Miscellaneous

Q&A with WIFT-T award winner Samantha Bee

McClung’s Magazine blogger Nancy Barnett interviews Samantha Bee, recipient of the International Achievement Award presented by WIFT-T at the Crystal Awards on Dec. 5.

McClung’s Magazine blogger Nancy Barnett was invited to attend the Crystal Awards on Dec. 5 held at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The 24th annual gala luncheon hosted by the not-for-profit Women in Film and Television Toronto Division (WIFT-T) recognizes and celebrates the achievements of women and men in film, television and digital media. Here, she sits down with Samantha Bee, recipient of the International Achievement Award, the first of six interviews with winners and the women behind WIFT-T to come at McClungs.ca. 

By: Nancy Barnett

Feature image via Nancy Barnett.

Born and raised in Toronto, Samantha Bee joined the cast of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in 2003, where she has since earned the title of  “Most Senior Correspondent.” Before getting her big break, Bee’s day job of many years was waiting tables. In 2011, she was honoured as Comedy Person of the Year at the Canadian Comedy Awards.

Was it a weird transition to go from an all-girl comedy troupe to The Daily Show?

It was certainly a happy transition because I had a job. It was definitely a different experience because I was joining such a well-oiled machine that had been functioning at a very high level for a long time prior to my arrival. When I did all-female comedy, we all honoured each other’s jokes in a completely different way. It felt like a really safe place to just take everybody’s joke to the logical limit of the joke. When you join something that’s already in progress, the edges are a little sharper. You suggest things, and people just go, “No, that’s not going to work” and they just move on so quickly. So the pace is very fast…but I’ve enjoyed that. It’s been really helpful to me.

If you had a whole day to sit in your PJs and watch TV, what would you watch? And you can’t say yourself.

I would never watch myself. I totally hate watching myself! I did an episode of Law & Order and I still haven’t seen it. I like really dark things quite honestly. I would probably start at episode one of The Walking Dead and just start watching that. I haven’t seen it and I think I would really like it. That’s probably where I would start and I would spend the whole day dealing with zombies. I don’t really watch comedy programming, I don’t know why. I like to make comedy but I don’t like to watch it. It’s weird. I like to explore something else…like gore or Breaking Bad. That’s my all-time favourite show.

Are you interested in developing future projects yourself?

Of course. When you’re in this industry, you’re always trying to throw something at the wall. My husband [Jason Jones, also from The Daily Show] [and I], who is my writing partner, just did a screenplay and now we’re writing another one. The last one was someone else’s idea and this one is our own original idea.

Are you more interested in a future of performance or being on the production side or both? 

Either. It’s the kind of career where you always have to be throwing things at the wall. I think if I do have the opportunity to get into the producing side, I just want to work and if that means that I have to create projects for other people, then I’ll do that. I would love to be behind the camera to be honest with you.

Which comedian or performer has inspired you the most?

Really, Jon for sure, because I was such a dedicated fan of The Daily Show before I got to work there. Of course he gave me my start basically so I have to give it all to him. When I was growing up, I would say Catherine O’Hara. I watched [Second City Television (SCTV)] every night because when I was a kid, it came on at six o’clock so it was a dinner time show. And at that time, children watched TV from the time they got home until they went to sleep. So with my dinner, I would always watch SCTV, every night. I think her work kind of embedded itself in my subconscious because whenever I think about her, I have such warm thoughts and I think she’s hilarious. I love her.

Do you have any thoughts on the comic brain drain from Canada to the States?

If there were more opportunities here, it might not happen in the same way. It’s not like you wake up one day and say I’m going to leave my home country and try to get discovered in the United States. I think Canada should do something about it. If all the networks are worried about the comedy drain, they should start creating comedies that we can all get behind. You cannot continue to talk about The Kids in the Hall like it didn’t happen twenty years ago. There’s a lot of great talent here. A tremendous amount of talent. Hilarious people. Good writers. Really solid people who are just not working. If  I came back here and created a show, I would literally hire all of the people that I know. I would just give everybody a chance. That would be my goal.

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