PHILADELPHIA — Samantha Bee has been a United States citizen for only a couple of years, but the breakout comedy star has a few things to say about American politics.
And for the multitudes who are threatening to move to her native Canada if the wrong candidate is elected, she has a message:
“There’s no room in Canada for discontented Americans,” the Toronto native told me firmly on Wednesday. “Canada is full, and doing responsible things like taking in refugees.”
So Americans will need to deal with whatever happens in November and beyond. Her advice: “Stay where you are. Live in your mess.”
On a Facebook Live appearance with The Washington Post at the Democratic National Convention, Bee offered reflections on the role of satire in the political sphere and talked about whether she was ever considered seriously to succeed Jon Stewart when he left Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” (She worked on the show for 12 years, some of that time as its only female correspondent.)
Her Monday night half-hour show, “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee,” is a hit on TBS, both with audience and with critics. Hunting for satirical targets, she set up shop during both the Democratic and Republican national conventions.
Perched on a stool in a corner of Philadelphia’s City Tap House, The Post’s headquarters for the convention week, Bee wore a fitted, black-and-green print dress that swirled at the hemline. (“It’s Givenchy,” she told me in an embarrassed whisper when I inquired. “A splurge.”)
We talked about her ambitions for her three children; the eldest is 10. Born in America, they can all be president, I noted. “They can, and I expect them all to be,” she said.
Bee rejects the notion that late-night comedy — with the likes of John Oliver and Stephen Colbert — seems to have an outsize influence on informing Americans about politics.
“I think the key word is ‘seems,’ ” she said. “We may seem to have influence, but we really don’t. We love to put our white-hot laser on things but that can’t be the point of what we’re doing.”
As for taking Stewart’s place, she said that was never in the cards.
“The ideal situation was to do my own thing exactly the way I wanted to do it,” she said. “It was everybody else’s deal” that she should have been the successor. “I wanted to be headed in my own direction.”
That has been disappointing to a lot of viewers. Soon after “Full Frontal” debuted in February, Steve Almond wrote in Salon, “it’s become painfully obvious that ‘The Daily Show’ squandered its shot at a political comedy dynasty by betting on the wrong host.”
It should have been Bee, he wrote. Instead, the nod went to Trevor Noah, who has made the show worse than unfunny — with a few exceptional moments, he said, “he’s made it irrelevant.”
Meanwhile, critics love her TBS show — she gets 100 percent approval from them on Rotten Tomatoes. And although comparative ratings are hard to tease out, given that her show appears only once a week, there can be no doubt that Bee has, well, buzz.
This year, Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times quoted her husband, Jason Jones, who criticized Comedy Central for evidently never seriously considering her to succeed Stewart: “The fact that she wasn’t approached is a little shocking, to say the least.”
Bee, who is in her mid-40s, grew up in Toronto and helped found a sketch comedy troupe there, the Atomic Fireballs, before joining “The Daily Show” in 2003. When she and Jones co-hosted “The Daily Show” in Stewart’s absence in 2014, the couple said they had recently become American citizens.
In the past few days, Bee made news when she pushed back against a TBS tweet that mocked Hillary Clinton’s laugh and used the hashtag #ImWithHyena. Bee retweeted it with the biting Twitter putdown: “Delete your account.” The network didn’t go quite that far, but it did delete the offending tweet.
After initially dissing Clinton’s choice of Timothy M. Kaine as a running mate, she took another look. And then another, appreciating his call to do good for others, as his Jesuit high school had instructed. Soon, she was calling him “a walking hug” and “a Ferrari minivan with airbags.”
Smitten, she invited the veep hopeful to “Take my panties, Tim Kaine. I mean my vote. No, I mean my panties.”
As for the two conventions, she described them as “so tonally different.”
“They are worlds apart — for one thing, there are people of color here.” But as a comedic resource, the Republican convention offered riches at every turn. Not so much in Philadelphia, where she said that she and her team have been feeling inspired and moved at the speeches, but not finding too much fodder for comedy.
On the hot topic of Fox News and Roger Ailes, Bee recently congratulated the deposed executive for “finally achieving your ultimate fantasy,” as she showed a photo of Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly. The punch line, alas, can’t be fully printed here, but it has to do with an encounter with “two gorgeous employees at the same time.” (Carlson, a former Fox host, has accused Ailes of sexual harassment in a lawsuit; Kelly, according to news reports, alleged he harassed her, too. Ailes denies it all.)
Bee described herself as “shocked/not-shocked” about the claims against Ailes, and added, “It feels like a huge moment in time.”
Bee told me that while in Cleveland last week, she was approached by many current and former Fox News employees who grasped her arm and said they would have had plenty to spill if not for their non-disclosure agreements.
They should rethink their caution, and come on the show, she said.
“We could put them in a black shroud. We have ways.”
For more by Margaret Sullivan visit wapo.st/sullivan