Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee Talk Louis C.K., Matt Lauer Sexual Misconduct Claims
The two 'Daily Show' alums, speaking at a Montclair Film fundraiser, also shared their thoughts on Trump and the GOP tax bill passed by the Senate early Saturday morning.
Stephen Colbert and Samantha Bee were more than 40 minutes into their onstage conversation to raise money for Montclair Film, the New Jersey film festival organizer Colbert has long supported, on Saturday night (Dec. 2) when the topic finally turned to the ongoing wave of sexual harassment and assault allegations.
Colbert had already made cocktails for both of them and an audience member who was celebrating her 21st birthday, when he started to turn the subject toward the issue that has rocked the entertainment industry. After talking for a bit about how the outspoken Full Frontal host is the right voice for the current cultural moment, the Late Show host decided to cut to the chase.
"Fuck all that preamble! Guys are getting busted for whipping out their dicks," Colbert said. "I was gonna Charlie Rose this one but then I thought, 'Don’t Charlie Rose this one! Because that has a totally different meaning now.' Just get straight to it. We are in the middle — one of my children said, 'You know, if sexual impropriety were weather, this is hurricane season! Every day there is landfall of another hurricane, and an idol, a career, everything just gets ripped away!'"
Bee added, "Yeah, it is a tsunami of penises! Coming onto the shore!”
"I don't even know what question to ask you other than to point out that you are a great voice for this moment," Colbert added. "How do you approach these stories when they come out because they are both horrifying and heartbreaking? Because these are people that you might admire."
"It’s heartbreaking but it’s not surprising probably to most women I know in the comedy community. It’s definitely not surprising to any single woman who lives on planet Earth," Bee said of the sexual misconduct claims. "The speed and ferocity at which everything is coming forward is impressive to me, and I’m happy to be alive in this moment. I'm happy to be alive in a moment where people are feeling freer with their stories, and we don’t have to live with shame. It’s really still hard for people. This is the tippy top of the flag on the tip of the iceberg. Keeping this going is important. It's important for people to know what lies beneath, I think."
The Daily Show alums spoke in detail about a few specific people who've been accused of sexual misconduct, beginning with fellow comedian Louis C.K. Colbert said he "didn't know about Louis" and that prior to the many allegations made public about Bill Cosby in recent years, he hadn't heard those claims either.
"I feel dumb because I’m not surprised that men are bad or that there's a human stain, as Philip Roth might say, but I didn’t know [about C.K. and Cosby]… and that's dumb," Colbert said. (For her part, Bee said she "knew about Cosby" when she was still living in Canada.)
As for C.K., Colbert had the comedian booked on his show on Nov. 9, the same day the New York Times published its expose in which multiple women alleged sexual misconduct against the comedian, to discuss his then-upcoming movie I Love You, Daddy. C.K. canceled that appearance, and the New York premiere for the film, which has since been dropped by its distributor, ahead of the Times article. Colbert revealed to the audience at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center how he would have broached the issue with C.K., after having seen the film.
"The way I was going to approach talking to him about this subject, which I knew he didn’t want to talk about, was people in the movie talk about rumors of sexual impropriety with one of the characters. At like minute 42, one of the characters says ‘Can you separate an artist from rumors about him?’ 'How would you answer that question?' That was going to be my tack,” Colbert said.
And he asked Bee the question fans of those accused are grappling with, of whether she could separate the art from the artist. For instance, could she still listen to a Cosby album?
"I can’t. I think that’s a really valid thing and it’s not the same for every person or artist," Bee said. "There are certain artists that I just can’t with anymore. I can't separate it. And that’s my prerogative, others can. It's complicated. I do think we are having this crazy conversation now where it’s seeming to some people like the consequence is just we are having to talk about this now. But there are consequences to people’s real life actions sometimes the consequence to bad behavior is you lose your job and you lose a lot when these things are revealed. We're definitely going to cover this on the show this week. I mean that is undeniable."
Indeed, Bee said her show will likely explore the Matt Lauer, Michael Flynn and "middle-of-the-night tax bill" news from the past week, stating later that she thinks "people should be [protesting] in the streets over this tax bill." As for Lauer, Bee offered a preview, incredulously bringing up the reported button under Lauer's desk allowing him to lock his door without getting up.
"I wish I had a button under my desk, and sexual harassers would just fall into a pit of crocodiles. And we would not have to see them anymore," Bee said. "Or if everyone could just board a rocket ship into one of the moons of Saturn, that would be great, too."
And she said she felt encouraged by the women speaking out.
"People are feeling stronger in their voices and I think only good can come out of that," she said. "It's tumultuous. I'm sure on Monday new revelations will occur. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, who knows?"
And at a time when people are wondering who might be the next high-profile figure accused of exposing his penis in a professional setting, Bee insisted that wouldn't be her.
"I can tell you one thing: There’s a one million fucking percent guarantee that I’ve never shown my dick to anyone in my office! And you can put my Good Housekeeping stamp of approval on that! That’s probably the one thing I can guarantee about my workplace," she said. "The easiest thing I’ve done all day is not masturbate on this stage in front of all of you. Effortless."
The political comedians also spent some time talking about Donald Trump. Taking stock of the real-estate mogul's presidency a few weeks shy of a year in, Bee and Colbert agreed he's been "so much worse" than they imagined.
"I thought he would be this benign idiot. I just thought he would do a terrible job just by letting other people do things for him," Bee said.
Colbert agreed that he didn't think Trump "would be everything I imagined plus dismantling institutions that are necessary for stability around the globe."
While Colbert has frequently talked about how election night 2016, including his live Showtime special, did not go the way he thought it would, and Bee offered a few details recently about how the outcome affected Full Frontal's post-election show, Bee revealed Saturday how she personally processed the results of the election through her executive producer Pat King.
"The day started so hopefully, and we were preparing for the show the next day," Bee said. "[Pat] is who I turn to for all of my information. So I said to Pat, 'I'll just stare into your eyes because I know you're interpreting all the election results. So you're my point person.' As time passed, I was boring a hole in Pat's skull as I was watching him and I was like, 'Pat, stay with me.' And then at about 10 o'clock, the lights went out in Pat's eyes, and we knew, and we all knew, and that's when we started to hide in our turtlenecks. It was cold, and we just pulled our turtlenecks up. People were crying. It was terrible."
Despite that disappointing experience with American democracy, the Canada native who now has dual citizenship hasn't given up on the U.S. In response to an audience question about whether she ever feels pulled to want to return to Canada, she said, "People ask me that a lot. My entire family lives in Toronto, like everyone who loves me except for my family who lives here now. So I absolutely 100 percent miss it and I miss my friends back home, but I'm never leaving this place. I've completely bought into it. My kids are American. I love being a dual citizen. I don't want to comment on this place anymore without being a part of the system. I've moved here. I pay taxes here. I'm in it to win it. While I'm alive on this earth, I'm going to live in New York City and try to make things better. That's all I have left."
All proceeds from Saturday night's event will benefit Montclair Film, the nonprofit that presents the annual Montclair Film Festival in New Jersey, which Colbert has long supported. Past editions of the annual Montclair Film benefit have featured Colbert in conversation with Jonathan Alter, Jimmy Fallon, Jon Stewart, Steve Carell, J.J. Abrams and John Oliver. The 2018 edition of the Montclair Film Festival is set to run April 26-May 6.