Perhaps the only thing that is more crowded than the GOP this election season is the late night crowd. From Stephen Colbert to Jimmy Fallon, Larry Wilmore to Trevor Noah, and everyone in between, it’s hard to keep track of all the late night hosts throwing potshots at politics. However, the newest person to the party, Samantha Bee, stands out in a refreshing light – and not just because she’s a woman.
Of course, Samantha Bee’s gender is the aspect of her show that has been mentioned the most since it was first announced, but Bee has always known this was coming and tackled it head-on in the cold open to her first episode of Full Frontal. In a fake press conference, she’s asked increasingly dumb questions centered around her being a woman (“What’s it like being a female woman?”), aiming to shut down those comments immediately and instead forcing the viewer to pay attention to what’s really important: how damn funny Samantha Bee is.
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee came barreling out of the gate with sharp claws and sharper humor. It was one of the most confident late night debuts in recent history – even Colbert and Wilmore were shaky at the beginning – and during the five aired episodes, it’s only gotten better. It makes perfect sense: Bee worked hard for years on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, expertly punching up at politicians and having multiple stand-out segments that would occasionally outshine the host himself. She knows what she’s doing; this time she gets a full half hour to do it all.
The format is highly reminiscent of The Daily Show itself, with Bee starting each episode by going through the news in front of a giant screen (she does stand instead of sit though, which is perfect for a comedian who gets as many laughs out of her gesticulating and body language as she does with her punchlines) and then segueing into other segments (such as pre-packaged videos ranging from a brilliant Werner Herzog-esqe parody about Jeb Bush to a sit-down with real Trump supporters). It’s somewhat similar Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, in that it’s a weekly show that gives Bee more time to flesh out deeper, longer jokes and get more in depth on the subjects that she tackles.
In fact, Bee might have more in common with Oliver’s program than Trevor Noah’s current iteration of The Daily Show. While Noah – who is effortlessly charming – tends to have some nicer, punch-pulling jokes that often remark on his outsider-looking-in role in when it comes to American politics, Bee has no problem going for the jugular. She’s always ready to attack the issues that are important – Trump’s crazy deportation plans, the government’s insistence on trying to control women’s bodies – and she doesn’t hesitate to destroy the stereotype of “polite, smiling women.” Samantha Bee doesn’t care if you think she’s angry and doesn’t care if you think she should smile.
Throughout the first five episodes, Bee has already honed a wonderful persona, a late night host who warmly invites you in and then talks smack that makes great use of cable’s lax expletive rules. Even if it may seem late in the game to start in on the election, Bee is able to tackle the same candidates, the same problems, and the same infuriating debates as all the other hosts in a way that doesn’t make her seem repetitive or boring. What’s more, Bee already has the best descriptors in the game: Marco Rubio is a “first time chair user,” feminist website Jezebel is the “maxi pad of record,” and Donald Trump is everything from a “tangerine-tinted trash can fire” to a “sentient Caps Lock button.”
But Bee isn’t just focusing on the election season. In one segment, she travels to meet with Syrian refugees (and helps them assimilate to American culture by teaching them phrases such as “I liked the book better”). In another segment titled “Job Fair for Future Women” Bee goes in on the rampant sexism, harassment, and abuse in jobs ranging from Park Ranger to her own industry in comedy. “Every time a woman opens her mouth to tell a joke, someone tries to put their dick in it,” Bee concludes, providing the best example of the sting of Full Frontal.
There are still some rough edges to smooth out, such as the show bearing perhaps too much of a resemblance to The Daily Show’s format and the fact that her social team isn’t living up to the quality of the actual program just yet — plus, most of the segments, while great, aren’t particularly ripe to go “viral” which is an actual thing Late Night shows have to take into consideration now (and perhaps Full Frontal doubly so, since it’s hidden on TBS instead of one of the basic networks). But these are all easily fixable problems. Full Frontal is already off to a good start, and it’s going to shine as we creep closer and closer to the election.