August 20, 2019

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Sting like a Bee

Canadian comedian's sharp, satirical take on the news is decidedly unladylike

TBS</p><p>Samantha Bee hosts full frontal.</p><p>

TBS

Samantha Bee hosts full frontal.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/2/2016 (1284 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It took only two words — one of which cannot be printed by a mainstream news outlet — for Samantha Bee to establish the attitude, the agenda and the low tolerance for BS that her new show, Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, intends to employ.

After running a clip that showed U.S. presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton at a town-hall meeting, attempting to pass off a folksy observation about being surprised to find herself asking people to vote for her for president, the Canadian-born Daily Show alumna turned to the camera and offered a succinct and clearly sincere reaction: “Oh, (expletive) off!”

And with that, Full Frontal host Samantha Bee had arrived as the much-heralded first (or, at least, latest) lady of late-night comedy, just in time to take full satirical advantage of the two-ring circus known as the U.S. electoral process.

The timing couldn’t be better. During her 12-year run as one of Jon Stewart’s most reliably subversive fake-news correspondents, Bee established herself as a comedy performer with a particular talent for exposing and exploiting the idiocy of the political class’s most dimwitted operators.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/2/2016 (1284 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It took only two words — one of which cannot be printed by a mainstream news outlet — for Samantha Bee to establish the attitude, the agenda and the low tolerance for BS that her new show, Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, intends to employ.

After running a clip that showed U.S. presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton at a town-hall meeting, attempting to pass off a folksy observation about being surprised to find herself asking people to vote for her for president, the Canadian-born Daily Show alumna turned to the camera and offered a succinct and clearly sincere reaction: "Oh, (expletive) off!"

And with that, Full Frontal host Samantha Bee had arrived as the much-heralded first (or, at least, latest) lady of late-night comedy, just in time to take full satirical advantage of the two-ring circus known as the U.S. electoral process.

The timing couldn’t be better. During her 12-year run as one of Jon Stewart’s most reliably subversive fake-news correspondents, Bee established herself as a comedy performer with a particular talent for exposing and exploiting the idiocy of the political class’s most dimwitted operators.

"Thank you to the sweet Baby Jesus," she said of landing her show in the midst of America’s political season. "For months, I’ve been sitting here with no show, just yelling at the wall while the most deranged electoral s—- show in a generation passed me by, and it has been killing me!"

With last week’s series première (Full Frontal airs locally late Monday nights on Comedy), Bee took some well-measured shots at Democratic candidates Clinton and Bernie Sanders, but saved most of her blunder-bludgeoning commentary for the more populous and — thanks largely to frontrunner Donald Trump — much more contentious Republican field, which she described as having "laid out a banquet of all-you-can-eat crazy."

In addition to Trump, the most obvious target for satirical skewering, Bee paid special attention to old-school conservative Marco Rubio’s recent debate rant about Clinton wanting to approve abortion "right up to the due date" — a statement the Full Frontal host described as "literally the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard" and countered with, "Removing a baby on the due date isn’t an abortion, it’s a caesarean."

Bee’s pummelling of political inanity wasn’t limited to the presidential game’s big names, however — in an introductory bit called Elected Paperweight of the Month, she took aim at a Kansas state senator who introduced a dress code aimed solely at women, because "men already know how to look professional."

The new show’s final segment featured a faux-existential Euro-style documentary focused on the bleak, lonely, on-the-road experiences of ever-more-irrelevant Republican candidate Jeb Bush. Both weird and funny, it fit nicely into Full Frontal’s opening-night vibe.

Much was made in the lead-up to Full Frontal’s première about Bee’s breaking into the male-dominated late-night landscape, which is an erroneous assertion on a couple of fronts — first, the fact Full Frontal is a weekly satirical news program rather than a nightly talk show removes Bee from direct competition with the likes of Fallon, Kimmel, Colbert, Corden and Meyers; second, its airtime on its U.S.-cable home, TBS, actually airs an hour earlier than the first wave of those guys, placing it in the prime-time block rather than the after-hours bracket.

Bee’s real competition is fellow Daily Show product John Oliver, who left the Comedy Central nest to launch his own excellent weekly satirical-comedy show, Last Week Tonight, which airs Sundays on HBO Canada. And like Oliver, Bee has taken all the lessons learned at the feet of Stewart and applied them to the creation of a new program that is shaping up to be much better than the now Stewart-less Daily Show.

Bee quickly dispensed with the "female" question in her Full Frontal debut, with a show-opening press-conference sketch in which she faced a barrage of silly questions about "breaking into the boys’ club," "being a woman in late night" and even "What’s it like to be a female woman?"

There’s is no question, however, that a powerful and comedically potent female force such as Bee is a welcome addition to the later-hours TV environment. Her combination of experience, comedy smarts and gender-informed perspective will provide viewers with a weekly dose of humour both unique in its design and inspired in its execution.

Calling hers a much-needed female voice is faint-praise damnation, however. Bee’s voice might fit that description, but it’s also so much more — sharp, educated, engaged, enraged, comedically fearless and strategically profane — all the things that make her, regardless of gender, the perfect candidate to tell America’s political candidates to (expletive) off when the need arises.

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @BradOswald

Brad Oswald

Brad Oswald
Perspectives Editor

After three decades spent writing stories, columns and opinion pieces about television, comedy and other pop-culture topics in the paper’s entertainment section, Brad Oswald shifted his focus to the deep-thoughts portion of the Free Press’s daily operation.

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