There’s a scrappy quality to Full Frontal, the new TBS late night talk show led by former Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee. Confident and natural on stage, the host—who’s currently (as no one’s been able to let her forget) the only woman in late night—strikes out immediately with a fury that’s startling and invigorating.
The humor of Full Frontal is furious and fiery. Bee delivers her jokes with an unrelentingly sharpness that often made me (a Gawker Media writer!) utter an admiring, “Damn, that’s fucking mean.” Mean, yes, but also immensely satisfying:
In a segment called “Elected Paperweight of the Month,” Bee addresses Mitch Holmes, the Kansas State Senator who instituted a dress code for female witnesses, telling him, “You don’t get to regulate what other people wear to work. I wouldn’t try to regulate your finger-painted tie or skeevy facial hair. And if I get distracted wondering if that yellow stain around your mouth is whiskers or just the lingering impression of a glory hole, that’s my problem, not yours.”
Damn. This is not your grandpa’s late night.
Bee goes on to call Ted Cruz a “fist-faced horse shit salesman,” air a Herzog-esque mini documentary about the lonely tragedy that is Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign, tell Hillary Clinton to fuck off for playing coy, mock a doddering Bernie Sanders, and describe the Huffington Post as being “almost like a journalistic organization.” It’s whip smart joke after whip smart joke, making for a dizzying 22-minute episode.
Despite TBS’ relentless ad campaign and decent production values, Full Frontal can’t help but feel a little DIY and punk rock. Maybe it’s that they’ve chosen Peaches’ “Boys Wanna Be Her” for their intro music, or maybe it’s the way that Bee is already hosting with a snarling boldness and easy confidence that her male counterparts—Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, James Corden, etc.—could only dream about.
There’s also the fact that the show’s anger feels so uniquely female. (Full Frontal currently boasts the most diverse writers room in late night, and it shows.) While the label of “angry feminist” is traditionally avoided by women in pop culture, Bee embraces it full on by recognizing that the world is full of injustices, that the people in charge are fucking things over, and that sometimes your only power is to shout at, mock, and laugh at the people who are making life a living hell.
And boy (well, girl), is she ever good at it.
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