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Samantha Bee: Comedy, politics, and catharsis

Roughly one year after the premiere of “Full Frontal,” political comedian Samantha Bee and award-winning journalist and author Rebecca Traister (Weinberg ’97) reflected on the nation’s tumultuous year and the role of comedy in politics.

“Look at how many problems my show solved,” Bee said facetiously, smirking as the auditorium erupted with laughter.

The event, co-hosted by A&O Productions, One Book One Northwestern, and College Democrats, drew a full house on Tuesday night. Students in attendance were quickly greeted with a balanced mix of sardonic commentary and witty banter.

Bee, the first female host of a late-night political comedy show, unabashedly dissects politics once a week on TBS. During the event, she discussed the freedom and joy she has found in creating “Full Frontal” with showrunner Jo Miller.

“I have never felt more true to myself than I do now,” said Bee.

Traister stated that Bee has gained access which many journalists rarely see, such as an interview with President Obama, and asked how she views her show within the broader media landscape.

“I don’t really have any credentials,” said Bee, chuckling. “I don’t have anything to lose.”

In addition to gaining access to prominent figures, Bee’s segments have tackled topics which traditional news outlets are forced tiptoe around. Traister stated that, to her, Bee’s commentary on Trump’s Access Hollywood tape was both “cathartic and kind of radical.” After reading a critique of Bee’s display of anger on the show, Traister asked about Bee’s views on the relationship between anger and comedy.

“I’m not very reflective on the anger because I think that’s counterproductive,” said Bee. “I don’t really do the show for anyone. We are doing it for our own catharsis.”

The pair also discussed Bee’s efforts to develop a diverse production and writing staff for the show. Bee stated that many members on her 65-person staff have been personally impacted by Trump’s policies, such as the Muslim ban. Despite the political climate, Bee has admired the nation’s response.

“This is going to sound like a country song—I’m so proud to be an American citizen now and participate in this. Watching people reclaim their power is really exciting to me,” said Bee.

The event finished with a series of questions from students such as whether a right-leaning satirical show could ever be successful—the answer was a definitive no—and Bee’s expectations for activism over the next four years. Bee readily acknowledged that she didn’t have all the answers, but that encouraging people to vote was only one part of the equation.

“You also have to give people something to believe in,” said Bee.

After the event, Weinberg sophomore Sophia McCullough said Bee met and exceeded her expectations. She stated that speakers sometimes appear like a stripped-down version of themselves in person, but that Bee brought her familiar comedy and personality to the event.

“She managed to stay funny and lighthearted while talking about really serious and pressing issues, and I think that just made it all the more interesting and all the more engaging,” said McCullough.

Weinberg sophomore Nihmotallahi Adebayo thought seeing Bee in-person was different from watching clips of Full Frontal, but that the comedian was awe-inspiring.

“To have someone who’s very candid and honest about what she’s feeling in the moment is very refreshing and I think it’s what we need more of,” said Adebayo.

(Photo by Isabella Procassini)

(Photo by Isabella Procassini)

Isabella Procassini

About Isabella Procassini

Isabella Procassini is the editor in chief of NBR. She is a senior majoring in history and communication studies with a minor in business institutions. Isabella enjoys working with students at the career center, reading memoirs, and searching for the best donuts in Chicago.

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