Late-night-show comedian Samantha Bee routinely hits you like a wet fish across the face. We’ve come to expect it. Her monologues on her show Full Frontal with Samantha Bee are outrageous, alarming, hilarious, and ridiculously informative. It’s like Bee sucks in the world and lets loose with a giant but precisely calibrated exhale. That Bee, however, was in little evidence last Thursday night, November 9, at The Arlington Theatre. The comedian was interviewed onstage by writer and Santa Barbara Independent columnist Starshine Roshell, and Bee’s remarks — smart, reflective, thoughtful and unfailingly gracious — were more subdued than the four-alarm WTF fire drills we’ve come to expect.
Bee, famously, is the only woman currently to have her own late-night show. Roshell wondered why she wasn’t selected to replace Jon Stewart when he stepped down from The Daily Show two years ago. “I don’t know,” she said. “Next question.” Who makes her laugh? “Sarah Silverman.” She praised her squad of writers, highlighting how intensely researched her monologues are. When an episode on rape kits helped plug a loophole in Georgia law, Bee insisted the credit belonged to activists on the ground turning the soil long before she showed up to cover it.
She talked about meeting her husband, Jason Jones, while working on a stage production of Sailor Moon and falling in love despite the fact that he wore mirror sunglasses, a clear indication, she noted, that he “was a douchey guy.” Famous for her F-bombs on-screen, Bee said she makes a point not to swear in front of her kids, who are not allowed to watch the show. They wouldn’t want to even if they could, Bee said, “because we don’t know anything anyway.”
The most impressive revelation was that Bee — a former shy girl who found her voice onstage in front of the klieg lights — nails her monologues in just one take, astonishing given how densely packed, not to mention smart, silly, and fun, they are. “I like to really blurt it out,” she said. Bee confessed she was a recovering “nice person” and what a curse it was to be “nice,” an affliction she managed to get over only a couple of years ago.
There was some grumbling in the packed-to-capacity Arlington as Roshell explored Bee’s fitness regime and how she stayed so trim. Should feminists interviewing feminists talk about such things? Bee did not weigh in on that controversy, explaining she was in a spinning class that frequently left her in tears. After about an hour, Roshell gave over her mic to members of the audience. A young woman wondered where all the college-age people were, given that UCSB had sponsored the event? Surveying the room, she said, “I feel like I’m at a dinner party with my parents’ friends.” It’s the sort of thing Samantha Bee might have said. Bee explained she always tried to engage with younger audiences, adding along the way that more men, in fact, watched her show than women. “I didn’t really answer your question, did I?” she concluded. It didn’t really matter.