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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Late-night television is in desperate need of a woman like Samantha Bee

The departure of Jon Stewart from late night television last August was met with nostalgia and reflection. Throughout the last 15 years, Stewart revolutionized the satirical newscast, bringing it from a fringe genre to one of the cornerstones of late night television. 

With his biting remarks, masterful video clippings and fresh perspective on the woes of the American political system—particularly during the Bush presidency—Stewart was able to usher in a new generation to politics and speak truth to power at a time when few others felt comfortable doing so.

When Stewart announced his break from television a little over a year ago, television critics and fans alike apprehensively waited to hear of his replacement. Dozens of names were floated as possibilities, ranging from Steve Carell of “The Office” to Kristen Schaal, who now stars on the show “The Last Man on Earth” and worked as a correspondent on “The Daily Show” to Aziz Ansari of “Parks and Recreation.”

After weeks of speculation and endless predictions, Comedy Central announced the hiring of Trevor Noah, a South African comedian who had made a few guest appearances on “The Daily Show,” as the next host of the program. Noah’s selection, as a relatively unknown artist, was as a surprise to most fans and some critics questioned why Comedy Central went with someone with little experience.

One specific complaint was that Comedy Central decided to hire yet another man for its nightly comedy programming, rather than one of the many talented female comedians who had already worked on “The Daily Show,” Comedy Central and other platforms. As it currently stands, not a single nightly talk show, specifically a comedy show, has a woman host. “Late Show,” “The Late Late Show,” “Late Night” and “The Daily Show” all have male hosts and many recently hired men like Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers and Noah to take over as hosts.

One woman who got passed over for the job, Samantha Bee, has since started her own show, “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” on TBS. The show, which runs once a week, fits well in the faux-news genre. Each episode runs for about a half-hour, with Bee giving monologues, interviewing guests and expressing outrage, all with great humor and indignation, at the idiocy of the U.S. government and other institutions.

Unlike similar shows, Bee rarely brings on guests for extended on-air interviews or interrupts her bits for various correspondents. Instead, she gives her audience nearly a half-hour of uninterrupted Bee.

The show is funny, biting and from a perspective that often goes unheard on late night television, giving a strong sense that Comedy Central made the wrong choice with Noah. Nothing has yet surfaced about whether Bee even wanted the host position or if she interviewed for the job, but if she did and Comedy Central balked, then Comedy Central missed out on a great opportunity to continue the legacy of “The Daily Show” with an exciting and fresh voice.

This isn’t meant to disparage or insult the work of Noah, who is a great comedian in his own right. Replacing Stewart is an impossible task and Noah, as a biracial South African, also brings in a voice typically missing from late night television. But Bee’s show, aside from being hosted by a woman, is arguably funnier and her 12 years as a correspondent on “The Daily Show” should have been enough for executives to realize her potential.

Bee’s interview with a Texas politician who works to shut down abortion clinics, her segment about untested rape kits and her humorous rebuttal to pastors trying to undermine the Girl Scouts, work on levels that male comedians can’t match. Bee’s hysterical and insightful about every issue she commentates on, not just “women’s issues” (which is a ridiculous phrase anyway, since abortion, rape and sexism should matter to everyone).

The last six months since Stewart’s departure have made it clear Bee should have been hired as the host of “The Daily Show.” She earned this position through her years of hard work, comedic chops and fresh perspective that would have been a welcome nightly presence for television viewers everywhere. 

Follow Jacob Winkelman on Twitter.

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