The Emmy-nominated members of Full Frontal With Samantha Bee joined us in May at Vulture Festival New York, where New York Magazine writer-at-large Rebecca Traister led a conversation featuring Bee and Full Frontal’s Melinda Taub, Ashley Nicole Black, Allana Harkin, Mike Rubens, and Amy Hoggart. Here’s the complete, lightly edited transcript of that talk.
Rebecca Traister: I’m going to go down and introduce everybody one by one. Ashley Nicole Black, who is senior writer and correspondent for Full Frontal. Melinda Taub, who is head writer and producer. Samantha Bee, who is the only person whose title I failed to check.
Samantha Bee: That’s okay.
RT: So, I can assume that you are boss witch.
SB: I like that. Yes, I live in a swamp.
RT: Amy Hoggart, who is a correspondent. Mike Rubens, who is a producer and correspondent. And Allana Harkin, who is a correspondent and a producer.
RT: So, we started with that [Eric] Schneiderman clip for a specific reason: It was fucking hilarious, and also because the night the Schneiderman story broke … Between my having to pause to clean the blood from my eyeballs as I was reading it, I noticed that within hours you guys were somehow getting trolled for it.
Ashley Nicole Black: Not somehow.
SB: Yeah, that was …
RT: And I was hoping you could tell the story of what the hell happened on the night that it was reported that New York’s attorney general had beaten women, and somehow it rebounded negatively to Full Frontal.
SB: I know. Well, we had done a piece about Schneiderman, I feel like it was seven or eight months ago, in which we characterized him as a superhero. And we owned that because he really was doing just an incredible job of bringing all the AGs together, and he was putting up such great resistance, and …
ANB: Also, his name runs with Spider-Man.
SB: And it rhymes with Spider-Man. So we made all these animations of him, like leaping from tall buildings, and it was a really funny piece. It was really fun to do. I had never met him before. We sat there, we talked for about two or three hours, and that was pretty much it, and we built this piece around him. And then that just quietly existed. And then the day that the piece dropped, and I recall it dropping at 6:47 p.m., because I looked at my watch, and I was like, “I saw the headline.” I was making dinner, I saw the headline and was like, “No.” And then I read the article really fast. It was just horrifying. We learned that he had tweeted at the show that day, Eric Schneiderman had, with the animations of himself. And he was like, “Remember when I was on Full … ?” He literally clung to us like we were his feminist life raft.
RT: Like, you were gonna save …
SB: Like we were gonna save him. Like, “Remember when the feminists thought I was cool? I’m still cool. I’ve still got it.” Obviously, he knew that that story was gonna be breaking about him … And that unleashed a troll hell on our show that we haven’t … We don’t often … We’re always trolled. I mean, that’s just like a fact. But sometimes it escalated in a way that feels really different, and it is just somehow … it is in the air. Everything’s different. Everything changes. You reach a new kind of high, and that is what we experienced from that, because he did that. I mean, he’s a fucking asshole, like, for a million reasons, but …
Allana Harkin: He threw us under the bus.
SB: Yeah, he did.
Allana H: On purpose.
SB: Strategically, yeah.
ANB: He’s smart enough to know that when a man does something wrong, people are gonna look for a woman who they can blame it on.
RT: And they did, right? I mean, this is the amazing thing, is that it wasn’t just sort of random anonymous trolls — Seb Gorka was suddenly tweeting. And it reminded …
SB: By the way, he was like, “I’ve never even heard of this Sam Bee character, but … ” And I was like, you motherfucker, you’ve been following me on Twitter for a year.
ANB: He follows all of us.
SB: Yeah, he follows every person on the show.
RT: So, you guys were pretty angry.
SB: So angry. That’s a great example of just literally everybody in the office being just wild with fury. It was enraging, you know, for a million reasons. And we had a long discussion the next day about what to do with the piece. Like, do we remove it? Do we not? We did not remove it, but we retitled it, which I think was the correct thing to do.
Melinda Taub: My grandfather emailed me.
RT: Trolling you?
MT: Yeah, not on purpose, but, yes, very effectively. We had finished the show, and then he emailed me, and I was like, “Sam, we gotta do more mean jokes about Schneiderman.”
RT: I want to talk a little bit about the idea that comedy can give cover for vulgar, hot, burning, lava anger.
SB: Okay, let’s talk about that.
RT: I want to know what it feels like … Because this is a period, politically, where there’s a lot that makes a lot of us blind with fury. And I think it’s incredibly difficult for a lot of people who don’t have an outlet … Where do you get to go to say “Fuck you, Eric Schneiderman”? I mean, on Twitter, right? But especially for the writers, can you talk about: Is it cathartic? Living through this period and having to make comedy out of it, do you feel like there’s anything therapeutic about it? Is it communicatively rewarding in some way to get to write a monologue like that?
ANB: Comedy is the only way I’ve ever processed information, so it’s not … I don’t think about it as like, “Oh, it’s a special time, and now I’m doing this.” Like when I was a child, I would go to my parents and be like, “I’m so angry about this thing you did.” And they would cry laughing. It’s just something about me expressing myself makes people laugh.
RT: Was that frustrating to you though that they laughed?
ANB: Yes, extremely, and they [laughed] really hard. So, yeah, like me just expressing myself, luckily, helps to make people laugh, and that is something that my therapist and I are working on, but it is lucrative, and there you go.
MT: Yeah, I mean, it’s cathartic. It’s also terrible because we can never turn it off. Sometimes it just feels like you’re just like marinating in a sea of like …
ANB: Poop water.
SB: We have a very unique work life experience, in the sense that we have to … this is the territory that we mine for our comedy. And I think that we work with such an amazing group of people, and it’s such a collaborative space that everybody gets to, at least if you’re feeling really angry about something, you know that every other single person in the office is feeling exactly the same way. You have people to share it with at least, which is a good thing. And then we just channel all of that into 21 minutes of invective and vomit it into the eyeballs of whoever can take it that day. People must DVR the show, and then go, “Not tonight. I’m gonna give it … I just cannot. I cannot do this today, but maybe tomorrow, and then maybe Sunday.”
RT: Yeah, or, counterpoint, we sit there and being like, “I need somebody to be able to say ‘Fuck you’ on television” and wait for it to come, because I do think that there is … Yeah, it’s a lot of anger, and it’s intense, but there is a hunger for this, right? There’s a hunger for somebody to say the things that we’re thinking, though not as cleverly, and to hear it in public discourse, right? So, I also want to …
SB: But we want to do stories that are fun too.
RT: No, they are …
SB: I swear to Jesus Christ, we really do.
RT: Okay, so that leads to the next question. I first wrote about the show before it was starting. I talked to you about it, I talked to Allana back in January of 2016, and it was, you know, here we are going into an election year. And the fact that Sam was going to be the first woman to have the late-night comedy spot was crucial and long overdue, and it was a big feminist deal … But it also felt a lot lighter, the responsibility of that. At the time, I wouldn’t have said, “Oh, this feels like light and fun.” I mean, it was funny and fun, but the stakes were a lot lower, right? When you all went into this, there was certainly a political dimension. This is a comedy show that’s gonna have a directly feminist sensibility, progressive sensibility going into a crucial election year with a woman running for president. It’s crucial.
RT: And now, the stuff you have to deal with — you know, the attorney general thing brought down for beating women, kids shooting people – and you’ve had to do segments … You guys have had to write and do segments on the school shootings on a comedy show. You know, incels killing people because women won’t have sex with them. Jordan Peterson.
SB: We could just shut down the whole conversation now, and only talk about Jordan Peterson for the next 43 minutes.
MT: Sam is so mad that Jordan Peterson is Canadian.
SB: I’m so angry. How dare he?
RT: There are a lot of Canadians and Jordan Peterson. There’s a nexus here that we can get to, but there’s also … there’s the domestic gag rule and there’s an administration that wants to put immigrant children in warehouses on Army bases separated from their parents. And it feels right now like the very subjects that you’re tackling, the stakes are ratcheted up so high. Has that changed the experience of doing comedy?
Allana H: Well, I wonder, you know. I think the stakes were actually kind of high when [we] started just because a few different things. I mean, from outside in, looking at Sam too. Working in political satire for as long you did, Sam still had a ton of stuff she wanted to say in her own words. I’m speaking for you now. This is what we do.
It was sort of like a “Fuck you, now this my time, and I’m going to say what I need to say, and I’m a woman. My voice might be a little bit higher.” And the stakes around that were kind of like … Of course, we wanted the show to be successful, but we wanted this to be a new platform, and we wanted it to open doors. And I think Sam did a fantastic job.
SB: Something shifted for sure in the election. We’ve always chosen difficult subject matter from the very beginning. It does feel, now, more relentless, and the pace is very fast. We were excited. I mean, before the election happened, we were excited to just take a breath of fresh air, because it’s hard to remember what it was like in 2016. Quite honestly, it’s impossible to. It feels like ten years ago.
Allana H: You were happier.
SB: We were happier.
Allana H: We were happier.
SB: And we were … Even then we were … I remember seeking relief. I remember thinking, “Okay, we’ll just get through this election and all of this ugliness will pass, and we’ll have … You know, there’ll be a horrible torrent of misogyny and all this stuff will happen. And there’ll be obstructionists, and it will be crazy, but it won’t be like this. And then it just got so much worse. Everything just cranked up. And now, it is what it is.
RT: There was this period where you sort of had to seek out. And it’s not like you had to look hard. You had to look just where other people weren’t looking for these stories, like the the VA not making prosthetics that fit women amputees. But that was a story that was like, yes, other people should’ve been covering it, but you had to do some digging to find it. And you did that also with Russia, the Russian trolls interfering in the election. You were there before the regular media by some measures. But now, I imagine, every week you have to rip up the show, because there’s so much … I mean, without going out to seek anything, things are coming at you 90 miles an hour. Do you wind up ripping up the show multiple times a week?
MT: I mean, we kind of learned not to do that. It’s gotten frustrating, so now we just wait.
SB: And we try to put longer-form things up on the board. The field pieces are longer form. They take time to process, so we know what those are well in advance. The kind of, the deeper looks at things, we put those on the board well in advance, and they’re formed so that we have at least some idea of what the show’s gonna look like, at least two-thirds of it. That’s the hope — that you go into the week with a whole bunch of the show in place where you can just take a … And refine those elements to some extent. But we just wait longer now for one big chunk.
RT: I’m thinking of Amy’s piece from two weeks ago, after the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, where you were at the Trump rally.
Amy H: Yeah.
SB: Oh, no. Come here. I’m sorry.
Allana H: She hasn’t forgotten.
SB: I’m very sorry.
RT: You went into that rally knowing you were probably going to get a segment out of it.
Amy H: Oh, yeah.
RT: Can you tell the story of seeing the same guy?
Amy H: Sure. He and I are technically in a relationship, according to him. His name’s Randall. I met him in Iowa on the run-up to the election, and he stood out on account of his shirt and personality. And then we saw him at the inauguration, just as a coincidence. And then when we were researching … Mike produced the piece. Going to Michigan this time, someone found an article … and [Randall] goes to all the Trump rallies. He’s always in the front row. His nickname’s Front Row Joe, and he really stands out, so we knew he was there. We just went for him. He’s actually quite a nice guy.
RT: I want to talk a little bit about the DNA of the show. You worked on The Daily Show for a long time, which described itself for many years as “fake news” before fake news became like a massive political liability to truth and journalism. And I want to ask you all about your view of your role journalistically, and in terms of how you deal with the real news, because a lot of what you do is media criticism.
The week Paul Ryan resigned, I was watching cable news. No, I’m about to say bad things about it. I didn’t want to malign anybody. But my husband and I are sitting there. Like, we get the kids to bed, Paul Ryan’s resigned. We turn on the TV to our relatively trusted news sources, and there are all these people saying like, “Paul Ryan just couldn’t take the horror of the Trump administration. He’s a tax nerd. He just … He’s a real ol’ fashioned conservative. And he’s always been at odds …”
And these are people who I trust intellectually and politically. And my husband and I were sitting there and we were screaming at the television, I’m gonna say, for two nights of news where we kept hearing all of this about like, “Oh, Paul Ryan just had to leave this mess … ” And we were like, “What are you talking about? Like, where … ” And then on Wednesday we turn on Full Frontal, and my husband and I were like, “Yes.” This comedy was hilarious, but we also were getting from your comedy program something that we had been seeking from our news programs, probably not said that way. But like, the actual thing you’re communicating. And there’s a weird line there, right? Like, what job are you doing in a political landscape?
SB: Well, I will say one thing, and that is that we don’t have any masters to serve. We don’t require access to any of these people. They don’t give us … They don’t say yes to us. They don’t want to talk to us. We don’t want to talk to them. What’s the fucking point? So, we don’t have anything to lose by being truthful and saying the things that we think need to be said. Like, we have nothing to lose. They already didn’t come on our show, so it’s okay. We like it that way.
RT: And does some of the impetus for a segment like that also come from you guys sitting and watching news, and …
SB: Of course.
RT: … being frustrated with what’s not being said, and seeing that you could have a role in saying what’s not being said?
ANB: One of my favorite things about working on this show is, like, I always felt a little bit crazy, because I would watch the news, and I would be like, “How come I’m the only one who remembers three months ago? Does my brain have a greater capacity?” And now, we have this amazing software where that phrase you think you remember from there months ago, you could just type it in and find it, and you can find the clips of that person saying the exact opposite thing that they’re saying now. And I’m fairly certain the news also has that capability, but we get to use it.
RT: I want to ask a little bit about one of the things that Sam and I talked about two years ago when I wrote about the show, was its commitment to having creators, writers, producers, correspondents, who were not just white guys.
ANB: That’s what we’re here trying to tell you, Mike.
RT: I was gonna in fact ask Mike both …
Allana H: You’re safe here. You’re safe.
RT: … both how he manages to balance his commitment to such a high-powered job, and his responsibilities within his personal life.
Amy H: What you’re wearing today?
Michael Rubens: I’m so glad you asked. First of all, I get in early to pump.
SB: We make him pump in the bathroom. It’s really unsanitary.
MR: Can’t we just talk about Jordan Peterson?
RT: Mike just wants to talk about Jordan Peterson. Go, you know, yeah, I think you should say it.
MR: No, I’m not gonna say anything about Jordan Peterson.
RT: I assume that you’re a fan.
MR: Oh, such a fan.
ANB: Yeah, we’re not gonna stop talking about diversity to talk about Jordan Peterson.
RT: That’s how Jordan Peterson always wins. That’s the secret. So, I think that probably matters for a Paul Ryan story, right? Like, it probably matters to not have … to have different sensibilities. And it probably matters for all the segments that you wind up doing, that it’s not a creative staff that is like the creative staff at all the other comedy programs or news programs, or everywhere else really in the world. So, can you talk about how that functions, and how you feel like it’s shaped the show?
Allana H: We have a lot of men who work on our show.
SB: We do.
Allana H: We just only allow one on a panel.
SB: In public.
Allana H: That’s it, that’s our limit. He got it.
SB: Yeah, I think that it is … I mean, it’s essential for us. It’s something that we think about all the time. I don’t think that we’ve solved all the problems of the world, and I don’t think we’ve solved all the problems of diversity. It’s an ongoing concern for us. It’s something we think about all the time. I think we can do better. I think we should do better. We’re always trying to do better. It’s in our heads all the time.
I think that we can always do better, but it makes the show … I think it makes the show better. I mean, our show has a different role to play than other late-night shows, from my perspective. They are on every night. We are on once a week. We synthesize things differently. We have a little bit more time with stories. They often hit the same marks because they’re responding to the flow of news and they have to [hit] it that day, and they have to turn it around really fast. So, our role to play is a little bit different, but without voices, and without it being a collaborative process also where everybody’s pitching, it would be a very different type of show. Like, we’re doing a piece about Yemen on next week’s show. We can’t do that unless we have …
RT: Right. It depends on …
RT: … who the eyes and ears you have in the room and how they’re … I mean, you’ve talked to me before about how, after the Muslim ban, you had writers whose families were affected.
SB: We have people in our office who have skin in the game, and that’s just essential to make a show like this — and also, just essential in every workplace. I actually would prefer to extrapolate to the rest of the world [that] it’s essential in every workplace, it’s just not being done in every workplace.
ANB: Also, it’s having multiple people. I think a lot of workplaces are really happy. They’re like, “We got a gay. We’re done.” But when you have one it’s — and I have been many times — when you’re the one person, it’s so hard to speak up and say, “We’re looking at this wrong. We look at it another way.” But on our show, there’s a lot of us, so you don’t have that much. You can be like, “Okay, the three of us are gonna get together and say we think we should do this thing.” And you don’t have to be the only one. And I think what gets lost in the conversation [is on] a lot of shows, they hire one woman and they’re like, “We did it!” And you really didn’t do it.
SB: It’s difficult for that … If you’re the junior person, the staff writer, and you’re the only woman on a big show of men, are you really gonna be the one to lift your hand and go, “Guys, I found that to be … I found that really …” Like, it’s difficult to be that person who stands up and is the harpy in the room. It’s hard to do that — really, really, hard to do that. We’re all harpies. Even Mike’s a harpy. We appreciate him.
MT: I think it really shapes the voice of the show too to sort of have a quorum to talk to. Like, Ashley and I get each other’s Gilmore Girls jokes, which has never happened to me on any previous job.
ANB: And when there’s two of you can say, “I vouch for that joke.” Someone will laugh at it.
MT: We get so many Gilmore jokes on the show.
RT: You guys also do a lot of Harry Potter jokes, by the way.
RT: Which one of you is responsible? Are all of you responsible?
SB: We got to meet Daniel Radcliffe last week.
ANB: Yeah, we met Harry Potter.
SB: It was like a really …
Amy H: He watches the show?
SB: He watches the show …
Allana H: He fan girl-ed on our show.
SB: Yeah, he did.
MR: There was a little tug on my sleeve, and I turned around, and then he was here. But he was like, “I’m a big fan of the show.” It was incredible.
Amy H: That was not a good accent.
MR: “Hello, I’m a big fan of the show.” Exactly like that. He was exactly like that.
Allana H: I kind of feel a little bit bad for him though, because we’re just so pushy. He was just really gentle, wanted to tell us. And we’re like, “Don’t move. We need to get everybody together, and take a photograph.” He’s this big …
Allana H: … and we shoved him all … and we had our big boobs in his face.
Amy H: I think he might’ve enjoyed it.
Allana H: I hope he enjoyed it.
SB: Yeah, and he had to maintain that smile, and we’re like, “Now, my camera. Now, my camera. Now, my …” Yeah.
RT: I want to talk to you … When I said before the word, “journalistically,” and … Melinda, I can’t tell whether you were like, “No.” Your job is comedy, but you also wind up doing … I mean, I recognize it. It’s my job too. Like, you get people to tell their stories … You’re doing journalism.
ANB: I studied at the Second City. I’m not a journalist.
SB: We went to clown college for the most part.
RT: Is there anybody on the panel who feels like they’re engaged in journalism in terms of what they’re doing? Mike?
MR: I feel like it’s more hero work, but I actually did have some background in journalism. I worked at CNN, and I was at the New York Times for a little bit, and do kind of think what we do is journalism. I said it. There, I said it.
Allana H: But you went to theater school.
MR: I did.
RT: You guys have fact-checker, right?
SB: We do.
ANB: She’s a journalist.
SB: We do have a lot of … We do have journalists working at the show for sure. It’s like the intersection of … It’s as though everybody at the show has the same impulse, which is that they have this weird need to tell stories that are very important and interesting to them, and they also have to do jokes. It doesn’t make any sense in any other way. Like, who gets to merge two worlds that really don’t seem to mesh well at all?
MT: I think also, like the field department definitely does tell people’s stories like original stories, but in studio our work is so based on the work of real journalists. And I never want to take credit for their work.
RT: Right. But sometimes you do offer … Amy went to the Trump rally. It was very funny. It was comedy, but there are New York Times reporters who also could’ve gone to that same Trump rally, and did, and talked to those same people and extracted those same pieces of information about why they were there, and just put it in a different frame. Allana and Mike, I have heard, you are going this week to Ireland. Can you talk about why? People here may know why.
Allana H: Yeah, interesting you bring that up, because that story actually I pitched more with a journalist mind than a comedy mind. So you got me, Rebecca. You’re so smart. So, there’s a referendum happening on March 25th, it’s to repeal the Eighth. There’s an Eighth Amendment in Ireland. Does anyone know about it? Where the life of the fetus and the life of the mother are seen as equal and the same, have the same sort of legal rights. So, as you can imagine, abortion is illegal, but women are still going to England. They’re taking abortion pills. Women just don’t have the same sort of access to health care at all. And there’s so much shame. My whole body … I’ve got goose pimples all over my body. I really do. So, I … When I pitched this … Sorry.
SB: Let me just say this, on background: Allana’s Irish.
Allana H: I’m Irish. I have 63 first cousins. They’re all Catholic. This is gonna go really well. But when I pitched this story, everyone was like, “That’s really great, Allana. So, what’s the funny part?” I’m like, “Ireland.” And that was my pitch, and I’m going to Ireland.
SB: It’s such an opportunity to be there when history is being made, you know? And it’s … I mean …
Allana H: It’ll be huge.
SB: It’ll be huge.
Allana H: And it will have a ripple effect worldwide. And America, [the] U.S. does look to Ireland, you know? At least it’s illegal there. And as Ireland is potentially progressing, this country is regressing. And I would love to … And if this passes, oh, my … Can still recite the Our Father. You know? It will be huge. It will be massive … and it’s gonna be funny, Sam. It’s gonna be really …
SB: You can understand why we don’t … Our show, we vampire off of journalism. Our show wouldn’t exist without the incredible journalism of other people. We just couldn’t … We are synthesizing material, and we … But we can’t call ourselves … Can never … And we never ever …
RT: I know. I understand that you can’t call yourselves journalists. I would also say that I also … I’m a journalist, and I also vampire off of other journalists. And I synthesize other journalists’ reporting and then tell people what I think about it, or what I think it means in addition to doing some of my own. Like, I am a not-funny straight journalist and not a comedian, and I often see a lot of what I do in my work on your show. I think that’s the point.
MT: Maybe I just don’t know what journalism is.
RT: Yeah, well, I’m sure there are a lot of people who would say I’m not a journalist, you know? I am though. I really am.
SB: I went through a really long phase of my life where I did want to be a scary European clown. Like, I did want to go to the Jacques Lecoq School, and …
ANB: I think too, like, that piece is such a perfect example, because I could see why you would call it journalism, because we reported on something that no one was reporting on. But what we reported is that black people exist, and that’s like … That seems so obvious, and so true, that it doesn’t feel like we really …
RT: You’re not breaking the story.
RT: But the fact that to some degree you are … I mean, I’m not trying to make you guys uncomfortable by forcing to admit you’re journalists. I’m just pointing out that …
Allana H: No, after this panel, we are journalists.
ANB: We get our little hat. I’m gonna start licking pens.
RT: You also just got back from doing a field segment in your hometown in California. This is all just previews for the next few weeks of Full Frontal.
ANB: This is actually a good example of the journalism-comedy divide. So, the town that I grew up in is kind of split in half — or the district, the California 39th. And half the district is white, and half the district is really diverse. And we’ve had a Republican congressman for 30 years. And so …
RT: Is it Ed Royce?
ANB: … he retired. Ed Royce, he retired. I had been pitching for a long time that the show buy billboards that say “Ed Royce Is a Jerk” to put up in my hometown, just because I don’t have any money. I don’t have billboard money. And then he just retired, so all my plans were for nothing. And now, then, like 17 idiots entered the race, and it’s now the most expensive race in the country. But it is one of those things where it kept being like, it’s about … Let’s go to my hometown. And then it became news, and then we could do it.
But we weren’t going to do original reporting. Like, if reporters didn’t start writing about this race, this pitch probably wouldn’t have gotten picked. It became news, and then we could go, even though I already knew everything, because I’m from there. Because I’m not a journalist. And then we called journalists. We talked to journalists at the O.C. Register, and the L.A.
Times, and our fact-checker worked. And we got all the things that I said as a person who lives there we had corroborated by real journalists, before we embarked on this endeavor.
RT: The other element that’s in here is for … and this is a word that I hate whenever anybody … And I would never actually attach to any of you guys. So, it’s more like not activism, but ideology, because you’re obviously ideologically invested, right? In feminism, in anti-racism, in progressive politics, in covering what’s happening in Ireland, and what’s happening in the United States. And I want to talk a little bit about that intersection too, of being very openly invested in a political side in a lot of ways, and does that interfere with the comedy?
SB: No, I mean, that’s just … It’s grounding for the whole show. The show … Listen, I’m fucking 48 years old. I said it before, but I’ll say it again. I had nothing to lose by making this show. I had only to gain. It was like so freeing to have had a career of people-pleasing and doing things for other people for so long. To finally have the opportunity to just be like, “Well, fuck all that. Let’s just see what we get.” If we’re just, make a show that we, ourselves, like and care deeply about, let’s see what happens. It really was just like a grand experiment in a lot of ways. TBS trusted us. We were like, “Let’s do six shows before we get canceled, but we’ll make them really awesome, and we’ll make them really in a point of view and not pull any punches, and we’ll see how that goes.” And as it turns out, just doing a show that you really, really care about sometimes connects with people on a deep level.
And for that, I’m ever so grateful. There’s no other way to do the show. Like, if you didn’t care about … We care a lot about everything that we put on the show. We all care about it. The show couldn’t exist if we didn’t. It wouldn’t feel … It wouldn’t be right to do something that we didn’t care about. It doesn’t make any sense for us. I think the show would cease to exist if we did that.
RT: Somebody said earlier, I don’t remember, how hard this is to not be able to look away, right? Because you’re making comedy, and you’re making the show that is a great relief to so many people, but you’re also not ever able to turn off the news stream. It’s really hard work. And so, I actually just wanted to go through all of you and ask, what do you do to take care of yourselves and keep yourselves sane?
Amy H: What if you don’t?
RT: Well, that too.
Allana H: Well, yesterday I woke up at 6:30 and watched the royal wedding, and ate a lot of bread, because I thought that’s what English people do. Some jam on it. I really enjoyed it. I’m not gonna lie. I was just … I was entertained. All the American journalists were there, who had a great time, because they weren’t reporting on the dumpster fire. Everyone was so happy. So, I’m hoping that there’s a royal wedding every weekend. Because British taxpayers are paying for it. No more weddings for you guys.
Allana H: Don’t ruin the … Please, I just have this one thing.
MR: I’m with Amy on that, but the dress, oh, my God, it was fantastic. No, I loved it.
Allana H: Yeah, he was tweeting … You woke up at 6:30 in the morning. I was following you. You were tweeting [about] her dress.
MR: Yeah, my daughter said, “Wake me up at 4 so we can watch.” I was like, “What? No.”
Allana H: I told Rebecca I was gonna work this into her panel.
RT: I’m so glad we’re finally talking about the royal wedding.
MR: It’s really hard to disconnect. It really is hard to disconnect. And I think it’s basically having a family has helped me, because they’re like, “Close your fucking computer.” And that’s basically it, because there are some nights where I’m just like, “Someone may tweet something that’s really important!”
Amy H: I think wine helps. Turning your phone on airplane before bed. I went away this weekend, and I just like hiked and read and didn’t have my phone on at all. It was really nice. I really recommend it, but then you do feel irresponsible, and like, something could’ve happened. Fuck it. I recommend that, just turn the phone off.
RT: And when you come back, there is like 7,000 unanswered …
Amy H: A lot of people want to tap out of the royal wedding.
SB: I think I do a terrible job of self-care. I don’t think I do a good job at all. Yeah, I don’t have any secrets. I don’t sleep with my phone next to me, if that counts.
RT: Is that a new … Is that an innovation in your life?
SB: That’s a new … That’s an innovation. I put it in the bathroom, and plug it in, so that it’s ready for me when I wake up 5 in the morning. Yeah, I’m not excellent at it. I’m kind of like … Yeah, I’m not … You can see I’m very bad at it.
RT: You cook.
SB: I do love to bake.
RT: I know, I’m answering for you.
SB: I do love to bake, and I do love to cook, and that helps me actually, just like to follow a recipe, honestly, takes me into another … And I love to drive, actually love to drive. I find that so helpful. It just dislocates my … It takes my brain and bifurcates it.
RT: Do you drive around Manhattan?
SB: I do not do that. I drive upstate. You know? Like, that I find very relaxing. Not like speedily, or anything. You know? Like at a nice normal family pace.
MT: I got really into those Canadian ice dancers. They’re definitely in love. I’ve investigated. No, I really just like … I lean really hard on my friends and family, really hard sometimes. And I just try to … I tend to get really invested in things that are just as much the opposite of the news as they can be, just like baking shows, and shows about pretty houses. Just like low, low emotional stakes. Just have a break.
ANB: I always try to do things that are physically difficult, because you have to put your mental energy into that thing. And I’m very not athletic, so that’s most things for me. And then I got … I recently got a dog, and she actually very quickly learned her role in the house, because every time I opened the computer, she just lays on it, like, immediately. And like, one time, I couldn’t find my phone for a half hour, because she had been sitting on it. And when I got it, I had 37 messages, and she had sat on it while it buzzed 37 times. So, either she was really taking one for the team, or she was into it.
SB: What do you do for self-care? You write a book about women’s anger, and it helps you relax.
RT: I know. It’s the happiest I’ve been. I’m finishing writing a book about women’s anger as a political force, and I was …
SB: I can’t wait.
RT: … saying earlier that …
ANB: You didn’t interview us?
RT: Well, I mentioned it a couple times. There is a lot about the show in the book. But I will say, that it was … And that’s one of the reasons I wondered whether the show is cathartic, because for me, getting paid to think about women’s anger for the past four months … Like, I have a book contract. Somebody needs me to do this job of both being angry myself, and saying how angry I am. And listening to these clips, and being like, and they’re angry too, and let me show you why. And going through history, it has been wildly cathartic for me.
And I get to do that in my job at New York Magazine too. I get to be angry in the pages of New York, which is great. Writing the whole book about women being angry has actually like … I wanted to exercise more. I’ve slept better. It’s been a good experience.
SB: A really good one.