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October 31, 2018

STAY TUNED: Laugh To Keep From Crying (with Samantha Bee)

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Samantha Bee is the host of Full Frontal, the weekly comedy show on TBS, and was a long-time correspondent on The Daily Show. She speaks with Preet about #MeToo, women’s anger, and finding humor in very dark news. Plus, that time she got in trouble for saying the word feckless. And, Preet breaks down the latest on Jamal Khashoggi. Do you have a question for Preet? Tweet them to @PreetBharara with the hashtag #askpreet, email [email protected], or call 669-247-7338 and leave a voicemail.

Preet Bharara: Samantha Bee?

Samantha Bee: Yes?

Preet Bharara: Thank you for being on the show.

Samantha Bee: I’m so delighted that you had me.

Preet Bharara: It’s—can I say a quick thank you first?

Samantha Bee: What?

Preet Bharara: So, because of you—

Samantha Bee: Okay. Oh my god.

Preet Bharara: Because of you—let me get it out. My 17-year old daughter, who mostly rolls her eyes at me—

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: —thinks that it’s kind of cool that I’m talking to you.

Samantha Bee: What?

Preet Bharara: And even more importantly, her friends think it’s cool that I’m talking to you.

Samantha Bee: Really? Really!

Preet Bharara: I think you’re a big deal in that set.

Samantha Bee: That’s so nice to hear. I’m not a big deal with my own children.

Preet Bharara: Well, that’s how it works.

Samantha Bee: I know.

Preet Bharara: Can we—since you mentioned that—

Samantha Bee: Yeah.

Preet Bharara: Can we talk about your house?

Samantha Bee: Yes.

Preet Bharara: So, you’re, you’re married.

Samantha Bee: Yes.

Preet Bharara: To Jason Jones.

Samantha Bee: I am.

Preet Bharara: Who is also a comedian.

Samantha Bee: Yes. He was on The Daily Show.

Preet Bharara: Funny guy. Not as funny as you.

Samantha Bee: Bless you.

Preet Bharara: [Laughs] Wait, what?

Samantha Bee: I think he’s very funny.

Preet Bharara: But I can ask—

Samantha Bee: Yes.

Preet Bharara: So, what is it like in your house?

Samantha Bee: It’s—

Preet Bharara: Do you tell a joke, he tells a joke, you tell a joke?

Samantha Bee: Oh my gosh.

Preet Bharara: Is it just back and forth?

Samantha Bee: Can you imagine how unlivable that would be? That sounds awful.

Preet Bharara: It’d be kind of fun if you had me over.

Samantha Bee: It would be fun if you came to our carnival of a home as a guest. [Laughter] But to live in it would be insufferable.

Preet Bharara: But I guess—but I guess my question is, so—

Samantha Bee: Yes.

Preet Bharara: You know, lawyers sometimes marry each other.

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: I’m married to a lawyer. And lawyering is work, so we didn’t come home and like, I’ll do some lawyering stuff, and then you do some lawyering stuff, and then I do some.

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: So, do you studiously avoid being funny at home because it’s work?

Samantha Bee: No, no. It’s so natural for us, Preet. [Laughter] Oh my god. No, it—we, we talk about work a lot.

Preet Bharara: Yeah.

Samantha Bee: In a serious way, for sure. Yeah, we talk seriously about it. But we, we just had our anniversary. We’ve been married for 17 years.

Preet Bharara: Congratulations.

Samantha Bee: Oh, thank you. I think we still laugh together. That seems important to me. We find each other funny.

Preet Bharara: Well, do you feel—yes, I think it’s very important.

Samantha Bee: Yes.

Preet Bharara: Even in nonprofessionally funny households.

Samantha Bee: In nonprofessionally funny households, we still are not cool to our children or to each other at all.

Preet Bharara: Do you feel a relationship obligation to laugh more heartily at your husband’s jokes and vice versa?

Samantha Bee: No. Not at all. [Laughter] No, we—I don’t know. I think we’re pretty honest with each other, actually. One thing is true, though. We always have each other’s backs.

Preet Bharara: That’s important.

Samantha Bee: Like, we are each other’s biggest fan. Probably harshest critic, in a way.

Preet Bharara: Right.

Samantha Bee: We’re each other’s toughest critics.

Preet Bharara: So, when Jason tells a joke at home—

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm. Yes.

Preet Bharara: d—is it a dad joke by definition?

Samantha Bee: Yes.

Preet Bharara: And does that mean you win?

Samantha Bee: Always. But my children find him so funny.

Preet Bharara: They do?

Samantha Bee: And they don’t—yeah. They find me shrill. No, I’m joking. [Laughter] They don’t—they don’t think—it’s interesting. Obviously, we’re just as funny as each other. We go to toe to toe. But the kids don’t want to see me as funny. They don’t want to [laughs]—they don’t want to think about it, because mostly, they just want to think of me as like, the lady who comes home and puts on a housedress and picks all their Cheerios off the floor.

Preet Bharara: But they—but they know that you’re kinda cool. And their friends must think that you’re cool.

Samantha Bee: They—I don’t think so. No, I don’t think so.

Preet Bharara: No, they—do you think just my daughter’s friends think that?

Samantha Bee: I don’t really—it’s possible. Other peoples’ daughters.

Preet Bharara: It’s like a weird demographic. [Laughter]

Samantha Bee: Other peoples—other peoples’ daughters think that, which—yeah, no. And if I start to think I’m cool, they very quickly disabuse me of that notion. [Laughs] So, it’s great.

Preet Bharara: That’s what they’re for.

Samantha Bee: That’s what they’re for.

Preet Bharara: That’s why you have them.

Samantha Bee: Yup. That’s exact—that’s the only reason I have them. [Laughter]

Preet Bharara: Right. ‘Cause you’re so arrogant.

Samantha Bee: Keep it real.

Preet Bharara: Like, I’m really, really arrogant. Why don’t we have some children?

Samantha Bee: Uch, what can I . . . [laughs].

Preet Bharara: And remove—and remove that narcissism right away.

Samantha Bee: That’s right. That’s it.

Preet Bharara: It doesn’t work for all people. So, what is—what is in your hand?

Samantha Bee: Oh! I have my—

Preet Bharara: For the listeners, there’s something in Sam Bee’s hands.

Samantha Bee: A friend of mine—a friend of mine gave me three containers of Theraputty.

Preet Bharara: Theraputty.

Samantha Bee: Which is—it’s like—[laughs] it’s, it’s basically Silly Putty. It has the texture of Silly Putty, but it’s in prettier colors. And I think it’s for physical therapy for your hand.

Preet Bharara: But why are you—

Samantha Bee: Or emotional therapy for your mind. What I want to tell you is that the next phase of my life is just me and a pottery wheel. [Laughter] I’m kind of only part—partly joking. I actually love working with clay.

Preet Bharara: Okay.

Samantha Bee: I’m gonna make you a beautiful bowl. And then it’s gonna melt immediately because it’s basically Silly Putty.

Preet Bharara: What makes a person funny?

Samantha Bee: Oh, I don’t know. Next question. I don’t know! I am not sure.

Preet Bharara: Well, do we destroy the magic of it by analyzing it? So, should we not?

Samantha Bee: Possibly. I don’t know that you—I don’t know that you can really—you’re not gonna come up with a really tight answer. Needy people become funny peo—I don’t know. It was like, the only weapon I had in my arsenal when I was growing up, that’s for sure.

Preet Bharara: Well, here’s a thing you said.

Samantha Bee: Oh no. You’re gonna—aww.

Preet Bharara: You said once—I’m gonna quote from you—

Samantha Bee: Okay.

Preet Bharara: “I think that you become a comedian because all you feel is self-doubt.”

Samantha Bee: Yeah. Yes. It probably comes out of a place of insecurity, I guess.

Preet Bharara: But that must be surprising to some folks, because it takes a lot of self-confidence to get out on stage—

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: —and put yourself out there. So, how do you balance between insecurity, lack of self-confidence, and having self-confi—like, I want to understand how you square those.

Samantha Bee: I don’t know. It’s a weird—there is a—there is a weird alchemy to it. Like, I would never—I’m not the loudest per—I’ve never been—if you knew me then, you would never say, “Oh, you’ll be on TV one day doing jokes.”

Preet Bharara: So, you were on a show for a long time.

Samantha Bee: Yes.

Preet Bharara: That was a big deal to me. I watched it religiously every day.

Samantha Bee: Thank you.

Preet Bharara: Called The Daily Show.

Samantha Bee: Yes. I can see them. I can see their office from my office.

Preet Bharara: We’re sitting in your office right now, actually.

Samantha Bee: We are.

Preet Bharara: You have—you have a nice view.

Samantha Bee: I have a great view.

Preet Bharara: For cable.

Samantha Bee: Pays the bills. [Laughs]

Preet Bharara: So, so The Daily Show—you should consider a podcast sometime.

Samantha Bee: I [laughs]—well—

Preet Bharara: Pays smaller bills.

Samantha Bee: I don’t know if I could handle it. [Laughter]

Preet Bharara: So, I read about your audition—

Samantha Bee: Oh yeah.

Preet Bharara: d—for The Daily Show.

Samantha Bee: Uh-huh.

Preet Bharara: And I also have had Hasan Minhaj?

Samantha Bee: Uh-huh.

Preet Bharara: Who’s wonderful. I hope you guys are friends, ‘cause you should be friends.

Samantha Bee: Yeah, no, he’s great. His show is—he’s taping his show up the street.

Preet Bharara: Yes, the new Netflix show.

Samantha Bee: Yeah.

Preet Bharara: And he describes, with some exuberance, his audition and thrill it was to get that job on The Daily Show.

Samantha Bee: Yeah.

Preet Bharara: What was it like for you?

Samantha Bee: I think it was a similar thrill. It seemed—it was really, really a long shot. I mean, they came—they came to Toronto. They auditioned me in Toronto. And—

Preet Bharara: ‘Cause you’re Canadian.

Samantha Bee: Yeah. They were looking for a woman. They didn’t have any women on the show for a really long time. [Laughs]

Preet Bharara: And they couldn’t find any in America, so they came to—went to Canada?

Samantha Bee: They couldn’t find any—well, you know, it’s, it’s—actually, it really benefited me greatly that they did such a piss-poor search for a woman in the United states, [laughter] and just felt there was no single woman who could really capture the tone of the show. So, they did come to Toronto, because someone lured them, I suppose—

Preet Bharara: Yes.

Samantha Bee: d—to come and take a look at the bounty of women [laughter] on the market in Toronto. And so—

Preet Bharara: And at the time, you were doing what?

Samantha Bee: I was doing sketch comedy in my spare time, but I actually worked at an ad agency. I was just about to give up the performing arts entirely, actually, and transition into a real job at an ad agency.

Preet Bharara: Until fate knocked on your door.

Samantha Bee: And fate knocked on my door, yeah. I’d sort of had it. I worked a lot, but it wasn’t really consistent enough for me. I wanted to have a life. Jason and I were married. We had purchased a house. We had a nice life. And I thought, okay. I would like to have a future one day. I’d like to be able to save money and stuff. I probably shouldn’t be in the performing arts. And then, as luck would have it, I moved to New York, and the rest is history.

Preet Bharara: What was your audition like?

Samantha Bee: Uh . . .

Preet Bharara: Were you nervous?

Samantha Bee: Yes, I was nervous. I trained really hard for it. I actually worked the material really hard, because I knew that The Daily Show was my favorite show. All I really wanted to do was a good audition for them, like the best audition of my life. And then I thought, okay, that’ll be my swan song, and then that’s it.

Preet Bharara: Then back to the ad agency?

Samantha Bee: Then back to the ad agency. But I thought, oh, it’ll be fine, because if I put the most of my heart into this interview for this show that I love and really cherish, then I’ll know that I exited with honor [laughter] from this industry that has effed me over. And then I [laughs]—and then I got a call back. And so, I came to New York and I did it in the studio with Jon. And that was—that was very scary. That was very scary for me.

Preet Bharara: But if you’re scared when you’re performing comedy—

Samantha Bee: I’m not scared when I’m performing comedy. It’s—

Preet Bharara: So, how do you turn off the fear?

Samantha Bee: It’s the outside stuff. It’s the—like, having a conversation with Jon that was scary.

Preet Bharara: Right.

Samantha Bee: Doing the comedy was easy.

Preet Bharara: Are you terrified now?

Samantha Bee: It’s really intimidating. [Laughter] I’m really scared.

Preet Bharara: I see you’ve picked up the putty again.

Samantha Bee: I picked up my putty again, and now I’m just like—

Preet Bharara: You put it down, and now the putty’s back in your—I don’t know what that—it looks like a tongue.

Samantha Bee: Wouldn’t it be incredible if I sculpted something so magnificent with this putty? [Laughter] You would be so surprised.

Preet Bharara: Yes. You could—

Samantha Bee: Yeah.

Preet Bharara: You could depart with honor.

Samantha Bee: And roll it up. It just looks like a big orangey-pink tongue that’s hanging out of a dead deer’s mouth. Ew. [Laughter] I’m sorry. That wasn’t comedic.

Preet Bharara: So, that’s—no, that’s a nice image you’ve—you painted for my—

Samantha Bee: Here we go. [Laughs]

Preet Bharara: —my very sober-minded listening audience.

Samantha Bee: I know. Why are you having me on? Oh no.

Preet Bharara: ‘Cause you’re terrific.

Samantha Bee: Noo! Okay.

Preet Bharara: So, why do you think The Daily Show was such a big deal? What was the tone of the show that you thought you got?

Samantha Bee: Well, this is actually true. It’s gonna sound sad when it comes out of my mouth, but this—what they liked or saw in me was that I could perform the material, but also, I seemed really over it, like I had been in the business too long. [Laughs] Like a haggard veteran of the news. So, what they were looking for was a person who could deliver semi-serious news in a comedic way—

Preet Bharara: Right.

Samantha Bee: —who also seemed like she had been in the business for a long time and had been beaten down by it. [Laughter] They were really looking for that beaten down quality.

Preet Bharara: That was a strength.

Samantha Bee: Yes.

Preet Bharara: Yes.

Samantha Bee: [Laughs] And that was my strength. And I delivered, Preet. I delivered.

Preet Bharara: That’s not how I thought of it, but.

Samantha Bee: [Laughs] Why do I think it—well, you know, when I started there, I started in 2003. I was a very dedicated viewer of the show. But I wouldn’t say that it really kind of mainstreamed itself until 2004, 2008, you know—

Preet Bharara: Why is that?

Samantha Bee: —with the—with the elections. Because I think Jon found his footing with the show. He had changed the format enough to suit his needs, and that’s when it really—when he was able to kind of turn the ship in the direction of his own personal passions, that’s when the show really started to soar.

Preet Bharara: You did a lot of interviews, and you still do.

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: You did one with me.

Samantha Bee: Yes, I did. I know.

Preet Bharara: On the new show, Full Frontal.

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: I don’t know what that means.

Samantha Bee: It’s not even new anymore. I mean, it’s been on for two-and-a-half years or something.

Preet Bharara: Well, you know, relatively.

Samantha Bee: Relatively.

Preet Bharara: Relatively new.

Samantha Bee: I think of us established now. [Laughter] We’re like an establishment.

Preet Bharara: I don’t know that you want to use that term.

Samantha Bee: No, I know. [Laughs] Probably not.

Preet Bharara: I don’t think—it’s cutting edge still.

Samantha Bee: Thank you.

Preet Bharara: And it’s evolving. But so, you interviewed a lot of serious people—

Samantha Bee: Yes.

Preet Bharara: —in a satirical way?

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: Is that how you would describe it?

Samantha Bee: I think so.

Preet Bharara: How do you prepare for an interview of a straight, serious, non-funny person in a way that’s funny to the audience? Can you—

Samantha Bee: Well, I don’t stress over it. Also, I know the material. I know what we’re gonna be talking about, because it’s—whatever the subject matter is, it’s of particular interest to me, and so, that’s why.

Preet Bharara: ‘Cause it’s your show.

Samantha Bee: Yeah. And then I just mostly try to have fun. I mostly just try to have fun in the moment. I think you had fun, right?

Preet Bharara: I had a lot fun. I wanted to come talk about that in a—in a second.

Samantha Bee: Oh, okay. Oh, good.

Preet Bharara: But what you just said makes me think of something. Do you ever bring people in under false or mildly false pretenses?

Samantha Bee: No.

Preet Bharara: Like Sacha Baron Cohen does?

Samantha Bee: No, never.

Preet Bharara: What do you think about Sacha Baron Cohen?

Samantha Bee: I have always really liked his work. I actually didn’t watch the latest incarnation of the show. I don’t watch comedy ever.

Preet Bharara: That’s interesting.

Samantha Bee: Yeah. No, it’s not my—

Preet Bharara: I don’t listen to podcasts.

Samantha Bee: What? I do. I love them.

Preet Bharara: You don’t want to watch the competition, or is it gonna get in your head?

Samantha Bee: Um, no. I just don’t—that’s not how I relax. I don’t know, maybe I just know how the sausage is made, and I don’t find it interesting anymore. But I don’t really watch comedy all that much.

Preet Bharara: So, you know, here’s what I was impressed by, and maybe I didn’t appreciate, and maybe some folks don’t, both when I came on Full Frontal and when I did a similar kind of sketch with Hasan on The Daily Show.

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: —how much work you put into it.

Samantha Bee: Oh, it’s a lot of work. Yeah, it’s a lot of work.

Preet Bharara: So, we taped—you and I taped, I don’t know, like an hour or something like that?

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: And there were—there were various bits you did, including an S&M guy coming out of a crate—

Samantha Bee: Sure.

Preet Bharara: —which, thankfully, for my mother and father, didn’t make it into the—into the final cut.

Samantha Bee: I know. I wanted to—I was gonna ask you—I was gonna ask you if your parents watched it and liked it, or what they thought of it, because that was a concern for you.

Preet Bharara: You know, they’re not—they’re—my parents are fairly conservative.

Samantha Bee: Sure.

Preet Bharara: They like more staid stuff. They like it when like—when I’m like—

Samantha Bee: In your suit.

Preet Bharara: It’s funny. You’re literally the second comedic presence in a row that I’ve interviewed for this podcast.

Samantha Bee: Oh.

Preet Bharara: Last week was Fareed Zakaria. [Laughter] Who does—who does a lot of sketch work.

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: Now, they—

Samantha Bee: Oh yeah.

Preet Bharara: They like it when I’m on like, Fareed.

Samantha Bee: Sure.

Preet Bharara: You know, GPS.

Samantha Bee: So, what you’re saying is they didn’t like it. And I—

Preet Bharara: No, they liked it. They liked it.

Samantha Bee: No, I understand.

Preet Bharara: But you know, it’s a little—it’s a little risqué.

Samantha Bee: Sure.

Preet Bharara: But my question is, and with Hasan too, I think we taped at NYU Law School for like an hour and 20 minutes.

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: And only three or four—now, it may be that with most people, you tape just a couple of minutes and you nail it. And with me, it was so unfunny that there was only four good minutes.

Samantha Bee: It was just—it was—[laughs].

Preet Bharara: So, if that’s true, you could just say so, and it’s—and it’s fine, and then give me some putty.

Samantha Bee: Yeah. Normally, we just choose three or four minutes with the [?experts] [00:13:15].

Preet Bharara: But there’s a lot—but a lot of people wrote a lot of stuff.

Samantha Bee: Yeah.

Preet Bharara: And figured out a lot of funny things to do.

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm. And a lot of the things that we do were still funny. When I sit down to do an interview, there are so many directions a piece could possibly take. We think that we know what the through line is going in. We think that we know what it will be. But a conversation can take you in interesting directions, and so you want to be able to pivot and follow the direction of the person that you’re speaking with, or follow the theme in a different way. The news also changes. We need to be a little bit nimble, so we always really overshoot and then see what works best.

Preet Bharara: Is political comedy more difficult than other kinds of comedy?

Samantha Bee: I don’t know. I don’t really do other kinds of comedy. [Laughter] I don’t know. It all seems hard to me. Comedy’s—you know, it’s—listen, it’s not hard work in the sense that work is hard. I mean, it’s still performing.

Preet Bharara: Right. You don’t have calluses.

Samantha Bee: It’s still pretty cushy, and it’s fun to do. You know, it’s a lot of like, thinking, and doing, and trying, and experimenting. So, it’s actually to get to a place of comedy that people sort of shrug off, actually—it’s a pretty arduous journey.

Preet Bharara: Did you think it was weird, going back to The Daily Show for a second—

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: —that lots and lots of people would get their actual direct news from The Daily Show? I mean, literally fake news.

Samantha Bee: Right.

Preet Bharara: Jon Stewart would joke about that.

Samantha Bee: Right, right. I mean—

Preet Bharara: Was that odd?

Samantha Bee: I think that it’s not true. I think that people say that a lot, but that it’s not really strictly accurate. I think that if you didn’t have some comprehension of what was going on—if you didn’t have some understanding of the news of the day, I don’t think you would find these shows very funny or engaging. I think you come to it with more knowledge than you think you have. And so, it’s really just a different way to analyze the news. I mean, I think there are—we’re following the techniques of journalism, and we have journalists working for us. Certainly, I do.

Preet Bharara: Yeah, why do—why do you have journalists?

Samantha Bee: Because being, being accurate is very important. I think it’s, it’s very important to us. We work very hard. We fact check constantly.

Preet Bharara: But explain that. Because part of what you’re doing in comedy is exaggeration.

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: And a little bit making things up, right? And embellishing. So, explain to people why it is, then, you need—

Samantha Bee: Well, I mean, it’s okay to make up that Mitch McConnell has another Mitch McConnell living in his chin. [Laughter] Like, that’s made up.

Preet Bharara: It is?

Samantha Bee: I hope it’s made up. But we want to be clear about the stories that we’re telling, ‘cause they’re important to us.

Preet Bharara: That there is a Mitch McConnell, and that he has a chin.

Samantha Bee: And that he has a chin, that he has another—

Preet Bharara: So, you have your journalists. They fact check that.

Samantha Bee: Yeah. Yes. [Laughs]

Preet Bharara: I think I understand that.

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: Someone said about you—I’m gonna do this quote thing again.

Samantha Bee: Oh my god.

Preet Bharara: It has been reported to me that someone has said about you.

Samantha Bee: Uh-oh. Oh boy.

Preet Bharara: And I want to understand this, ‘cause I think this is very important.

Samantha Bee: Okay.

Preet Bharara: Especially in this day and age, and I want to come to the present.

Samantha Bee: Let me get my therapeutic putty.

Preet Bharara: That you are simultaneously the voice of anger and reason.

Samantha Bee: Hm. That’s flattering.

Preet Bharara: Are those—are those compatible?

Samantha Bee: Sure. I guess so. Someone said it. It must be true. [Laughter]

Preet Bharara: Right.

Samantha Bee: This is why I don’t read anything about myself, ‘cause I can’t—I can’t think about it.

Preet Bharara: Okay. So, are you angry? Are you angry?

Samantha Bee: [Laughs] Well, sure.

Preet Bharara: I mean, not right now, ‘cause you’re very—

Samantha Bee: But not right now. I mean, yeah, no. I think we all kind of—this is a very trying time. It’s a very troubling time. There’s always something I can get myself in a knot about, for sure. Yeah, I’m super—

Preet Bharara: But are you looking for that, or you just happen to be angry in these trying times?

Samantha Bee: Well, you don’t have to look very far to find something that flames the fire of outrage these days.

Preet Bharara: So, what are the top three things for you that inflame the fires of outrage?

Samantha Bee: Well, we have a show, and we have a—we have a show on Wednesday. I’m saving it all up for the show.

Preet Bharara: Oh, come on. I mean generally.

Samantha Bee: I don’t—but I don’t like—

Preet Bharara: Okay, how about last week?

Samantha Bee: But you know, I don’t—I don’t—well, obviously, the killing of a journalist at the Turkish consulate was very troubling, and I don’t think that we have reckoned with that. You know, that’s an example of something that’s very well-covered. There’s not much we can add to the conversation about that particular story, so we probably won’t talk about it on Wednesday. But there are other things that are happening that we will.

Preet Bharara: The issue is not that, as it might be for some people—

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: —that it’s impossible to say anything about that circumstance.

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: Because it’s so tragic.

Samantha Bee: I mean, certainly we’ve been confronted with stories that just don’t make any sense for us to do. We just couldn’t figure out a way to frame it comedically. You feel limited. The comedic angle does not make itself known, and so you kind of mull the stories for a little while. And sometimes it just never make itself known.

Preet Bharara: The comedic angle doesn’t make itself known.

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: As if you’re just trying to discover the thing, not make the thing.

Samantha Bee: Yeah. You want to discover something that emerges from the material itself. It’s all about—it’s magic. We just a spell and see what happens. [Laughter]

Preet Bharara: You just find it.

Samantha Bee: Yeah, we just find it.

Preet Bharara: And you—and you just play with your putty.

Samantha Bee: Yeah, you just find it. You see.

Preet Bharara: But you’ve—but you’ve made a difference sometimes when you’ve covered a story. So, for example, the Georgia rape kits.

Samantha Bee: I don’t—you know—

Preet Bharara: Tell that story for a second.

Samantha Bee: Well, okay. There were a whole lot of people working behind the scenes to close the loophole regarding rape kits in Georgia. So, it wasn’t—

Preet Bharara: ‘Cause they weren’t being tested in a timely way.

Samantha Bee: Yeah. They weren’t being tested. Yeah. So, it was not our work that changed things. It was the decades of work before us that actually made change. We keep getting credit for it, but it was not—I mean, we brought the issue to light for sure. I don’t know if that subtly expedited things, or just pulling it into the national conversation. But I think it would have happened without us as well. There were people on the scene. I don’t like to take credit for things like that because I know it’s not—I know it’s not the show. I know it’s the hard work of lots of—lots and lots of people on the ground in Georgia.

Preet Bharara: What do you—what do you find most gratifying about this work you do?

Samantha Bee: It really merges my two favorite styles of entertainment. [Laughter] Journalism and comedy. It’s not—you know, I love to be able to break down news. It’s just a genre of television that I have personally enjoyed and benefitted from for so long now. Like, I loved The Daily Show.

Preet Bharara: Yeah.

Samantha Bee: It was the perfect convergence of things that I really care deeply about. Getting to work with it in this way is—it’s incredibly gratifying. I like to talk about things that other people aren’t talking about, or put a spin on them, make them palatable, analyze things.

Preet Bharara: Do you have advice for journalists from your perspective? Could they do a better job in some ways?

Samantha Bee: Oh, sure. A lot of them could do a better job. But I actually think there’s tons of great journalism happening right now. And you know, one of the things that we don’t have to worry about and what gives us the freedom to speak the way that we do, to speak the way that I do on the show, is that we have no access to anyone. There’s no pretense of access. Like, we don’t have to actually worry that the White House won’t let us into their dumb briefings. We’ll never be invited. We’re not invited to any—we’re not invited to the party. So, we get to say whatever, and no one can ever stop us. Well, they can, but. [Laughs]

Preet Bharara: Well, thank you for the segue.

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm. You’re welcome.

Preet Bharara: I was wondering, how am I gonna get into this other topic?

Samantha Bee: Yeah.

Preet Bharara: So, there are limits—

Samantha Bee: Sure.

Preet Bharara: —on what people can say, not because there’s a law against it, but because of, you know, what peoples’ reactions might be.

Samantha Bee: Sure.

Preet Bharara: And so, there was a time when you said something—

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: —that made a lot of people upset, including, specifically and most vehemently, the White House.

Samantha Bee: Yes.

Preet Bharara: And I have another quote before I get to that question.

Samantha Bee: Well, I hope to upset them many more times.

Preet Bharara: [Laughs] Your husband, Mr. Sam Bee, said, “A lot of performers will not go as far as she’s willing to go.

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: And so, my first question is—

Samantha Bee: He said that?

Preet Bharara: I’m told.

Samantha Bee: That’s sweet. I love him.

Preet Bharara: Why is it important to go far? And what did you learn, if anything, from the time when you, on your show—

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: —referred to Ivanka Trump as a—as a feckless C-word?

Samantha Bee: Have you noticed, have you just remarked the number of times and ways that you’ve heard the word “feckless” since then? I’m just saying.

Preet Bharara: I don’t—

Samantha Bee: Did you ever hear it before? Do you hear it now? Yes you do.

Preet Bharara: I don’t—every week, someone says a word on this show that I don’t understand.

Samantha Bee: Everywhere you go. [Laughs]

Preet Bharara: Last week, Fareed Zakaria, your co-comedian—

Samantha Bee: Sure.

Preet Bharara: —said “anodyne,” and he never defined it.

Samantha Bee: Oh, good for him.

Preet Bharara: So, you got in trouble because you said “feckless.”

Samantha Bee: I did. Yeah, I did. Got—I mean, got in trouble. It was—it was terrible. It was a word that I had used on the show, I don’t know, 25 times prior to that moment. It was just contextually, I think, in the news cycle, everybody was very much talking about Roseanne. It inflamed people in the exact—exactly unintended way. I knew it would be—

Preet Bharara: For context, maybe not everyone knows the story—

Samantha Bee: Uh-huh.

Preet Bharara: —you were doing a bit on—and you were angry about—

Samantha Bee: The migrant children, yeah.

Preet Bharara: —the separation of families at the border.

Samantha Bee: Surely, I was.

Preet Bharara: And then you made a reference to Ivanka Trump.

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: Who you were basically accusing of being what, a hypocrite?

Samantha Bee: I mean, going back in time, the story—it had not really taken hold of the public consciousness until the weekend prior to the show. And when people really all of a sudden learned that children were being separated from their parents, and the news cycle over the weekend was all about babies being taken from their parents. It was terrible. It was a real reckoning. And the news cycle was—it was just captivated. There was nothing else to talk about. We should still only be talk—I mean, you know. It’s one of the things we should—

Preet Bharara: It’s not done. It’s not fixed. It’s not fixed.

Samantha Bee: It’s, it’s not fixed.

Preet Bharara: Right.

Samantha Bee: Not by a long shot. It was outrageous. People were freaking out. You would have to be living under a rock in the Marianas Trench to miss that news cycle, particularly if you work at the White House. And so, that weekend, she just put out a—it was a really super tone deaf tweet about her own kid. And it was—it was . . .

Preet Bharara: Did it anger you?

Samantha Bee: I interpreted it as purposeful and cruel, actually. And so, that was the end point of the act that we did about children being separated from their parents, which we were all so angry and just inconsolable about. That was the end of the act. It was too much for people. It’s a fairly puritanical country, if I can just be honest about that. I come from Canada. We don’t care about the C-word there. Not that much. And people flipped out. But—

Preet Bharara: But do you understand why they did?

Samantha Bee: Uh . . . frankly, no. Frankly, no. And I don’t think that I’ll—I’m starting to get really mad. [Laughter] Frankly, no. I actually don’t. I understand—

Preet Bharara: I have that effect. I have that effect on people. Even without subpoena power, I have that effect.

Samantha Bee: I understand why a sliver of her audience—why it was upsetting for them. Okay, it’s a powerful word. It’s something that I used very consistently on the show. So, to me, I didn’t think that it was going to be such an outrageous moment. And no, I frankly don’t understand why the entire news media pivoted to that. I don’t. There was a much bigger issue, much broader issue to be angry about that everyone could have been focusing on. And they did not. And for many, many days thereafter, it was all about a word that I said. It was really the word heard round the world. I certainly have friends who have friends in Guatemala, and they were like, “Hey, we heard about this thing that you did.” [Laughter] Like, it really was—

Preet Bharara: Yeah.

Samantha Bee: It was really a moment. I don’t relish it. A lot of my audience was unhappy with it, so I understood that. Okay. I get it.

Preet Bharara: Why do you think your audience was unhappy about it? Like, you can understand why—

Samantha Bee: Well, for a lot of people, it’s—

Preet Bharara: —Ivanka Trump’s people would be unhappy, but why yours?

Samantha Bee: For a lot of people it’s—you know, it’s the worst word that’s been used against them in the worst day on their life, so you don’t want to—you don’t want to trigger people in that way, necessarily. So, I understood. I walked it back.

Preet Bharara: You apologized.

Samantha Bee: I did.

Preet Bharara: Why’d you apologize?

Samantha Bee: Because it was—okay, it was too far for people. That’s fine. I understand. Okay, message received. And I was very apologetic, in particular that it took the story out of the news. I mean, it took the story of the migrant children out of the news cycle. It bumped it out of the news cycle. That’s crazy to me. That was outrageous. I’m still—I’ll never, ever, ever be able to believe that that happened, but it did.

Preet Bharara: How do you keep your edge after that? And do you have to be worried now or your staff worried now—

Samantha Bee: No. You know what?

Preet Bharara: —that the next thing is gonna blow up in that way?

Samantha Bee: I have to say that I have to give a lot of credit to the people who are responsible for us having a show on the air. They were very good about it. We were very supported here. I’m very grateful for that. And I don’t think that we’ve pulled back our edges at all. I now understand perhaps that that word is too much, and it’s too much for—

Preet Bharara: Are you gonna stop—are you gonna stop using the word, even in other contexts?

Samantha Bee: I actually did stop. Yes, I did. Because it seems to be [laughs]—it sees to be too distracting.

Preet Bharara: I want to talk about another issue—

Samantha Bee: Sure.

Preet Bharara: —that is much in the news, the #MeToo movement.

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: Lots of bad things being done by lots of people in power—

Samantha Bee: Sure.

Preet Bharara: —in the media industry and in the comedy business.

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: Including, you know, people like Louie C.K. and others.

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: What do you make of that? Do you think it’s equally prevalent everywhere, or do you think certain industries have a bigger problem with males using their power?

Samantha Bee: Oh my god. That’s such an adorable question. [Laughter] That’s adorable. Now I’m gonna just—

Preet Bharara: I’m trying to—

Samantha Bee: —look into the eyes of every other woman who’s in the room. [Laughter] Yes, it’s as prevalent in every other industry. Of course, yes.

Preet Bharara: What’s interesting about that is the stories that you read about—

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: —are focused on some industries and not others.

Samantha Bee: Sure.

Preet Bharara: So, for example—so, I don’t know quite why that is.

Samantha Bee: Well, I think that there are a fair number of industries that aren’t really ready for their reckoning yet.

Preet Bharara: Maybe. Like the legal industry.

Samantha Bee: The legal industry.

Preet Bharara: You don’t hear a lot of stories from the legal industry.

Samantha Bee: You don’t hear a lot of stories about the financial services industry.

Preet Bharara: Right.

Samantha Bee: I don’t hear any. But I know that there are—there are a lot of stories to be told emerging from that world.

Preet Bharara: Yeah.

Samantha Bee: I mean, that world is nuts.

Preet Bharara: So, you don’t think there’s anything in particular about media, journalism, or company?

Samantha Bee: Not at all. Wherever there are men and women together, there are #MeToo stories. [Laughs]

Preet Bharara: Yeah.

Samantha Bee: So.

Preet Bharara: Do you think we’ve, we’ve learned anything from the last year, especially as we are here, just a couple of weeks removed from Brett Kavanaugh being confirmed?

Samantha Bee: I mean, have we learned anything? I think we are [sighs]—I think women have learned something. I think that we have learned that our stories don’t have value to a lot of the people in power right now. I certainly—I’m speaking personally—more people told me their own stories that they’ve never told anybody before in the last couple of weeks than ever before in my life. Everybody’s got a story. If you don’t have a story, that’s great. But most people do. And so, obviously, we watched the Kavanaugh hearings laying down. Like, I watched it laying down on the couch. Like, we were distraught by it. People were walking out of their offices. People were watching the Kavanaugh hearings in bars, ‘kay? It was a moment for this country. Have we learned anything? Well, we’ve learned that every woman has a story. We’ve learned that women are pretty angry. We know that social movements often come out of women’s anger. So, we’ll see what happens. I don’t know. I learned a lot. None of it was good.

Preet Bharara: Yeah. No, I’ve heard that a lot.

Samantha Bee: Yeah.

Preet Bharara: The Kavanaugh hearings have just ended.

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: But there’s a future event coming up.

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: Called the midterm elections.

Samantha Bee: Sure.

Preet Bharara: And you spend time on the show and otherwise talking about how people should vote. It seems very obvious.

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: And there are lots of campaigns about getting people to vote.

Samantha Bee: Yeah.

Preet Bharara: Why do you think it’s so hard to get people to vote in this country?

Samantha Bee: I don’t know. It just doesn’t feel like . . . we’ve really inculcated that feeling of civic engagement, of pride in voting. I don’t understand it. We also should have a day off for voting.

Preet Bharara: Yes, we should.

Samantha Bee: I mean, for one thing, we could just give people the day off. We certainly are gerrymandering like there’s no tomorrow. Voter suppression is rampant. I can understand why someone would look at that system and think, I have no place in that. But the one thing that I do know is that if you want to make change, it’s the—one of the only weapons that you have. I know that change won’t happen if people don’t use their vote.

Preet Bharara: Right.

Samantha Bee: So, I don’t know. I don’t have an answer for you.

Preet Bharara: And then one of the reasons I ask the question is that you’ve talked about on the show, and you know, you make some fun of the issue in the sense that you created like a game on a phone to get people to—

Samantha Bee: I seem like a real hoot in this interview, by the way. [Laughter] I’m very fully aware that I’m like, using my Theraputty and getting really sweaty. [Laughs]

Preet Bharara: I didn’t—I didn’t notice.

Samantha Bee: We made a game!

Preet Bharara: I didn’t notice that. Right, but was it—

Samantha Bee: Yes, we made a game. For sure. To see if we could incentivize people—

Preet Bharara: Yeah.

Samantha Bee: —to care about their vote. There are a couple of things that really-that really cause people to vote. Based on the data, one of the things that can cause someone to vote is a feeling of shame. Like, if you out somebody with the details of their voting history and the fact that they don’t vote, they can often be shamed into voting. We did not want to do that. But we did wonder if it would be possible to incentivize people to vote in other ways. Like, you know, another thing that’s a very positive indicator as to whether or not someone will vote is if they have a plan for voting. So, you can shame people to vote. You can also encourage them to make a plan. Having a plan for voting is a strong indicator that you will actually cast a vote. So, we launched a game to incentivize people with a cash prize to vote. It’s a really fun game. Have you played it? Have you downloaded it?

Preet Bharara: I have not yet.

Samantha Bee: You have not. [Gasps]

Preet Bharara: I have not yet. But I will before Thursday morning.

Samantha Bee: You, you can play it every day. We have a game today. I’m gonna download it on your phone.

Preet Bharara: Okay.

Samantha Bee: I’m gonna grab your phone, and I’m gonna put it on your phone.

Preet Bharara: Why don’t you pick the putty back up and stay away from my phone?

Samantha Bee: The music—the music alone is worth the price of admission. There is no price of admission. Just it’s a—it’s a trivia game. It’s a comedy trivia game, which really, no one has ever really done before. It’s really funny. It’s great.

Preet Bharara: You’re gonna have a show the Wednesday after the election?

Samantha Bee: We are. We have a show on the Monday and the Wednesday of that week. It’s a two-show week. It’s a very special week for us.

Preet Bharara: Listen to that, folks. Two-show week.

Samantha Bee: Two-show week. Monday and Wednesday.

Preet Bharara: Before and after.

Samantha Bee: Yup.

Preet Bharara: Do you—I assume you start thinking about the Wednesday show in advance of Wednesday.

Samantha Bee: Oh yeah. Mm-hmm.

Preet Bharara: So, do you—do you sort of have two versions of the show?

Samantha Bee: Yes.

Preet Bharara: In the same way candidates have a concession speech and a victory speech?

Samantha Bee: We do, because we learned a very powerful lesson. We had a whole show planned for, for Hillary’s victory. [Laughs] And we had to pivot really sharply off of that—

Preet Bharara: Right.

Samantha Bee: —in the overnight hours. Yes.

Preet Bharara: So, what’s the show gonna look like—just generally, without secrets, if the Republicans retain control of the House and the Senate?

Samantha Bee: Mm-hmm. Well, now that we’re mentally prepared for that happening, we should be fine. [Laughter]

Preet Bharara: You’re ment—how do you mentally prepare yourself?

Samantha Bee: We’ll have a cake for our audience, just it depends on which cake we use. We’ll have two versions of everything prepped.

Preet Bharara: Will any cakes be thrown at anyone?

Samantha Bee: No cakes will be thrown. I would never waste cake. That’s something you should know about me. I would never waste good cake.

Preet Bharara: Right. I think that’s a good principle too.

Samantha Bee: Thank you.

Preet Bharara: Last question.

Samantha Bee: Yes.

Preet Bharara: So, I’m a serious person. I had a serious job.

Samantha Bee: Yes.

Preet Bharara: [Inaudible] [00:33:28] to what I do now.

Samantha Bee: I like that you’ve become an entertainer.

Preet Bharara: I think that’s a compliment.

Samantha Bee: Preet, it is!

Preet Bharara:  A little bit.

Samantha Bee: You’re very entertaining.

Preet Bharara: But I begin talks and speeches and things with some—with some jokes.

Samantha Bee: Yes.

Preet Bharara: And, you know, it’s hard to come by.

Samantha Bee: If you need me, I’m there for you.

Preet Bharara: If I need you to help me write a joke, would you do that?

Samantha Bee: Yeah. I’m there for you. Just don’t—if it bombs, don’t tell anyone that it came from me.

Preet Bharara: Yeah, but you know, for me, [laughter] the expectations are very low.

Samantha Bee: Right.

Preet Bharara: ‘Cause you figure, former prosecutor, he’s a pretty serious, scoldy kinda guy. And if I tell like, a lame dad joke that my kids would roll their eyes at, they’re like, oh, he gave it a shot.

Samantha Bee: Yeah. I’m not gonna—I’m not gonna give you a guarantee.

Preet Bharara: Okay.

Samantha Bee: I’m not gonna—I provide no guarantees for my jokes. [Laughs]

Preet Bharara: All right. Do you have parting words for America?

Samantha Bee: Uh, [sighs] I’ve hectored them enough to vote. Guys, if you don’t vote, I just—uch, god. Look where we are today.

Preet Bharara: Yeah.

Samantha Bee: [Groans]

Preet Bharara: If they don’t vote, that putty is like, dead meat.

Samantha Bee: This putty is gonna really suffer. I’ve worked it so hard. [Laughs] Thank you.

Preet Bharara: Sam Bee.

Samantha Bee: Thanks for having me.

Preet Bharara: Thanks for being on the show. We appreciate it.

Samantha Bee: I’m getting closer to the microphone now.

Preet Bharara: [Laughs] Okay. In an act of sincerity.

Samantha Bee: Yes.

Preet Bharara: Thank you so much.

Samantha Bee: I have enjoyed this.

Preet Bharara: I did too.

Samantha Bee: Thank you.

Preet Bharara: All right.

Samantha Bee: Okay.

Preet Bharara: Okay then.

[End of Audio]

STAY TUNED WITH PREET

STAY TUNED: Laugh To Keep From Crying (with Samantha Bee)

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