Bee raised eyebrows earlier this week on her TBS program “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” when she called into question Fallon’s handling of a guest appearance by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. The NBC host asked no questions about Trump’s policies or about his decision to end his questioning of where President Barack Obama was born, and focused instead on the frivolity that is a regular part of his “Tonight” show. In a segment that generated viral attention, Fallon messed up Trump’s hair, revealing what looked to be a massive comb-over.
Bee’s comments seemed to move against what has developed into an unspoken policy in an era when David Letterman and Jay Leno are no longer squabbling over who should have Johnny Carson’s “Tonight” chair. These days, TV’s late-night hosts don’t poke as much fun at their contemporaries. On Wednesday, however, Bee said Fallon wasn’t her true target.
“We love Jimmy. I’m a fan of Jimmy. It’s not really a Jimmy thing,” Bee said while speaking to reporters Wednesday afternoon. “It was more for me an NBC thing, to be perfectly honest with you.”
For two weeks, in unflinching terms, Bee has taken NBC to task for the way its operatives have interacted with Donald Trump. Last week on “Full Frontal,” she likened “Today” show co-anchor Matt Lauer to “human Splenda,” noting he bobbled a chance to ask Trump harder questions. The same, she suggested, was true of Fallon on “Tonight” when Trump appeared last week.
“I have more of a qualm with a network that has just provided a forum for this person for so long. If you go back, even when ‘The Apprentice’ was on, he was totally engaged with all that ‘birther’ nonsense, which to me is the most thinly veiled of thinly veiled racism. That was a real long time ago, and that’s only grown and grown,” said Bee, citing Trump’s appearance last season on “Saturday Night Live.” “I’m just tired of it. I’m tired of enabling a person to look like just this guy who likes to have fun.”
If Bee isn’t careful, she is likely to draw comparisons to her former employer, Jon Stewart, who regularly – and famously – skewered media outlets like CNBC, CNN’s “Crossfire” and Fox News Channel on his “Daily Show” for the way they handled the passing along of news and information to the general populace.
The combination of Fallon’s interaction with Trump and Lauer’s interview with him at a “forum” NBC News held the week prior sent Bee and her staff into paroxysms, she suggested. “I think we were just done. We were just done with these gossamer-like interviews of this person and the continued normalizing of deplorable,” said Bee. “We’ve just had it. We’ve just had it.”
A spokesman for NBC Entertainment said executives at the NBCUniversal unit declined to comment.
Audiences are likely, however, to have more of Samantha Bee. TBS is tweaking the schedule for “Full Frontal” over the next few weeks, so that the host and her staff can comment more directly on the coming Presidential debates. “Full Frontal” will air on Wednesday, September 28,and Wednesday, October 5 – two days after a debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on Monday, September 26 and one day after a debate between vice-presidential candidates Mike Pence and Tim Kaine. “Full Frontal” will also air on November 9 – a day after Election Day, Bee said. The show typically airs original episodes on Monday nights.
The moves show Bee and her producers working to gain additional traction for their weekly program. While “Full Frontal” is lumped in with other late-night programming, the show avoids many of the genre’s conventions. Bee doesn’t interview guests or open with a light monologue. Instead, she rips out stinging commentary peppered with profanity, which she bills as an attempt to offer viewers both humor and catharsis.
“I do think we’re doing something different, and I really cherish that,” she said Wednesday. “The more we do things differently, the more I love it.”