Samantha Bee pulls no punches in the premiere of her new TBS late-night on Mondays.
The cold open of “Full-Frontal” is a sketch in which reporters ask Bee questions on how she will be able to do things, like host a late-night show, specifically as a woman. As she is the lone female host of a late-night, Bee must have thought it was an important question to answer right away. She answers sweetly, making a joke about needing “a little bit of magic,” and then the camera cuts to a bloody, cult-like scene in which she screams, “We’re all witches!”
The first of Bee’s three main segments in the premiere focuses on the current electoral candidates and the general mood of the 2016 presidential campaign, notably Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Bee roasts all of them equally, softening towards no one, but one can tell where her political affiliations lie. She refers to this electoral year as an “electoral shitshow,” explaining to the audience how ecstatic she is that she now gets to scream to people about how much she hates the candidates instead of just her TV screen. She refers to New Hampshire as the place that “democracy goes to die” and almost offhandedly calls Hillary Hermione Clinton. All of her jokes in this segment land squarely; they’re nuanced and accurate, holding developed, yet concise, analysis without being barbs.
Her cracks about abortion are particularly poignant. She zeroes in on Marco Rubio’s remarks on Clinton’s ideas about abortions, saying that Rubio meant Clinton would be willing to have people deliver their babies “into a Vitamix so Planned Parenthood can sell [them] to Whole Foods.” Something about her power stance — Bee doesn’t confine herself to sitting behind a desk — helps drive home her point even more.
Her second segment is titled the “Elected Paperweight of the Month,” which for this episode was Kansas state Senator Mitch Holmes. The main jokes of this segment revolve around the fact that Senator Holmes established a dress code specifically for women testifying in front of his committee — the men didn’t need one because they “knew” how to dress “appropriately.” She deconstructs his remarks so thoroughly that by the end, he ends up looking like a fool.
Her final main joke of the episode felt a little too long, but that made sense given that it’s a mock documentarian look into Jeb Bush’s campaign, which looks bleaker and weaker by the second.
Though her source material is overwhelmingly political, Samantha Bee’s timing as a feminist comedian could not have been better. During the past few years especially, feminist comedians have been carving out larger and wider spaces for themselves. Even performers who don’t market themselves explicitly as feminists have been getting more comfortable having social overtones in their art. Bee’s show fits seamlessly into the lineup of art and media with overt societal messages weaved into the humor and the back-and-forth with the audience.
So Samantha Bee has picked a good time to burst into the scene. With the comic timing she developed as a correspondent on “The Daily Show,” a refreshing lack of self-deprecation in favor of pointed, focused humor and a good relationship with the camera, Bee is poised to carve out a sizable spot for herself on the nighttime circuit.