Samantha Bee is now the only female host in late night, and that’s a stat she’s not happy about. “It’s a bit unsettling,” Bee recently told Variety. “It’s been a bad year to be a woman in this space. It’s not really a badge that I want to wear.”
Shows that have been canceled over the past year include E!’s “Busy Tonight,” hosted by Busy Philipps; Hulu’s Sarah Silverman series “I Love You, America”; Michelle Wolf’s Netflix show “The Break”; and BET’s “The Rundown” with Robin Thede. Before that, Chelsea Handler’s Netflix talk show was also axed after two years.
“I don’t feel good being the last woman standing in this space currently,” Bee said. “It doesn’t fill my heart with gladness that Busy was canceled, Michelle Wolf’s show is gone, Sarah Silverman’s show is gone. It’s not great.”
At least one name is on the way: Lilly Singh has been tapped to take over NBC’s 1:35 a.m. slot, replacing “Last Call with Carson Daly,” this fall. But for now, Bee is it. The host noted how challenging it is to launch a new show in this saturated marketplace — but didn’t think those shows’ networks exhibited enough patience.
“I do think the networks probably didn’t give them enough chance to find their sea legs,” she said. “They were good shows, they were moving forward, they were growing. It takes a while to grow an audience. It truly does… they just needed more time. In the late night space, it takes awhile to properly grow your audience. There are a lot of options out there and you just need to be patient with it. And let it grow and let it find its people. When you cut it off prematurely, it’s really unfortunate.”
The “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” host’s Emmy For Your Consideration campaign is leaning into the challenges Bee faces as the only woman in late night talk, while also satirizing coverage of the presidential campaigns of female candidates like Elizabeth Warren.
In a series of FYC videos, which Variety has obtained exclusively, Bee takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to figuring out how to make Emmy voters comfortable with voting for her. (Scroll to the bottom of this story for some examples.)
“In our world, we constantly see stories about women who are running for office, and the story is always, across so many journalistic endeavors, ‘Is America ready for a woman president?’ ‘Is America ready for a woman’ this or ‘Is America ready for a woman’ that, which is really a tale as old as time,” Bee said. “I thought we should lean into that for this Emmy campaign. Is America really ready for a female host? I don’t know, let’s find out! Of course, I hope so?”
Meanwhile, Bee and her “Full Frontal” team are now preparing for what will likely be a tumultuous presidential campaign season. She admits it takes “a fair amount of psychological preparation” for what they’re about to cover.
“This is always a very key time for political satire,” she said. “This is our red meat for sure. I’m excited about it. I mean, I’m filled with dread, but I’m also excited about it. Like, I’m filled with a creeping, existential horror. But I’m also excited to get going.”
“Full Frontal” is already prepping to take the show to the slate of debates, followed by next summer’s conventions. Given what’s going on with this Trump White House administration, there has been no shortage of material for Bee and company to tackle.
“The majority of our job these days is just handling the quantity of material,” Bee said, “and taking that material and trying to squeeze humor out of it in some way. It’s a challenge.”
But Bee said she also remains motivated by hearing from audiences that thank her and “Full Frontal” for providing them with a bit of a “coping mechanism” during these tumultuous times.
“This show is my coping mechanism, and I think that’s true with everyone I work with as well,” Bee said. “If we didn’t do this show on TV, we’d probably have to do this show in a barn for ourselves.”
“Full Frontal” isn’t the only series on Bee’s plate. “The Detour,” the TBS sitcom she created with husband Jason Jones (who also stars), returns Tuesday night for its fourth season. And as WarnerMedia plots its new streaming service, Bee expects more opportunity there to expand the “Full Frontal” universe.
“I think once they launch their streaming service, most certainly the intention is to create more opportunity,” she said. “I think that will bear out. But it’s not affecting the day-to-day operations of my show [right now].”
Here are some of the videos Bee has shot for this year’s Emmy FYC campaign, under the banner, “Is America Ready To Give A Female Host an Emmy?”: