Queen Bee: Samantha Bee holds her own among the kings of late night

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Jacqueline Spendlove / TV Media
Samantha Bee hosts "Full Frontal With Samantha Bee"

Samantha Bee hosts "Full Frontal With Samantha Bee"

In a late-night talk show world that’s dominated by male hosts, Samantha Bee is a welcome female infusion to the lineup. The former "Daily Show" correspondent is whip-smart, sharply funny, and a shining beacon of feminism with her authoritative (and foul-mouthed) take on important issues. Her series, "Full Frontal With Samantha Bee," has gained heaps of praise since its 2016 debut, and it’s no wonder -- the woman is a veritable force. A new episode of the news satire airs Wednesday, Aug. 2, on TBS.

When Jon Stewart stepped away from his gig hosting "The Daily Show" in 2015, there was an understandable assumption floating about that Bee would, at the very least, be approached to take the reins. Her 12 years with the late-night satirical news show made her its longest tenured correspondent, and the only female one for five years, until Kristen Schaal joined the fold. To many, Bee was an obvious candidate to take over the spot behind the desk.

She wasn’t, though, and as it turns out, it was for the best. For one thing, she and her husband, fellow Canadian and "Daily Show" alumnus Jason Jones, had their scripted comedy, "The Detour," picked up by TBS around the same time that Stewart announced his decision to step down. For another, the network went on to solidify its ties to Bee with her very own late-night talk show.

While "The Daily Show" undoubtedly would have been a plum gig, it wouldn't have been all together "hers." "Full Frontal" gives Bee free rein to be her fast-talking, curse-dropping, unapologetic (and of course, funny) self, calling politicians and lawmakers to task as she sees fit. She speaks with her own voice, runs things on her own terms, and, by golly, she does it well.

She also brought some of her old cronies with her, both from "The Daily Show" and elsewhere, and Bee doesn't hesitate to credit her writers and research team with helping to make "Full Frontal" the influential and well-oiled machine that it's become. Senior field producer Mike Rubens worked on both "The Daily Show" and "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver," while co-producer Allana Harkin was a member of the Atomic Fireballs, an all-female, Toronto-based comedy troupe founded by Bee. Jo Miller and Miles Kahn, former producers of "The Daily Show," are executive producers for "Full Frontal," and a number of the show's writers have "Daily Show" credits as well.

With Donald Trump in the White House, Bee has more material than she knows what to do with, but the show shines its satirical spotlight beyond Washington as well. Bee is nothing if not well informed, and her research team leaves no stone unturned. "The main thing we have is that we are very honest," she said in an interview with the Globe and Mail. She feels as strongly about the importance of local politics as she does about what's going on at a federal level, and, when moved, has just as much to say about it.

Correspondent Allana Harkin interviews a subject in "Full Frontal With Samantha Bee"

Correspondent Allana Harkin interviews a subject in "Full Frontal With Samantha Bee"

And people are listening. In one memorable episode, Bee addressed the hundreds of thousands of rape kits that go untested in the United States (the show is still a comedy, I swear!). The host called out Republican Sen. Renee Unterman, among others, who blocked a bill requiring rape kit testing, despite it being passed unanimously (unanimously!) in Georgia. The segment caused so much backlash that the show has been credited with finally getting the bill to go through.

The show’s first season left little to be desired. The February 2016 premiere drew a total average audience of 914,000, and the show has demonstrated a slow but steady climb from there. The lead-up to the presidential election saw a significant jump in viewership, and the Jan. 11 episode, which aired a little before President Trump’s inauguration, saw an audience of 2.11 million. The show scored an impressive number of award nods in its freshman year, including an Emmy nomination and a Television Critics Association Award win for Outstanding Achievement in News and Information. 

Earlier this season, the show aired its "Not the White House Correspondents Dinner" special, which drew a bigger audience in the 18 to 49 demographic than the actual White House Correspondents Dinner airing at the same time on CNN. The event raised $200,000 for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Bee now holds her own among an established roster of late-night fellas that includes "The Daily Show" successor Trevor Noah, John Oliver ("Last Week Tonight With John Oliver") and Seth Meyers ("Late Night With Seth Meyers"). She was also recently named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. Plus she’s Canada-born and raised, so she’s probably pretty polite.

"Full Frontal With Samantha Bee" is plowing through its sophomore season without losing any steam. Catch a new episode of the news satire when it airs Wednesday, Aug. 2, on TBS.