How Samantha Bee Crashed the Late-Night Boys’ Club
December 1985: it’s an icy Toronto night, and 16-year-old Samantha Bee is on a mission to not fail out of 10th grade. It’s going to take some doing. Up until this point — and thanks to a “kind of criminal boyfriend,” who enjoys both car theft and tempting Bee to cut class so that they can lie around, watch TV and, you know, maybe do other things — Bee has managed to, as she explains, “skip the maximum amount of school that I could skip and still pull good grades,” which had been a carefully calibrated form of rebellion, “because I am still a Catholic schoolgirl, and I like my gold star.” But now, having blown off semester exams, she fears she’s gone too far. It’s time for drastic action.
“So I went in the middle of the night to a parking lot, and I asked my boyfriend to break my hand,” she says matter-of-factly. “To break my writing hand. I was like, ‘That’s the only way I can get out of this. I fucked up so badly. You need to break my hand.’ And he was like, ‘I’m not going to break your hand.’ And I was like, ‘Break it! You fucking break it, you pussy! You break my hand!'”
She put her hand on the bumper of a car. He picked up a “boulder” and brought it crashing down. “And honest to God, I was like, ‘Thank you. OK. Done.’ I didn’t cry. I was so calculated about it.” Sometime past midnight, Bee showed up at a Toronto hospital wearing a cashmere sweater and pearls and cradling a swollen hand. “I told them I fell on it on the ice.” Bee grins wryly. “They X-rayed it. They were like, ‘You were obviously up to no good.'”
It did the trick. With her hospital wristlet and her sprained hand (“It wasn’t actually broken, thank God!”), Bee got away with skipping her exams, which meant she kept her gold star, which meant she remained on the path to a future of success and accolades, landing ultimately where she is now, on a Manhattan park bench, in the dappled sun of a perfect spring day, talking about what it’s like to host Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, her political comedy show on TBS, and mostly avoiding discussion of what it’s like to be the only female host on late-night TV, because how much more can be made of something that shouldn’t be so rare that it makes news in the first place?
She’s been up since 5:00 this morning (“I wake up when the birds start chirping”), has already perused the papers (“a little New York Times, a little Washington Post, a little BBC World“), downed two Nespressos, lured her three kids out of bed, fixed her daughter’s ponytail, ensured that everyone brushed his or her teeth, and prepared at least a dozen meals, including breakfast and lunch for her whole clan, and also a rice pilaf for good measure (“Oh, my God, I’m blushing. I did. I made rice pilaf”). She was out the door by 8:10 a.m. If she’s wearing any makeup at all, she slept in it, or sweated most of it off in her morning SoulCycle class. Wearing Lululemon yoga pants and colorful Nikes, she would look like the mom in a Tide commercial if there weren’t a smudge of something on the sleeve of her white T-shirt.
But don’t let any of this wholesome, bird-chirping, rice pilaf, Tide-mom stuff fool you. Don’t get caught up in the packaging. Remember: Samantha Bee is not afraid to take a boulder to her person. Do not think for one second, America, that when push comes to shove she will not take a proverbial boulder to you.
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