Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Samantha Bee

My interview with Samantha Bee is in this week's WE.

Samantha Bee is prepared to go pants-less.
Samantha Bee is prepared to go pants-less.
Credit: Supplied

STAGE: Samantha Bee faces tough opposition from Canucks

She’s been living in New York City for eight years, immersed in the business of exposing the ridiculousness in American politics, pop culture and media as a correspondent for the satirical fake news juggernaut The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, but Samantha Bee never forgets her roots. The Canadian comedian/actress knows this is hockey country, and unfortunately, her visit to Vancouver coincides with the second game of the Canucks’ Stanley Cup playoffs. As the centrepiece of French-language theatre company Theatre La Seizieme’s June 4 fundraiser, Bee is already feeling the pressure to make sure people show up to her evening of funny stories and side-splitting tales. She took a break from her pre-show jitters to do a phone interview with WE, discussing Canadian and American politics, socialized medicine and pondering the possible allure of hosting a pants-less affair.

A fundraiser for a French theatre program in Vancouver feels quintessentially Canadian.
I know! It’s run by a very dear friend of mine, [Craig Holzchuh]. Oh, hopefully there won’t be any French people there. I’m joking. But I don’t actually speak French! But I’m thrilled to do it. He’s a great artistic director. If you like theatre, you’d probably like his shows even though they’re in another language. People should dip their toes into those waters.

I’m glad to see them getting support.
Me too, but I’m really nervous there’s not going to be anyone there because of the hockey game. Like, I’m really nervous. When you do a fundraiser like that and you’re like the thing that is happening, like you’re the event in a weird way, it’s like having a party and there’s a real possibility that no one will come to it. It’s weird. I’m terrified.

What kind of night are you planning on hosting?
I can’t remember what he’s calling it [An Evening with Samantha Bee — Ed.], but it’s basically just an intimate night (said in a breathy voice). If people come I’ll — I don’t know, maybe it will be pants-less. It’s going to unfold with hilarity. And, I have a lot of crazy stories to tell about him, so he’ll make friends.

You’ve been in New York for a long time. Do you feel compelled to have dual citizenship, or are you resolutely Canadian?
We haven’t pursued citizenship yet. [Bee is married to fellow Daily Show reporter and Ontarian Jason Jones] I don’t have a real desire to do that and I don’t think there’s a real reason to do it. I’d like to do it for my children who are American-born... I do feel a bit guilty, I have to say, because I focus so much on the elections and then I cannot vote in them, so to some extent I’m in it but not of it. But, what can I do?

Did you have any feelings about the outcome of our last election?
It’s pretty interesting. It’s very interesting... What were your thoughts? It was something that got a lot of coverage down here which is not really typical.

I was not expecting Conservatives to take a majority.
Right, but the rural population kind of screwed everybody else. (Laughs) Ugh, you rural people with your conservative ideas! That was a little surprising to me as well, but I’m sure it didn’t surprise them.

Stephen Harper will have to commit bestiality before anyone takes him out of office.
(Laughs) I know, I know. Well, cross your fingers!

There was coverage in New York though? That’s rare.
Well, not a lot, but there definitely — you could follow it. And it was such a huge upset with the NDP coming in to form the official opposition, it was exciting. I think people down here were a little confused by the Bloc Quebecois, like, “Oh, it’s gone? They really seriously wanted to leave — what? Ohhh, you people with your health care. You so don’t have big problems.” (Laughs) They have such fundamental problems just getting health care for their families. It’s so hardscrabble just getting your kids covered that when you’re in that mix and you look at Canada, you go, “What are you guys fighting about? Jesus Christ! What are you talking about? My kid’s got diabetes and I can’t medication for him. I just can’t.” It puts everything in perspective a little bit.

Does satirical news affect change?
None of us think that it’s affecting change. I think it’s cathartic for people for sure, it’s a really nice way of distilling the day’s news. It’s effective in helping me channel my outrage, but I don’t think it really changes peoples’ minds about things. People believe what they believe. It’s really hard to wedge people out of their comfort zones, in either direction.

What are the main things causing you outrage right now?
Hmmm. Newt Gingrich is kind of at the top of my list. Mostly I’m just fascinated at how the Republican party is scrambling to find some leadership. I think it changed a lot of peoples’ minds when Osama bin Laden was killed. People made their decisions based on that, a lot of people are dropping out, people they thought would be in the mix. It’s interesting watching the field narrow and seeing who’s left. It could be very comedically — it could be a cornucopia is what I’m saying. I’m expecting it to be just unicorns and rainbows.

There was so much momentum behind Barack Obama and then turning of the tide where everyone was very critical. Was that surprising?
It’s pretty amazing how fickle people are. I kind of marvel at that. Literally people were disappointed in him three months in. People gave him about six months to solve the problems of the entire nation and what he was tasked with doing was just utterly impossible. I know he has let people down on very specific issues, but look at the alternative? (Laughs) I don’t see how you can — I don’t know what people are wishing for.

Samantha Bee appears June 4 at Vancouver Playhouse (Dunsmuir & Hamilton), 8pm. $44.50-$55 from

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