Samantha Bee's Fake-News Triumph

After a decade, the 'Daily Show' vet is finally having her moment

Samantha Bee, the longest-serving 'Daily Show' correspondent ever
Peter Yang
By Rob Tannenbaum
Mar 05, 2014

"IT'S HARD TO MAKE POVERTY FUNNY," Samantha Bee says with a pretend pout. On a Tuesday afternoon, she’s in Edit Suite 1 at the Daily Show compound in Manhattan, where Bee, her segment producer and an editor share a feeling of frustration. Her report on a possible increase in the federal minimum wage is scheduled to air in two days. If it’s ready. Which it’s not.

Instead of making poverty funny, why not laugh at poor people? “That’s a great idea,” Bee says. “Because poverty is a personal choice, obviously.

Among the fake-news team on The Daily Show, Bee, 44, is the fakest of all. Her usual persona is a mean, short-
tempered, entitled diva who breaks into teenage sarcasm when annoyed. She studied drama at the University of Ottawa, with aspirations to perform Shakespeare, and she brings a ludicrous self-seriousness to the show.

In January, Bee delivered perhaps her greatest bit yet, a surreal, seven-minute fake tribute to the Fox News show The Five. In a black leotard, with stark lighting, Bee mixed pretentious one-woman-show-in-Toledo poses, several props, melodramatic pauses and the magnificent phrase “Riding the boner train to Pound Town.” The website Business Insider deemed her performance “dazzling, bizarre, insane”; to the Washington Post it was “informative but also sensual but also terrifying, in a Black Swan sort of way.”

Bee has been at The Daily Show longer than any other correspondent, having first appeared alongside Jon Stewart in 2003. “Sam actually cares,” Stewart says. “She gets really invested in her pieces, and that translates on camera.” And what did Stewart give her to celebrate her recent 10th anniversary at the show? “I gave her what I give her every year: an overly dramatic plea to never leave. And some dishware.”

Of course, The Daily Show’s fake news does more to cover real news than most real news shows, and Bee often reports on economic issues. (And penises. More on that later.) Back in the editing room, Bee picks up a microphone and records a voice-over: 52 per cent of fast-food workers are on food stamps. Because so many of them qualify for public assistance, taxpayers are subsidizing chains that make billions annually. “I’d like to make the piece more about that,” she says.

Jena Friedman, the segment producer, laughs: The show is going to call out one of its own sponsors. “That’s what makes this place cool,” she says.

It’s still a few hours before Bee shows the work-in-progress to Stewart, so we head upstairs to her office. “Hello,” she says, passing handsome, dimpled Jason Jones, a fellow Daily Show correspondent. Jones doesn’t reply. “That’s my husband,” Bee explains. “He ignores me.”

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