On the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, Kara talked to Samantha Bee, the host of the TBS show “Full Frontal” who was previously a correspondent on “The Daily Show.” Bee also created the sitcom “The Detour” with her husband Jason Jones and recently launched an app to encourage civic engagement called This is Not a Game: The Game.
You can listen to the entire conversation right now in the audio player below. If you prefer to listen on your phone, Recode Decode is available wherever you listen to podcasts — including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts and Overcast.
Below, we’ve shared the full transcript of the conversation. You can also read a condensed version of the interview here.
Kara Swisher: Today in the red chair is Samantha Bee, the host of the brilliant show on TBS called “Full Frontal.” Before that, she was a long-time contributor to “The Daily Show.” Sam, welcome to Recode Decode.
Samantha Bee: Thank you. I’m so happy to be here!
I know. You’re here. You have your tea.
I have my tea.
Got the internet company to offer you a variety of snacks.
I’ve been offered all of the crunchiest snacks.
All of the crunchiest snacks. But we decided to go against that because it would make a lot of noise. So we just came from the New York Times conference, where you were talking with Cecile Richards about the new rules, I guess.
So let’s start a little bit, though, by talking about your rules and what you have achieved. Now, you’re the only female host of a … ?
Well, Sarah Silverman has her show on Netflix still. The other two ... Michelle Wolf’s show is gone now and also Robin Thede is gone.
Chelsea’s gone too, for now. I think others will emerge, but I don’t know.
So let’s talk about that, how you got there. People know who you are, but sort of the journey you got ... How you got to where you are. You were on “The Daily Show” for many years.
For a long time. For 12 years. And then Jon announced that he was leaving. I’m going to get the timeline all messed up. He announced that he was leaving. We were already ... My husband and I had developed a scripted show at TBS, and we had already shot the pilot for that. And we thought ...
What was it about?
It’s called “The Detour.” We’re shooting season four right now. It’s a very funny show, actually. You would probably love it. I think that you actually would love it.
So we were developing that. We had shot the pilot. And then he announced. And so we really ... We knew that we would leave “The Daily Show” at some point, we just wanted to jump off onto our own thing. We wanted ownership over our own property. So we had developed lots of stuff. So this was one of them. It was the first one that went to pilot. We were really proud of it and loved it.
So, when he announced that he was leaving, it was shocking but not surprising. And we thought, “Okay, it’s going to be ‘The Detour.’ Come on, ‘Detour.’ Please get picked up because we would like to leave. I think this is the time that we will leave.” And they did pick up “The Detour” and in fact, also offered me my own show within a two-week time frame. It was crazy. I was terrified, but of course, I said, “Yes.” And then after that it was really a process of getting the first season of “The Detour” ready and then starting to develop this show.
So had you thought about having your own show? Because there’s a lot of people that are on the shows of other people. And I work for other people. I like working for myself better.
Had you ever thought that you wanted to do that?
I did think that I wanted to do that. And I do recall pitching a show, pitching a kind of “60 Minutes”-style show because I do love to do field work. I like to go out in the world and do stuff. And I recall lightly pitching myself as the host of a show like that years prior. And the feedback generally being, “Why would we do that? We already have one show. We have Jon. We don’t need any more shows.”
Right because Jon takes care of it.
He does it. He takes care of everything. No more voices required!
Yeah, exactly, especially female ones.
So that was shut down. It wasn’t a driving passion. I always thought that maybe I would do that in the future, but I was kind of focused on scripted, quite honestly. So it surprised me. It came out of the blue. Honestly, no one ever believed in me before. And so that was shocking.
Right, and then they just did so you grabbed and hung on to it.
So when you were thinking ... When there were all these different shows, whether it was the one show or there were two shows? And of course, there’s the tradition of Johnny Carson and everything else, that kind of thing. What were you aiming for?
With “Full Frontal”?
There were times at “The Daily Show” — which was an amazing training ground, of course — but there were definitely times when I would do a piece and think, “Oh, I think I would push that further. I would take that further in a direction.” And really it was Jon’s ... It was his voice, not mine. So you can only push it as far as ...
Which one would you have taken further?
Well, we did a piece about a rape loophole and about rapists in prison suing for custody of their children who were the product of rape. And it was such an upsetting story for me. It wasn’t ... Jon loved the story. He absolutely pushed me to go deeper into my point of view on the story. But “The Daily Show” could only contain so much of my perspective. It really, ultimately, was not my show.
Right, because it’s now yours.
It’s now my show. And so there were areas where we pulled back out of necessity to the voice of that show that I didn’t want to. And that was the most perfect example of where I thought I could take my voice further than any other show.
So what were you trying to do? Sometimes when people are the only woman, they have to do the women’s perspective. You can’t do just your perspective.
No, I had no desire to just do the women’s perspective, but I did have a sense that it would just be different on its own, and so when people ... You end up doing a lot of press before your show launches and everyone wants to know what will be different about it, and it was very impossible to articulate that because I thought, “Well, the show will just naturally be different because it’s me.”
Because it’s you.
“Of course it will be different.” But you can’t explain that. And it was. And in fact, I had an image in my brain before we launched the show, which was that we would only have six episodes. I think they had only really picked us up for six. And of course, with television, they can cancel you after one episode.
Yes, they can and they do.
And they don’t have to even air that episode. So everything is kind of in the air. And I thought, “What I’ll do is I’ll just kick the barn doors in with the first episode of the show and these six precious episodes. And these will be our calling card for future shows.” We’ll just use these. We’ll make the episodes we can.
So it’s like a resume builder.
Yeah! And then when we get canceled because it’s too outrageous, we’ll take it somewhere else and do something with it. And in fact, it just worked. It just was something that people craved in a different way. It connected with something.
It definitely connected with people. What was your goal? I guess that sounds like ... It’s kind of an open-ended question. But what was your goal with it? What are you trying to do every week?
I don’t know that I have a goal. I actually think it’s very instinctive. I think we try to ... I’m just trying to say what the week has led to. It’s really just a voice for the things that have happened in that week, or sometimes it’s a longer perspective thing. It’s just what is emerging for us.
Right, and what’s the commentary.
What’s the commentary. We get to sit back a little bit because we’re only once a week, so that’s actually nice. That’s a gift. We don’t have to put on a show every day in the midst of ...
It would be difficult.
You do miss some of the cycles, though.
For sure, we miss a lot of cycles.
No, because it goes so quickly.
Yeah, it goes really fast.
I was thinking the op-ed New York Times thing was just a week ago or two weeks ago.
We miss a ton of things.
It goes on and on.
So when you’re doing this, when you’re trying to do these shows and be topical, one of things that has happened I think in a lot of the shows, not just yours but pretty much all of them, is they have served now almost like the editorial page used to, or as journalists used to. Do you look at that? Are you trying to do comedy or commentary? Because a lot the stuff is said on those shows, some stuff about Facebook, stuff that you’ve done, has been much more cutting than reporters have been.
What we do have is more freedom in the sense that we don’t have access to anything.
Nobody has to talk to us.
We’re not the paper of record. The stakes are not totally low, but ...
You’re not going to burn your sources.
We’re not going to burn our sources. We don’t have any. So that gives us a little bit more freedom to speak. And that was always how it felt at the “The Daily Show.” We’re like, “We’re not ... We don’t have to ... No one’s inviting us into the room. We’re not in the White House press corps. We don’t have to play nice at all.” So it’s a little bit freeing in that sense.
So you can do that.
You can basically do what you want to do.
But what’s happened is they’ve become the ... I think they’ve changed more minds than it used to be.
Have they though? I mean, I don’t know. Have they?
I think you’re influencing young people like crazy. That’s how they get their information.
Well, that would be ... That’s very nice and good.
These shows are the only things my kids watch. I know that, all of them, which is really ... I woke up yesterday and one of my sons was watching one of the shows. And that’s where he was getting his news. And that’s where he was getting his perspective on the news, which is really interesting.
That is interesting.
But you don’t think of it that way.
I don’t think of it that way because, well, I don’t reflect on that too much from a broader perspective. We’re so focused on making a show every week, and I think that the brain churns in the direction of like ...
I’m going to get to your app and things like that that you’ve been doing, the voting stuff, but how do you go about every show? Could you tell people how ...
Sure. We have ... We know what our schedule is. We try to put some longer-term things up on the board. We basically have a board, as you would do in any corporate environment.
Any AT&T employee like yourself.
That’s right. We have a beautiful white board. And we put as many long-term things up on the board as we can possibly do. So it’s very helpful to know generally what the shape of a show will be. So I do field work, and I have correspondents who also do field work. So we know generally what those stories are coming up.
Like when you went down to Puerto Rico.
Yep. And we also will put second acts or kind of longer-term ... We try to be a little bit evergreen, or larger stories that are emerging for us that maybe aren’t in the news cycle, we get those prepared with lots of research, and the writers write on them, and those are up on the board too. We generally know what the picture of a show will be. The act one is the most timely, so that is something we talk about on the Thursday after a show. But it’s not really solid because now the news cycle is so bonkers.
Right, we don’t know what it’s going to be.
I think in a previous life cycle in a different timeline ...
It’s never coming again.
Yeah, we would know. We would have a better idea of what was coming next week, but we don’t have a clue now. So it’s pointless to even talk about it. We try to think we know by Thursday or Friday, but ultimately the first act or the most topical stuff is written on a Monday, Tuesday, sometimes on a Wednesday. Yesterday, we were following the Kavanaugh stuff as it was happening, so that’s a little bit different. But we generally have a picture of two-thirds of the episodes. And then the last piece of it is the most topical, and that goes in ... We figure that out on Monday or Tuesday.
And then you tape on ...
We tape Wednesday.
Wednesday. And it goes on Friday.
Wednesday 6:00, 6:30.
So what did you do this week, because Kavanaugh was today, like right now?
It was two acts of Kavanaugh and then one act of the NFL cheerleaders.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
What’s that story? I’m sorry I missed that, given the Kavanaugh.
Oh yeah, no.
I can only look at so many stories.
There are Houston Texan cheerleaders who are suing the NFL for unpayment, like for fair wages, and for mistreatment. They’re treated absolutely just horribly by the NFL. It’s as though any of the rules that we’ve come to understand just do not apply to the cheerleaders. They are treated miserably. So we did a piece about that.
And so when you’re thinking about what you’re trying to do, do you consider yourself a comic or how do you look at it?
I don’t know.
Or wry observer of the news?
Wry observer. I’ll take that in my feathered chapeau, and a gimlet.
With a gimlet.
I don’t know how I see myself. Not really a comedian. I guess a comic performer? I don’t know. I have no way to know myself.
Right. And the season you’re in, when you’re finishing the shows, you guys have just started to really ... You use heavy use of internet. You use heavy use of Twitter. You use the heavy use of everything. And I’ve noticed they push you a lot on Twitter and stuff like that.
So one of the things that you’re doing — and we’re going to talk about in the next section — is this app that you’re working on. We met because you’re doing this thing. Can you explain it for everyone? And then in the next section we’ll talk about what you’re doing.
Well, the app is a comedic political trivia game with cash prizes. And it’s all ... It’s a civic engagement app that’s actually really funny and I think turned out great. You play a trivia game every day. All of the questions are related to what’s in the news or they’re related to government, but they’re really funny questions in the voice of the show. People win cash prizes.
And hopefully you also with the app will sign up for voting reminders. And we’ll present challenges as we get closer to the midterms, because we learned that a huge part of getting people to vote is getting them to make a plan for voting. So with our app, it’s funny and you win stuff. But also we sneakily ...
So why did you do this?
We sneakily try to deliver some civic engagement.
You sneakily ... You’re trying to sugar with ...
Gamification. So why did you decide to do this?
Well, I did a piece about gamification. So we ended up doing a piece about this little newspaper in New Brunswick, New Jersey, that was providing excellent ... Anyway, they were doing excellent work in this small town in New Jersey. We ended up meeting an expert in gamification, Gabe Zickerman. I loved him. I had never heard of it before.
You’d never heard gamification?
No, that’s not my world. I didn’t know anything about it.
Everything is gamified now.
And now I see that. Now I see it all around me. But I had never heard that. I was the one who was gullibly getting sucked in by gamification.
Yes, you are. That’s the point of it.
Yeah, we learned about that. We applied that to saving this newspaper that really ... They couldn’t pay their own rent. And it was so wildly successful that we ended up paying the rent for this newspaper for a year or more.
And it occurred to me after the fact, I was like, “I wonder if we could make people vote this way,” because we’d heard so many stories from him about applying gamification to tech stuff, China, these amazing stories of success. And I thought, “Even if it didn’t work for the midterms, it would be an interesting journey to try to build something that could potentially influence people to vote.”
And get them to vote.
It was an experiment that actually, I think, turned out really well. We’re still learning from it. It’s been really quite a journey.
So you went out. You came up to Silicon Valley. You were looking for experts in the field, and you also made a show out of it too.
We made a show out of it. We’ve filmed the entire process from the beginning of even thinking about the game, to the creation of the game. We filmed content after the release of the game because the game has crashed. We filmed ourselves post-crash. And we’ll continue to make content because I really do see it as not just content for the show but a really ... just an interesting learning experience. Is this even possible? Is this something ... I think it’s fascinating, myself.
And why voter ...? Why vote? Just, you want people to vote.
Well, people have to vote. I mean, the stakes are very high. There are lots of people who have known about the stakes of voting for a long, long time, and I think the rest of us are just figuring that out now.
Anything to get them to do it.
Just do it.
Were you perplexed by the internet? Because you were doing some things to be funny, like, “What is this? What’s going on?” But how do you look at that?
The process of developing something?
I will say that I came to it as a complete naif. So me thinking, “Oh is this even real?” It was real. The way that they ... Just that all-day brainstorming session alone was stunning.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I really did not have any understanding how ...
How things are made.
How things are made, yeah.
And so what did you ...
I didn’t have to care before.
What did you end up learning?
That’s it’s a huge ... It takes a huge team of incredibly ... It takes so many people, and it’s so much work to make the simplest thing possible. And you really have to ... I mean, it’s all about the team that you’re working with. And it also is about believing in the end result, like you have to see something on the horizon that is possible. I appreciate the way that we came at it. I really do like not having any knowledge about it. Didn’t afford us the opportunity to be cynical about it. So it’s been terrific. I just did not realize.
Where are you in downloads now?
So many people downloaded the game on the first day that we had a ... It crashed. And we were so ... Razan Ghalayini, who’s the producer who’s really producing the game with Adam Werbach, the two of us were so sad. We were like, “Oh no, the game crashed.” She just kept getting these emails from people in Silicon Valley who were like, “Congratulations on the crash.”
It means we’ve got something there.
You’ve really got something there.
You’ve got a little nut. Good for you!
Who hasn’t crashed?
Who hasn’t? If it’s good, it crashes.
AOL crashed. Facebook’s crashed. Twitter used to crash all the time.
Yeah, you gotta ...
Remember the fail whale?
I do not.
You do not?
They had it every time Twitter went down. They put up a picture of a fail whale. It was a whale.
Oh, that’s great.
It was a whale. It was spouting things. They celebrated their failure.
Well you do celebrate your failure. That was part of the learning curve. Even kind of from a television network perspective, they were kind of like, “Oh, no. It crashed.” I’m like, “No, it’s good, guys! Trust me.”
What did you learn from your journey in tech?
I’m still learning. I think that we have the kernel of a good idea. I think the voice is very clear in the game. We did try to make it fun. I think we can do an even bigger and broader game for 2020. I think if we keep this and keep making it better, it could be a very interesting side project.
Were you hoping to make money from it?
Nobody’s making money from it.
No. I thought ...
Well, Kim Kardashian did with hers.
She did, but her thing is different. This is a civic engagement app. It did occur to me how many fewer people would download it if I seemed to be personally profiting from it.
Oh, I see.
I think that would be yucky.
Yeah, that’s true.
Yeah, who would ...
I don’t know.
I wouldn’t want that.
I wouldn’t download it.
No, that’s true. Maybe not.
I would think, “Ew. Oh, you need a bigger TV or something?” I don’t know. “What are you trying to do?” So, it’s not a money-making endeavor. It really is a civic-engagement app.
Trying to get people to vote.
Yeah, I think ...
How do you decide that success? How do you know if people are voting or people are signing up?
Well, we know that people are signing up for our voting reminders in the dozens of tens of thousands, which is great.
Dozens of tens of thousands. You don’t have your numbers, do you?
No, I didn’t think so.
No, no, no. I actually, no, I think maybe 75,000 people have signed up for voting reminders.
Wow, that’s good.
Which is amazing. That’s either the number of people who’ve registered and have signed up for voting reminders, which is actually great, because as you know, 20,000 votes can make a huge difference.
I don’t usually meet hosts of TV shows that much.
I do, you’re right. I do.
You know everyone.
I do know everybody. It’s weird. Don’t you find it weird?
I’m amazed by how many people you know. I always love talking to you. I want to corner you and stick you in a car and talk to you about all the people you know.
Yeah, yeah. And I also know their secrets, which is great.
It’s going to be a big novel someday and then ...
... and then I’ll disappear. Then I will disappear. It will be so bad ...
I’m going to visit your island and you can give me all the hot gossip.
No, I’m going to be a hermit. No, there’s not going to be any goss. I’m going to be sitting there with a ukulele, an ironic ukulele, and be doing it.
So, let’s talk about here and now. Let’s talk about what happened to you, your other internet. What happened along the internet. One of the things, I did a show a little while ago about bots and the use of bots. One of the things that was really interesting, it emerged, was what happened around Roseanne and you on the show when you called Ivanka the name. That blew up like crazy on the internet. A lot of that was bot traffic. The same thing with Roseanne’s, which was interesting. Then it generated a lot of attention. Talk a little bit about that experience, what happened there.
Oh, yes. Well, we did the show. We all high-fived each other. We thought, “Great show, everyone!” We were all very satisfied with the end product.
When that was happening, did anybody go, “Mm, maybe not so much.”
No. I would say it was completely the opposite. It was consistent with the show up until that point, actually.
What you had been doing.
Yep. Which is why we knew nothing. And then overnight ... you know when you — TFW you pick up your phone at four in the morning and it is smoldering because so much has happened in the night? It was that. I don’t even have my Twitter mentions turned on and I could see that we were in for something.
You were trending.
Yes. That was the beginning of a very long week, I would say. Yeah, I learned after the fact that it did begin with bots.
People got involved.
And then people got involved. The bots inflamed people.
That’s right, which is the point.
Yes. And then the people were inflamed.
Yeah, they were inflamed until ...
Sure they were.
... they weren’t because the next thing came along.
The next thing came along.
But how did that feel? A lot of people are subject to these internet, rolling internet ... and it’s usually Twitter. But it’s everywhere else. What is that like now, as a performer? Because before, you do something and maybe ...
Maybe. Yeah. Yeah. Maybe someone writes a little blurb about it.
Some reviewer or a newspaper.
In that instance, I would say it was not a good feeling to be on everyone’s lips. I know even my husband, for example, was just walking into conversations randomly in other cities and people were talking about it, not knowing that he was my husband. It was the talk of the town in many towns for a long time. It was not a good feeling. It was terrible. It was terrible. It was truly an awful week.
What happens then in these things where these things do go like waves, across — and get to these ways it wasn’t before?
Well, I never really had that experience before wherein I walked down the street and many, many people were interacting with me.
Meaning? What were they doing?
Well, there were a lot of high-fives, quite honestly. I don’t live life that way, I don’t walk around as the king of the Upper West Side with people talking to me all the time. I’m really very ...
Head down. Hat on head.
... very, very low key. So that was a different sensation and I definitely felt like, “Oh, this is ...” To be notorious for a second, even in this way, was really unpleasant. It really put me off my game. Then when the president tweets about you, that’s a whole other ...
I was going to get to that.
That is like winged monkeys coming out of the woodwork and they just fly toward you. Feels absolutely terrible. Would I change the past? Absolutely not. I learned a lot about it. I actually learned a lot about myself and my capacity. It felt like walking through fire and I think that I came out on the other side stronger and better for it. Older, by 100 years.
Okay. All right. Well, you look good.
I just live at the bottom of an old oak tree now. I’m just a wizened crone.
Get back to when the president does it, the use of Twitter by him and attacking people personally. He has yet to get to me, but I doubt he ever will.
This is going to sound crazy, but as soon as he tweeted about me, a sense of calm washed over me, actually. I thought, “Okay. That’s good because the president is calling for you to get fired, you can’t really get fired, can you?”
No, you can’t. It’s perfect.
It becomes a First Amendment issue and then that takes it to the stratosphere. I felt a little bit calm from it but it definitely unleashed a lot of badness. A lot of Dementors came into my life for sure, which is really, really negative.
Did you go off Twitter? Did you go off? Because you’re an active ... you use it.
Not a lot, I actually don’t use it that much. I’m a very active observer. I am always on Twitter, but not always interacting with it. I keep my mentions off. I’ve done that for years and that’s out of self-preservation. It’s smart.
I did an interview with Lena Dunham. She did the same thing. She gets killed on social media.
She was reading it for a long time.
Yeah, you really have to stop. It’s a discipline. It really is just a discipline of total restraint. I’m actually very good at it. Thanks. That’s my special skill.
Restraint. I don’t read what people say about me and that is very good to do that.
So what was the result? Did it pull you back? One of these things that I’m watching is people when it happens. People complain about Twitter. I feel if you say something controversial, you’re just going to have to live with what happens now because the reaction is so vast and so ...
It’s fast. It will always come up in a Google search about me, which is kind of a bad feeling. I felt sad for my kids in school. People were talking about it in school. Ultimately, it changed the way that I think of the show for sure, a little ...
So how did it do that? Does it hold you back then, because your show is ...
Because I noticed recently, no.
No, no, no, no. It doesn’t hold me back, but it changed my perspective of the show. I guess prior to that, I really do keep everything very small in my brain. I’m a lady who grew up in Canada. I tend to keep the show on a very weekly basis. I’m always spinning wheels and efforting toward making a show. We make the show. That’s great. I put it on a shelf. Start thinking about the next one.
It just occurred to me in this moment, “Okay, we actually are a part of the national conversation.” It is different now. We’re not an upstart show anymore. We’ve been doing this for years now. Now we are established.
What you say matters.
Now we’re established. What we say has more consequence, slightly more. It doesn’t change the way that we approach the show. It really just changed my inner psychology.
How does that manifest then?
I think that if anything ... I’m discovering these words as I’m saying them, actually, I haven’t really thought about it a lot.
Good, even better.
I think that it has given me more confidence. Does that … ? It makes no sense.
No, explain it.
It makes me understand that it’s really okay to take up more space in the world. It really is okay. So, we changed our title credits to reflect that.
Such as, explain.
In the first iteration of our title credits, I’m a tiny person standing up and there are giants all around. In this iteration of the title credits, I’m the giant observing the world, from a different perspective.
Tell me about that idea, because I did a really great interview with Jill Soloway where she was talking about the “male gaze” and taking up space. She actually physically got up and did a male stance, which was really interesting because then you saw it physically, taking up space and being the observer rather than the observed. That’s essentially one of the many feminist things we can talk about. It really made me think about the idea of taking up space and what’s happening, you were just talking about that idea. Cecile Richards was talking about the idea of the rage that is upsetting people or the taking up space or the confidence that women are having.
I guess I understand that the show has a different function now. I fully understand that ... I’ve spoken about it before, but now it’s just in my bones. I get it now. It’s a cathartic experience for us at the show and we are giving voice to people who don’t have their own shows to speak out. People who don’t have a platform. I just feel more free to speak. If anything I just feel ...
So it made you more so, rather than ...
Yeah, more so, I would say. I will probably not use that word again. I found it was ...
Was that a mistake, that word?
I don’t think it was a mistake because I learned a lot from it, actually. I understand it was hurtful for a lot of people in our audience and I get that. I take that on board. I understand that. I own that.
Is there anything off base though then? Some things are then.
I think some things are, but we’ve always had that. We’ve always felt that. There always are jokes that you would make in rehearsal that you won’t make on the show.
Which one? No, I’m kidding. Tell them all now. No one’s listening to this.
There’s subject matter, too, that I would love to do a story about it, but how are we going to tell that comedically?
Tell me about it.
There was a story ages ago about the foster care system in Mississippi and you just go, “Well, there’s nothing in here. There is just no opportunity for satire in here. This is just terrible.”
All the way down. Top to bottom. A lot of stories are like that, but at least you can find the satire in them because there are powerful people that you can speak to. You can speak truth to power. In this situation, there’s just nothing. So, it’s not for us.
Not for you.
Not a story for us.
And you wouldn’t do more serious stories sometimes.
Well, maybe in a future incarnation of my life.
Your “60 Minutes” show.
My “60 Minutes” show is still brewing.
Everyone’s going to wait for you to make a joke now.
I think there’s a way to do these types of shows with an entertaining aspect without being part of the entertainment industry. I do think there is a way to do it that is ...
Right. When you’re thinking about that ... because you are obviously not just trying to be silly, because I think a lot of the shows are that. They have no nutritional value. I don’t know how else to put it. So much of television has become that way.
Well, I’m not ...
Either a scream fest or a ...
I think that’s great for other people if they want to do that. I’m actually not, as a human being, interested in just being entertained, with entertaining ...
It doesn’t do anything for me. It’s not what I personally like. I’ve always said this about entertainment: I like someone to take my hand and drag me into a world and keep me there, keep my attention for the time that I’m with them, and then push me out the door and get rid of me. I don’t love gentle things anymore.
I need just to be taken to a place forcefully. And listen, one of the shows ...
One of the shows I love the most is “Call the Midwife.” I’m in a world. You took me there. I believe it. I’m here.
The nurses, they’re good.
I’m a sightseer. It’s great.
They’re badass nurses.
They’re so badass. And then I’m gone. It’s good. It’s a respite for me. Or you know, the horrible shows, too. Horror shows.
What else do you watch?
God, what do I watch? Oh, you know what I just ...
Or what do you think is setting the tone?
I actually just started “The Americans.” Oh, I love it. It’s great. I’m always so happy when I can latch onto a thing.
I like to come to it seven years too late.
Yes, well. Did you watch “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel?”
Yeah, it’s great. Just take me to a place.
I feel like that’s how I see the show. That’s how I see this show, too. Take you to a place and see you later.
Okay. Kavanaugh hearings going on right now. Give us a preview of next week.
(Makes noise). I don’t know.
Can you do that noise again?
That’s it, that’s your famous noise.
That’s my face and my inner aspect. I don’t know. I heard that Dr. Ford was doing a great job. I was saying on a stage earlier today, I wanted to run into a church and light a candle for her. “Just be. Just speak what is in your heart. Speak what you remember.”
How did we get here? It’s astonishing. You and I were talking about ...
How are we still here?
Yeah, I know. How are we still here?
How are we still here? How are the same people asking questions that asked questions during Anita Hill? I listened to The Daily the other day, just a recap of Anita Hill. It was mind-blowing for me how similar, it’s just the same. We still have people saying, “But she was drunk. She went to 10 parties and got drunk at 10 parties. And people were getting raped at those parties. Why didn’t she call the FBI?”
Right. That was the president.
Oh, my God.
Although he just said George Washington was bad.
That’s right. He’s learning things in real time and-
No, that George Washington thing, it was astonishing.
I was like, to be fair, he’s dead, so let’s move on.
Well, that was a wonderful press conference.
I, at some point, I think at 6:30 p.m. last night, I was not watching his rambling press conference, but I learned that it was still happening. I couldn’t believe it.
You just keep going. It’s just material.
It’s just a stream of consciousness.
So when this is happening, when you’re looking at things like this, you’ve been doing much more political stuff with how people are … not just the way media has changed, we’ve got cable news, we’ve got the Internet, you’ve got everything. How do you look at that? When you have a thing like Kavanaugh, it’s become ... The cycle obviously has sped up and everything else, but how do you ... It doesn’t seem like we’re moving anywhere, it’s that we’re having the same discussion, just quicker.
I don’t really know how to answer that question. We’re just experiencing it as it’s happening. Obviously it’s affecting us all really deeply. It’s affected everyone in my office really deeply. We’ve all had experiences.
We’ve grown up in this world. Every woman I know.
And if you haven’t had an experience or don’t know any of the characters in this story, good for you.
Right. Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.
But, I’m telling you, if this is new information for you, you must have had an amazing life.
I’m very jealous.
Where does it go? What happens? Because it does feel like ... You obviously are pushing over midterm changes and things like that, where does it go?
Well, hopefully all the power that we have is the power of voting. We can actually take back this world, we just have to invest in the idea that we are part of this system. We have to take it back.
We have to take back to the power.
Do you think that’s gonna happen?
I don’t know.
Don’t ask me, I don’t know! I made a game! I’m doing whatever I could do!
Right, right. But, do you imagine it will change?
Oh my God, well, I hope so.
I hope it does for ... We were talking earlier, I hope that my children can grow up in a world in which their sexual experiences aren’t all coercion, you know? Aren’t all people convincing them to do a thing that they’re not interested in doing or just perpetrating it upon them. Of course I want to live in a better world, starting young.
Right. Yeah. And when you do this, you have three kids, how do they live in this world with all this media coming at them? You have teenagers, or … ?
My kids ... They’re still at the stage of where they’re bored of me listening to the news all the time.
I think that they’ve taken what they’ve taken. They certainly know plenty about the world that we live in. But they’re not obsessed with it.
Like you are.
There’s a fair amount of ... I mean, the schools that they go to, they do a fair amount of discussion of current events, so they have a child or a pre-teen’s view of the world, which is good. But, I remember at 10 years old, disliking Ronald Reagan intensely.
And I think that my children feel the same way about Donald Trump. Not just because I’m telling them to.
But because they’re learning about the things that he’s doing.
Right. Right. I want to finish up talking about where entertainment is going. When you think about you’re on television, you obviously use the internet, you just got bought by AT&T ... free phone service? Do you get that?
I’m waiting for my free phone service.
You’re not getting anything free anything from AT&T. How does that feel? Like it’s changed entertainment? When you started entertainment, it was pretty set: There was Hollywood, there was ...
Yes, it was very inaccessible to me.
Yeah, yeah. They didn’t welcome you with open arms?
Didn’t welcome me with open arms.
You know, last night America Ferrara was onstage at this event and someone said “Has Hollywood changed, for example?” And she said “What is that? Because I never got into Hollywood. What is Hollywood? It’s not a thing. It’s not a group of six people in a room making decisions.”
I’m also very disconnected from that world because we do our show in New York City and I live in New York City and that’s just a different vibe, entirely.
So, I don’t sashay around to Hollywood parties.
You don’t sashay?
And just like know everybody. I don’t come into a Hollywood party and just like sparkle everyone to death with my repartee.
“Hey Jennifer Lawrence, hey girl, how you doin’?”
“Finger guns! What’s up?!”
“Hey Larry David, what’s up?!”
That’s just really not my world at all.
So, I mean ...
But, you do go to those things.
But, for me, the way that I perceive it is that it’s work.
Yeah, I just treat it as work, and stress out about it as though it’s work.
Because it is work.
Right. Right. Yeah.
That’s how I see it.
You’re selling yourself.
Yeah, definitely. You know, I think I’m an outsider. I think, even though I have a platform, and I have, you know we were bought by AT&T … not all of these relationships, but all of these relationships exist kind of outside of my world.
That you’re not thinking about.
Yeah. I don’t often think about ... That’s a luxury. I can see that that is a luxury, and I’m not 100 percent sure why that luxury has been afforded to me, but great.
When you think about that as a producer, and you’re making shows, like you’re gonna make other shows.
With your husband, you work together on that?
We work together on some things, not all things.
Some things. When you look at all the Internet companies coming in with the money, like Amazon and Netflix and others, and I was interviewing Jane Lynch the other day about this, like she said she doesn’t even think about it, whoever buys her stuff, she’s fine.
Do you imagine that’s gonna change the way things are, more accessibility for voices like yours? Or do you not ...
I think it’s a good thing. I actually think that is a very forward and positive direction.
To have more people with money, more people with ... And listen, we have to get people interested in other voices; we have to bring more people into the party, we have to actually walk the walk of hiring interesting people and new voices and people who don’t come with a giant resume.
You have to be creative and reach into different places to find people, for sure.
Otherwise it will be same, same, same.
Same, same, same.
But, to me, that’s a very positive... I couldn’t have imagined starting out at 27 looking at ... Like I would never have looked at the big networks that existed and gone, “That will be me one day. People will be talking about my latest ...” You know?
Not in a million years.
Not in a million years. So, do you feel that it’s open more or not?
I do feel like it’s open more. I mean, certainly, I did comedy forever, actually with one of the producers of my show, Allana Harkin, we did comedy for years in Toronto, and if YouTube had existed when we were doing our comedy, it would’ve been a completely different experience.
Completely different dynamic.
So, I want to finish up talking about where comedy is now. Comics, well, you have Bill Cosby being sent to prison.
Yeah. Got perp-walked out, you’ve got Louis CK, you’ve got Norm Macdonald defending Louis CK, what is the comedy world now? It’s gotten so dead serious.
I’m not really a part of it.
To be perfectly honest.
I’m not a part of any secret society, if it does exist.
And I haven’t really been invited to it.
Yes you are. At times.
When I started “The Daily Show,” and my husband, when we were working there, we were very aware that we just didn’t know anybody. We don’t know a lot of comedians, we just didn’t grow up in that, because we were working in Canada. We don’t have those relationships from when, “Remember the early days at the Groundlings, when we were all together and we lived in a two-bedroom apartment?” We don’t have any of that. So we’ve always felt a little bit like we were an island. Not to say that I don’t have pleasant interactions.
Sure, I’ve met more people now and it’s great, but I’m not really beholden to anybody because it’s not my world, in a way. It’s weird to be ... I’m just kind of on the fringes of this world, a little bit.
To just go off and do this thing.
To go off and do this thing, and it’s not the thing that I ... Doing a comedy show is great, I love it, I love the people that I work with. I give it over to them completely. But, it’s not the only thing in my life, and it’s not the last thing I’ll ever do.
That sounds rather healthy.
And I could walk away from it and be fine.
So, two last things: What do you think are the key topics you have to cover on your show now? You obviously focus a lot on #MeToo, you focus on ... And that’s solved, apparently.
Yeah, we did it. Guys, we did it. I wouldn’t say that there’s any ... It’s not like we have subject matter that we go, “One day, we’ll cover this.” These women’s issues are very important to me, because that’s who I am, but also I would also say immigrant issues are very important to me, personally. That’s just a personal and ...
The Puerto Rican stuff. The state, that that’s a part of this country, was some of the strongest factual ...
Oh, thank you.
I was surprised by how moving it was.
Thank you. I would say that the refugee situation is very compelling to me personally. These are just my personal passions. I could see the next phase of my life being completely different, and just pouring myself into ...
Such as? That’s what I was gonna ask you.
Into working with refugees.
Is a very easy place that I could imagine my life going. It’s a really easy direction for me to imagine.
And not being in entertainment?
For sure. Oh, geez, this is such a future conversation, but I could, 100 percent. I don’t need to be in front of the camera forever. I would love to put shows in place that I love the subject matter, I’ll definitely move in that direction of development for sure, but I could easily move onto something else, working on creating my own foundation.
Very few celebrities say that.
Oh, it’s great. I think it’s good. Maybe it’s because I’m from Canada. I don’t know.
Do you like being a celebrity? Because you are, really.
Yeah, it’s nice. There’s perks, for sure.
Let me think about the perks. I kind of have good clothes. I like my clothes. What else? I guess I was a decent dresser before, I always wore blazers, so there’s really nothing new there.
Yeah, there’s really new there.
Your blazer game is excellent.
It’s excellent, but it always was pretty good.
People are very nice to you. People are nice to you even when they don’t need to be. They just are, generally. You can usually get a restaurant reservation. Not always.
Good being in the handsome bubble or whatever.
A little bit. I don’t take full advantage of it, that’s for sure.
Right, that’s question two. What’s gonna happen in this Kavanaugh thing?
I don’t know. I never like to leave things on a very unpleasant, and I never want to say, “I don’t know, probably same as it ever was.” Because it would be amazing if it wasn’t.
I would love that.
Have we made progress, do you think?
Well, women are running. Women should be running. Women need to.
Would you ever run?
Me? Never. No. I support those who do.
No. All right. You support those who do.
I definitely support those who do.
All right, say the app so that people can download it and vote.
This is Not a Game. This a game.
Please download it. It’s fun.
Where is it, the app store? Everywhere else?
Yeah, it’s the app store.
It’s a really fun game, and Sam was very lovely coming to Silicon Valley, it was very nice to see her, and you enjoyed the geeks, didn’t you?
Yeah, we had a great time.
They loved you. You came to Lesbians Who Tech, you came everywhere. Those lesbians sort of gave you a lot of tough advice, though.
They gave me great advice.
They gave me advice that we 100 percent used. We used all the advice people gave us, even the advice you gave us.
Yeah, what did I say?
That we would definitely fail.
Well, I’m glad to be wrong. I mean, we probably will eventually fail.
But, I appreciate it Sam, and thank you so much. It’s a great game, it’s called This is Not a Game: The Game.
Please vote in the next election, please.
Please. Please. You must vote, we can’t leave it all to groups that do vote.
Don’t leave it up to the other guys, please.
Yes, indeed. Anyways, Sam, it was great talking to you. Her show is called “Full Frontal,” it’s on TBS, and what season are you in?
And are you going next year? They pick you up?
Oh yeah. Yeah.
Yeah? They still keepin’ ya.
This ol’ battle ax is gonna be around a lot longer.
And the phone company.
Sam, who works for the phone company. It was great talking to you.
Thanks for coming on the show.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.