Samantha Bee on why she’s on tour: “It is feeling treacherous out there to be a woman”

“I feel like my voice is really missing out there,” says Samantha Bee.

Ever since her provocative, hilarious, “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” ended its six-year run last summer, we’ve felt exactly the same way too. But now, the Emmy Award-nominated comedian, writer and television host is back with a nationwide live tour called “Your Favorite Woman” — and this time she has no television executives or advertisers to appease, and no bleeps left to give. 

Bee joined me in our Salon studio recently to talk about why she wants to hit the road (starting April 7 in Newark), about male executives seeing her “through the prism of how they’ve dealt with their ex-wife” and why her kids give her hope — even if they think she dresses like a potato. Watch the “Salon Talks” episode with Samantha Bee here or read our conversation below.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity and length.

Let’s talk about the live show. It seems like the idea of it started around the time that “Full Frontal” ended. What has that been like?

Everyone was very sad when “Full Frontal” was canceled, but it wasn’t a super surprise. I can’t say that it snuck up on me or anything like that. The idea of doing a live show has been in my brain for a really long time, and of course everyone on my management team has been like, “You’ve got to hit the road.” And I’ve been like, “I can’t.” With the conclusion of the show, I was like, “Oh, now I can. Now I will definitely do that.” It feels like a very organic next step for me because it’s always been up in my brain. With the cancellation of the show, I was like, “Well, I now have time.”

I know you’ve described it as a celebration of how effing awesome women are. What am I going to see when I go to your show?

Rather unfortunately, the world is conspiring to make the show land in the most perfect spot ever because it has been feeling to me, and I’m sure to you as well, that it is feeling a little treacherous out there to be a woman. Feeling the backlash pretty hard right now. 

“We have a complete misunderstanding about women, and I think that people have really stopped trying.”

There’s any number of things that we can look at that give us an indication that our opinions are not particularly valued, so I wanted to do a show about that. I wanted to do a show that is a continuation of “Full Frontal” in a way, or a natural jumping off point to commune with the “Full Frontal” audience again. I feel like my voice is really missing out there. 

To talk about the conditions that women are living in right now feels super vital to me. We just have a complete misunderstanding about women, and I think that people have really stopped trying. That’s how it feels to me. I think there’s a misunderstanding about our bodies. I think our bodies are a surprise to us. We are not educating people about their bodies. We are not educating women about their bodies. We end up going through all these phases of life where, everything that’s happening to me right now is a huge enormous shock. I feel like we should have fewer shocks particularly as we age.

I’m 53. I personally entered perimenopause and I was like, “Oh, am I dying? What’s happening right now? Is this normal?” As with many stages of your life, you end up going into a place where you think you’re the only one experiencing something, and it feels so terrifying to say out loud what you’re going through. Then you find out that everyone around you is having the exact same experience of being completely siloed in their own anxieties about what is happening to them. I want to say all those things out loud.

We live in a culture where, you’re like 25, 30, and then you’re past your prime. That comes from a real place, and women feel it too, which is why there is this silence about perimenopause. There is this fear that if you are not young and hot and viable, you will lose your job somehow. You will not be qualified for public office.

Feel free to hop on a little chunk of ice and float yourself out to sea because you’re not needed here anymore. It is really terrifying and it feels really risky to talk about it out loud. But it’s a full, hopefully, third of our lives that we’re living in a state of confusion and shame, and it’s pretty weird. I don’t really want to talk about perimenopause with people who are trying to sell me stuff. No offense, but capitalism’s not going to fix the conditions that we’re living under. Actually talking out loud about the things that create false shame in our bodies will cure the problem.

As opposed to seeing it as something that needs to be cured. 

It’s not actually a problem. The problem is how the world sees it. Half the world is going to experience it. Not talking about it does a disservice to all of the 50% of the people who are going to physically experience it, and the other 50% of the people who are going to also experience it in a different way.

You are a woman in entertainment. You have a degree of power and you’ve gotten to a certain place in your career. Do you see people starting to check out when you’re in meetings? 

As a woman, you always experience people checking out in meetings. Well look, if we’re going to talk, let’s talk. You always experience being in a meeting with male executives and you can see them and it’s very hard to pinpoint, but you can see them watching you through the prism of how they’ve dealt with their ex-wife or something like that. Seeing all of their previous relationships in the way that they’re interacting with you. It’s not something that you can really put your finger on, but you really do feel it. Particularly in the entertainment industry, which has this chummy kind of, “We’re all just chill here.” It’s a very not chill environment, actually. It’s not really any more chill than any other industry.

I’ve really come to a stage in my life where I’m now turning down opportunities when they were with the wrong collaborators, just with people who I could tell were on the precipice of not listening to me and not liking my ideas. I was like, “I think this isn’t going to work for me because I can tell how we’re already relating and I’d really rather not.” I don’t need to put myself back in those situations. This is a giant learning curve for everyone. It can pull the rug out from under you at any moment. I’m not feeling sad about it or anything. I just would like to speak honestly about it because I think it’s relatable.

I wonder if maybe that’s also part of what the appeal of doing a live show is going to be. 

“You can see them watching you through the prism of how they’ve dealt with their ex-wife.”

Totally. 100%. There’s no other kind of person governing what it is. It just is what it is. You can like it or not like it, but it just exists. There’s no advertiser to please; there’s no machine to feed. It’s just a live show. It exists in and of itself.

It’s still completely terrifying. I’m not without terror. There’s loads of anxiety and stuff like that, and all of that is of course natural. But nobody’s saying, “Oh, you can’t make fun of Taco Bell because they’re just a huge advertiser. Can you make fun of P.F. Chang’s instead?” There’s nobody doing any of that, which is really fun for me. It’s really new. Live performance is not new to me. That’s very natural. I get it. I love that world. I love live performance, but having it not be governed by anyone else’s appetites is pretty new, and that’s exciting. It feels fresh.

We live in such a polarized world. You have people who are not fans who you have to deal with on social media, and then you have people showing up at drag reading hours with guns. Are you thinking about what you might encounter on the road?

I don’t really encounter people, certainly not in New York City. I don’t know what it will feel like to travel around. I think it’ll be completely fine. I can’t imagine it’s going to be a problem. And maybe, oh God, I never really thought about that. S**t. Oh, jeez Louise. I think that people who have real serious objections to content like mine are focusing their attention on things that are televised now. They have bigger fish to fry. I’m going to be surrounded by perimenopausal and menopausal women. They’re not going to let anyone through.

There’s so much to be enraged about right now. You don’t lack for material. What is firing you up right now today in terms of sheer stupidity? 

Anything that serves the cause of keeping people in the dark about themselves makes me crazy. Anything that serves the Lord of keeping people uninformed, making them feel alone, making them feel crazy in their bodies, making them deny who they are makes me f**king crazy.

It’s part and parcel of Nikki Haley running around town going, “My dad didn’t sign a permission slip for me to get sex ed in seventh grade,” and it’s an applause line. Everybody’s like, “Hooray for ignorance! Don’t ever make people feel comfortable in their own skin!”

It’s the weirdest flex I’ve ever heard.

It’s the weirdest flex. It’s not a goal. It’s terrible. It’s terrible to talk about freedom from one side of your mouth and literally want to clamp down on people’s freedom. That’s the way that it always was of course. Governors who want to keep a window open to do a read through of your menstrual histories — the fact that that even came up at all is so insane. People not getting the medical care that they need. They literally are kept in the dark. They’re fed so much misinformation about processes in their bodies and the way things work that they literally grow up to have no understanding of themselves, of what a D&C is, when it can usefully be employed as proper healthcare when it’s needed. It makes me insane. 

Sorry, I didn’t expect to go there. I thought I was going to be like, “Anyways, go to But now I’m in my black sweater just like, “Ugh.”

There’s that additional terror and crankiness that comes from being a parent. What do you feel hopeful about, that you can try to say to your kids at the dinner table?

I don’t necessarily try to infuse them with hope. They’re the ones who infuse me with hope. I have three kids. They’re very different. They’re very smart. Each unique and intelligent in different ways. When I look at them, I just see people

“I walked out of the house the other day and it was cold and my son was like, ‘You are literally dressed like a baked potato.'”

who have so much potential. They have so much intelligence and potential. They’re such a smart and informed generation. They don’t seem hopeless to me at all. They actually seem very competent, much more competent than I was when I was their age. All I did was check my face for zits for 12 hours a day. 

My kids, they’re making things happen. It’s not just my kids. I see that in their generation too. They really are doers. They’re doers. I don’t think that I have much to impart to them other than just being an honest version of myself, but they’re making me feel like they’re going to be fine. We definitely set fire to the world, but they’re going to figure it out.

You are a public figure for progressive, forward-thinking ideas. When you go home, is there anything that your kids are like, “You got that so wrong?”

Oh my God. There’s not one thing that they think that I am right about. It would be unnatural. It would be completely unnatural. It would be actually very bad for them if I walked in the door and they were like, “I respect you so deeply. What you said just sent me to another level.” They absolutely think that I was put on earth to pour them orange juice, to pick up laundry off the floor, and serve them in any possible way that I can. There is no acknowledgment of the work that I do behind the scenes underneath the surface to keep food in the fridge, to keep dinners on the go. No acknowledgment whatsoever.

I know that they’re going to feel really grateful and glad and they’re going to really understand it when they’re about 33 to 38. They’re going to go, “Oh my God, I had no idea what it took to do all the things that you did for us to support our life.” It would be terrible for them if they were like, “You are incredible at what you do.” I acknowledge and I’m very pleased that they have respect for me. We have a respectful home environment and we have so much fun together. It would be bad for their development if they thought I was cool. I walked out of the house the other day and it was cold and my son was like, “You are literally dressed like a baked potato.” I was like, “You’re not wrong.” And yet it cuts so deeply.

Oh yeah. They just break your hearts.

They don’t even know how savagely cruel they are so easily. It’s wonderful.

Watch more

“Salon Talks” with comedians who get political


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