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“Twenty-four hours … literally anything can happen.”
It’s one of the first sentences uttered by Samantha Bee, the eponymous Full Frontal With Samantha Bee host, during her recent podcast appearance on The Hollywood Reporter‘s TV’s Top 5 podcast. For context: Bee recorded her appearance on Lesley Goldberg and Daniel Fienberg’s THR podcast Thursday, Jan. 7, a full day after the violent riot that took place on Capitol Hill, and a full day before the podcast’s release.
“Everything we say should be evergreen,” she joked. “We should only talk about soup flavors and ice creams we’ve tried.”
Finding slivers of comedy in dark times; it’s par for the course for Samantha Bee and Full Frontal specifically, given the series premiered in the midst of the 2016 presidential election. “I have not done this show for a minute that wasn’t under the specter of this looming individual,” said Bee, referring to Donald Trump. “I somehow allowed myself to believe [the transition of power] would go more smoothly. I’m the fool! It’s unspeakable what could happen in these next two weeks. Beyond that, I’m excited to do this show without this horrible creature lurching around behind me, fucking up the news cycle every five minutes and doing the worst things imaginable.”
Full Frontal season six returns Jan. 13 on TBS, a week removed from the violence at the nation’s Capitol, and one week ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. After pivoting in the midst of COVID-19 to the Little Show in the Big Woods experiment, in which Bee filmed episodes of her talk show from the woods with husband and exec producer Jason Jones behind the lens, Full Frontal now is set to film in a new, smaller space without any audience capacity.
“We’ll probably never go back to having a live audience,” she said. “It’s just not necessary for us to have an airplane hanger with 250 seats in it. It doesn’t seem like any of us will be returning to those days anytime soon. I wanted to adjust to the world we’re living in now.”
The transition isn’t without its challenges; for one, as a performer, Bee said she needs to find new avenues for finding the adrenaline she previously gleaned from the live audience.
“I do miss it,” she said about the quieter taping experience. “I do and I don’t. I don’t feel I need it, as Sam Bee the human being; I don’t need people to say, ‘Good job!’ … It makes the show go smoother to have an audience. From a performer perspective, there’s more adrenaline. One of the things I’d like to do and I’m very good at is powering through the show without stopping. I like to give the audience the experience of what it’s like to watch the show at home. So I’d tend to really go for it and surf the wave of their energy and take a really short break akin to a regular commercial break. That didn’t always work, but it was generally my goal. Now, I’m having to create my own adrenaline. I don’t have the immediate feedback now. It’s pin-drop-quiet in the studio. It’s a different experience. It takes a little longer to tape now in a quiet studio.”
It’s a different kind of quiet than the forested backdrop featured in 2020’s Full Frontal. On that front, Bee noted that filming in isolation due to covid was not unlike her early filmmaking days with partner Jones.
“Jason and I have been married for a really long time — 20 years-ish — and we have always done low-budget projects together,” she said. “We used to make movies in our house or someone else’s house. We’re really used to jury-rigging stuff. We’ve always been very DIY. It was a natural fit for us. He has such a great eye that makes it possible. It somehow felt so otherworldly and so natural because we were returning to our roots. It’s so dorky to say but it’s 100% true.”
In the spirit of “dorky,” it’s that very word Bee hopes will come back into the forefront as Full Frontal the series and the world at large moves into 2021 — away from the Trump administration and forward toward President-elect Biden’s “dork parade.”
“We had so much hope when we thought Hilary Clinton was going to win the election,” said Bee. “We had so many ideas for interesting places we could go. All of that was shelved because the world became totally different. We’re at this place with the show where it’s now uncharted territory. I cannot wait to find out the things we can discuss and consider when the world is just a little bit smoother, with grown-ups are doing stuff. When the dorks are taking over again? Bring on the dork parade, please. Bring on some wonky people talking about boring stuff that means a lot. I’m so excited. Let’s just get there!”
For more from Bee and much more on the state of the television industry, listen to this week’s episode of TV’s Top 5:
Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to never miss an episode. (Reviews welcome!) You can also email Goldberg and Fienberg with any topics or questions you’d like to be addressed in future episodes at TVsTop5@THR.com.
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