Earlier this month I attended the TBS-sponsored panel “Women on Top,” a discussion of how comedy is emerging as a power for change and how specifically Full Frontal with Samantha Bee is channeling this power. Samantha Bee has managed to harness a rage that many women and men feel about current events, a perspective that women traditionally have not been allowed voice publicly. Bee said, “Women have always been told that rational thought is the most important – not emotional intelligence. Full Frontal pierces that and feels intimate and real.”
Arianna Huffington reminded us that comedy as satire has a long historical pedigree – it was the court jester who was allowed to speak truth to power and not be beheaded. Eighteenth century satirist Jonathan Swift called attention to children’s poverty. In other words, according to Huffington, the more outrageous the news, the more necessary satire is.
Bee’s point of view covers both sides of the aisle, though lately it has dealt heavily with the Trump administration. It has also ranged from examining Puerto Rico’s lack of utilities months after Hurricane Maria to excoriating Eric Scheiderman, a self-professed champion of women who has recently been accused by four ex-girlfriends of violent abuse.
Bee and Full Frontal were the first ones to reach out and support the Time’s Up Oscar campaign. “It was a big statement for women who have made money as objects to take ownership of their physical selves and declare that they were not just clothing hangers,” said Amber Tamblyn.
“Raising money for the legal defense fund is so important. People don’t realize that predators sue you [the victims] into the rest of your life,” added Kara Swisher.
Most of Full Frontal’s pieces include a call to action. And in the case of Puerto Rico, they took it a step further, transferring the production of Full Frontal t-shirts to the island in March to support local business.
“It wasn’t a difficult decision. We wanted to make an impact, to leave something behind I guess,” Bee said. All proceeds will go toward the Hispanic Federation’s hurricane relief through the rest of the year.
Huffington concluded that “In this age of noise, you have to cover it relentlessly (Puerto Rico, Flint) in order to break through to the point of action, especially because people get caught up on the latest tweet. It’s all the same thing on every outlet. We’re obsessed with easy coverage. You have to stay in the room.”
“Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” airs Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. on TBS.
Samantha Bee, Executive Producer & Host, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
Amber Tamblyn, Author, Actress & Director
Kara Swisher, Executive Editor of Recode
Arianna Huffington, Founder, Huffington Post & Founder & CEO, Thrive Global
Cynthia Littleton, Managing Editor of Television, Variety