’ve been going back and looking at old segments for various reasons, and I can’t believe what we did. I can’t believe the buttons we pushed. I can’t believe the things we got away with, the stands we took. It was a very bold, risk-taking and ultimately very funny show. I’m really proud of how we went, I think, full tilt, balls to the wall, for about seven seasons. I think that was an incomparable opportunity, and we fully took it — never wavered, always gave it our all. We made history with that show and — I think, in the annals of television history — broke a lot of barriers.

Q: Have there been any points since then when you wished you could still respond to current events with a weekly show?

A: There are a few things that I wish that I’d been able to cover, for sure. But on the other hand, it’s been nice to just experience the world as a citizen of the world and not have to worry about how to turn that into 21 minutes of comedy per week. That has actually been really nice. You know, there’s missed opportunities to make Trump jokes, but I really don’t miss talking about that guy — I really don’t. That is the God’s honest truth.

Q: How would you describe “Your Favorite Woman”?

A: It’s not dissimilar to an episode of “Full Frontal,” in a way. It’s not so topical, but I really am expressing myself as a woman — it’s pretty challenging as a woman out there in the world right now — and then expressing all of that and really hoping to achieve some kind of catharsis. I’m doing some really personal work, which I’m enjoying. It’s a departure for me because I don’t normally talk about myself all that much, so it’s actually really fun and kind of a wild ride.

Q: A show like “Full Frontal” is inherently collaborative. How have you felt about doing a show more centered on your perspective?

A: It feels scary. I mean, doing a television show is scary, too — you’re still putting it out there in some form. But because there has been a distance between myself and the material, for the most part, doing television, that departure was the riskiest. I knew I would learn a lot from performing this show for the first time. Does anyone share this perspective with me? Is this crazy? Do people actually want to hear personal stories from me? And I think that the answer is yes, and that is gratifying.

Q: I imagine performing in a theater is different from performing in a studio. How have you adapted to that change?

A: I mean, I love it. It’s been really nice to look out and see a crowd of people. It hasn’t been torturous at all. I’m excited to go into bigger theaters and see more people. And I like to keep the house lights up a little bit, so that I can look into their eyes and scare the s— out of them. [Laughs.] But I like to see people. I’m always peeking out before the show starts, looking around the curtain to see what the vibe is.

Q: Since you’re new to touring, did you pick anyone’s brain for advice on taking a show on the road?

A: You know, we worked in a little bubble. It’s a different kind of show. It’s not really a stand-up show. It’s more multimedia than that. The cadence of the show is really different. So there was no one to really ask. I don’t know, maybe I’m too private.

Q: I get that. When I write an article, I don’t like showing anyone my work until I have to submit it.

A: And then it’s torture. If the person doesn’t get back to you within 30 seconds of reading three sentences, you’re like, “It’s terrible!”

Q: Your comedy obviously has particular resonance in D.C. What will it mean for you to do this show at the Kennedy Center?

A: The crowd in D.C. has always been so warm, so I’m super excited to come back there. It’s such a beautiful space — like, it’s too beautiful a space, and I understand that. It’s actually too nice for the thing. I was like, “What’s it going to feel like in Washington, D.C., to talk about perimenopause in front of almost 2,000 people?” That’ll be a trip, just shouting it from the rafters. But I’m up for the challenge.

Samantha Bee: Your Favorite Woman

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Concert Hall, 2700 F St. NW. kennedy-center.org.


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