Over the weekend, Samantha Bee stopped by Ozy Fest in New York’s Central Park to talk about running for office (“Never! God, no!”), creating an internship program for female ex-convicts, and the restorative power of connecting with other people.
Upworthy caught up with Bee to ask how she balances being late night’s most formidable player with the increasingly challenging task of staying hopeful and optimistic.
(This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.)
Upworthy (UP): Speaking not as the host of “Full Frontal” but as a person who has to work in news every day, how’re you holding up?
Samantha Bee (SB): Terrible! Terribly! How are you holding up?
UP: I’m doing pretty good.
SB: Oh, you are? OK. OK.
UP: How are you coping with things?
SB: I don’t think very well. I mean, as a citizen of this country, I’m reasonably worried. The news is coming at us pretty fast. Still, I’m trying to lead a happy life.
UP: You were at “The Daily Show” when Jon Stewart left. He gave an interview around that time in which he said, “I’m in a constant state of depression. I think of us as turd miners. I put on my helmet, I go and mine turds, hopefully I don’t get turd lung disease.” Are you getting turd lung disease?
SB: [laughs] Oh my gosh. I forgot that he said that! I’m totally getting turd lung disease. Yeah, I have that. I’m getting turd COPD.
UP: So what do you do to manage that, to draw boundaries around that?
SB: Well, the one thing — this doesn’t really make it totally better, but — we only make a show once a week. So we do get a tiny pause at the weekend. I mean, news never stops. There’s no getting around it. But at least we have a little bit of space between shows to breathe for a half second. And I get to go off and travel around and do things that get me really excited.
We have a bunch of pieces coming up where I went to — [laughs] as the words are coming out of my mouth, I’m like “What am I talking about?” But I went to Iraq, and that actually gave me great joy! [laughs] So we’re gonna roll out the Iraq pieces in the next couple of weeks, and that type of thing makes me, I love going out. The freedom to go out in the world does make it a little easier.
UP: Do you find that looking people in the eyes is a little bit better than reading about it in the news and hearing it recorded?
SB: A hundred percent. Yeah.
UP: What do you think is the value of that connection?
SB: I mean, just learning on the ground. I don’t think it’s just valuable from a news perspective. It’s just a good exercise as a human being, to go somewhere else and check out the scene.
UP: A lot of people are struggling with this feeling of being fatigued. But on your show, you encourage civic responsibility and you encourage people to stay engaged.
SB: It’s hard to do. People do get fatigued. I did have a feeling that once the warm weather hit, people would lose that feeling of fervor but I actually don’t think they did. I don’t think people are slowing down. When I see that, it does lift my spirit. I love it. Killing that health care bill — it felt good. Those small victories.
UP: The Democrats are having a pretty hard time coming up with a slogan to unite the party. If that was your responsibility, what would you write?
SB: Oh my gosh. I don’t know what I would write. I’m afraid to say anything because I’m afraid they’ll use it. I’m sure they’ll land on something. In 2019.
UP: Obviously the script of your show is very sarcastic, but you seem to be less jaded than most. How do you stay hopeful?
SB: You know, just that. Meeting people, witnessing people’s engagement — they really care. They’re very alive. That makes me feel hopeful. And if that’s all we have to feel hopeful about — that’s actually a lot.