The first episode of Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal aired on TBS Monday, and Bee came out swinging, harder and faster than almost anyone currently on air. Much has been made of the fact that the former Daily Show correspondent is the first woman to host a late night satirical show like this, and her show addressed that issue directly by opening on Bee in a press room as reporters ask her all about being a woman in late night. She admits that it took “hard work, a great team—maybe just a little bit of magic,” before cutting to a clip of her possessed self bent backwards and screaming in a cultish circle, because, “It’s true, we’re all witches.” Once the elephant in the room was addressed and swiped away, in equal measure, Bee got on with the blood bath. And it was brutal, indeed.
Bee has been waiting months to finally have her say on the presidential election, and it shows as she tears into the candidates with a tongue so sharp and quick she hardly takes a moment to breath. She strikes at Bernie for his style and affectation, making a dead-on comparison between his debate movements and trying to flag down a waitress. She then strikes at Hillary for her unassuming faÃ§ade, mocking Clinton with a sweet, “Who, me? President? Golly gumdrops,” before turning to show her true colors with fiery eyes and crimson lighting. “Yes! Anoint me your god! What more do you people want from me!?”
There is only so much she gets to say about the Dems, before she has to move on, explaining, “We wrote like two hours of jokes about Democrats, but then we had to throw them all out, because the Republicans laid out a banquet of all you can eat crazy.” She blasts Jeb, Cruz, Rubio, and “sentient caps lock button Trump,” in turn. And just because she resents those who will judge her for being a woman, does not mean she will resist bringing her feminist point of view to the show, as she certainly uses gender to an advantage to discuss women’s issues. At one point, she mocks Marco Rubio for accusing Clinton of wanting abortions “up to and including the due date,” by suggesting Rubio thinks babies are being born “into a Vitamix so that Planned Parenthood can sell it to Whole Foods.” Joke after joke is so harsh and brilliant, and delivered with such wry irritation, it’s as if Samantha Bee left The Daily Show possessed by the ghost of Jon Stewart’s golden age persona.
Her next segment sets up a recurring bit, called the “Elected Paperweight of the Month,” which takes a look at a worthless politician. This week’s subject is Kansas state senator Mitch Holmes, who recently tried to institute a dress code for women but not men. Bee’s feminist glare burns holes in the senator’s entire track record, which is “basically an entire legislative career spent controlling women and celebrating the groups that exclude them.” But she’s only just getting started when she reveals that Holmes explained his dress code was meant to respect the women in the room, “and the wives of the men in the room.” That makes perfect sense. “How can senators balance a budget when all the blood is rushing from their heads to their engorged ding-dongs because Shelly wore skinny jeans on Arbor Day?” I’d say this is the kind of point of view late night satire has been waiting for, but this is the same point of view Bee so deftly expressed as a correspondent for 12 years. Now she just has more authority, and more opportunity, to make her voice heard more loudly, and more frequently.
Unlike the other late night shows, Full Frontal will not reserve a slot for interviews in the studio, which is a relief, because Bee has always done her best work in the field as a correspondent. This week’s episode did not feature a field piece from her, but the absence of an interview left time for an extra segment, and this one involved a gruesome image of a turtle being chomped up and eaten by an alligator. What kind of segment could possibly use that footage, you ask? Well, it was a foreign film-style exploration of the candidacy of the slow and steady Republican turtle, Jeb Bush, of course. In a way, the image is also a fair representation of Bee in her first episode, chomping hard and splitting open the safe shells of all who cross her path. Politicians and critics better have fear, Samantha Bee is here.
Watch the best of Bee’s Daily Show moments here.