Many late-night hosts have regular segments they can turn to again and again to get laughs. Seth Meyers has “A Closer Look.” Jimmy Kimmel has “Mean Tweets.” Jimmy Fallon has his “Thank You Notes.” And James Corden has “Carpool Karaoke.”
On “Full Frontal,” one of TBS’ late-night entries, host Samantha Bee has none of those things. With a program that airs once a week, she doesn’t have the luxury of relying on regular concepts. “We expect to change things up for our personal interests,” says Bee in a recent interview. “I like to reinvent things as much as possible.”
Over the course of four seasons (the show’s fifth cycle just got underway), Bee has changed the set, the opening, and in recent weeks, some of her regular contributors and head writers. Earlier this month, “Full Frontal” elevated Mike Drucker and Kristen Bartlett to head writer titles, replacing Melinda Taub. The show has in recent months been running segments from new contributors like Sasheer Zamata and Kenny and Keith Lucas, while mainstays like Ashley Nicole Black and Amy Hoggart have moved on to new projects (Hoggart is leading a new comedy series on Tru TV under Bee’s auspices).
“We are going to add to our team of correspondents,” says Bee, who declined to elaborate (“I can’t do it just yet.”)
But some aspects of “Full Frontal” haven’t changed. Bee and her staff have long considered the program a weekly means of working out all the things in society and the news cycle they find absurd, and the host expects that to continue.
“If the world is crazy, at least we have 30 minutes a week to be really stupid and make something out of it and that’s a great place to be,” Bee says. “There is a lot for us to talk about.”
But she acknowledges the audience she has now may be in a different state than the one that greeted her program when it launched in 2016 before the presidential election – and have different expectations. Hilary Clinton may not have been your preferred candidate, but she would have been the statesman. There would have been a steady hand at the helm,” says Bee. “Now it’s kind of like another game. It feels like the Wild West,” she adds. “Nobody is really sleeping. Everyone is on their phone in the middle of the night looking at calls. I think we are all feeling pretty harangued. There is a feeling of tension in the air.”
None of that, she says, will keep her crew from trying to make sense of it all. “We are just figuring out ways to kind of find joy in all the tentpole moments along the road to the election,” says Bee, who vows to “really blow it out at the conventions this year. I look forward to it.”