Samantha Bee on Diversity: ‘The F*cking Thing You Have to Do Is Just Hire People’

Photo: Manny Carabel/Getty Images

Diversity in the workplace was on Samantha Bee’s mind when she assembled the creative team for her upcoming TBS late-night show, Full Frontal, premiering Monday night. At her talk at the 92nd Street Y Thursday night with Ana Gasteyer, she explained how she staffed her 50 percent female and 30 percent nonwhite writing room: “In the entertainment industry in particular, there are seminars and … work groups about creating diversity when, really, the fucking thing you have to do is just hire people,” she said, to a round of applause from the audience. “It's not really the most complicated transaction. Find some diverse people and actually give them jobs.”

Diversity was one of the first things Bee and Jo Miller, an executive producer on Full Frontal and a former writer on The Daily Show, discussed in the show’s early planning stages. They created a blind application process for writers. Bee explained how even the job-application process can be unfair to newcomers. “When you're looking for writers, you create a submission packet for them and you tell them an outline of what you want to receive back as their application … And sometimes they're just like, ‘Write two headlines and a sketch, thanks so much.’ But Jo ... really outlined what the format was — just the way that it looks is really particular to this comedy world. It's a script style. And if it doesn't look that way … it tells you a person is inexperienced. And you don't look at the words the same way … It's such a basic leveler to know how your script is supposed to look.” The Full Frontal staff includes writers from varying levels of experience — one previously worked at Letterman, while another's last job was at the Maryland DMV. Hopefully, the late-night boys club is taking notes.