By Zachary Landau | The Duquesne Duke
It came as a surprise to learn that Samantha Bee was never considered to take over Jon Stewart’s position on the daily show.
Considering Bee had spent 12 years on the show and was consistently funny, it is a shame that Comedy Central did not see the potential that she had to be a fantastic late-night host. That proved to be a huge mistake for the network, as Bee has shown in her first week of her own show, “Full Frontal,” to be a much more decisive and ultimately funnier host than Comedy Central’s Trevor Noah and Larry Wilmore.
Indeed, it is Bee’s experience with “The Daily Show” that gave her an obvious advantage from the beginning. She was a fan-favorite, relentless in her criticisms and authentic in her razor-sharp observations. Nothing could slip past her critical eye, and her feminist ideology provided a strong backbone for most of her news coverage and shameless spotlighting of sexist ideologues.
As such, Bee had a strong following tuning in to the Feb. 8 debut which netted 2.2 million viewers according to the New York Post. The first episode carried Bee’s characteristic humor from beginning to end, opening with a bit obvious self-satire about being the only woman in late-night and then leading effortlessly into slamming nearly every candidate for their performance in the latest debates.
Her first show was astonishing to watch, really, after months of following other new late-night hosts flounder to maintain audience’s attentions. Both Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert, despite having extensive hosting experience, are not raking in the same viewership as they once did, and Larry Wilmore can often go whole segments without a single laugh. Bee, however, nailed every joke with such ease that it is almost shameful to the other hosts.
Bee continued the momentum into her second show where she skewered fear-mongering candidates in an excellent segment about Syrian refugees. She also reviewed the Republican and Democratic debates and managed to keep the conversation fresh. This freshness is a testament to Bee’s skills as a comedian, as she avoids the pitfalls of other pundits who fall into a routine of just criticizing candidates by examining how she reacted. The funniest moment was when she was hunched over, lamenting that she actually agreed with Trump with some of his talking points. It felt new and interesting in a field that has gone rather stagnant and predictable.
And what is truly interesting about “Full Frontal” is that it feels new. What it does has been done before, but never has it felt so gratifying to watch. Whether it is Bee’s delivery or just her timing in the political pundit landscape is hard to tell, but her comedy is like a breath of fresh air for a genre that is increasingly being watched more out of routine than actual interest.
Will Bee change the late-night landscape? Unfortunately, probably not; much like Jon Oliver, whose well-researched segments have become very popular but not widely adopted, Bee’s impact on the scene will be much more understated. Her first week of success, and probable continuation thereof, is a testament however to the importance of hiring a wider variety of hosts. Her perspectives, which have been ignored for way too long, are now some of the most critical and biting, leading to a much more satisfying viewing experience and the best I have had in a long time.