Okay Ladies, Now Let’s Talk Fomentation: Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah and The Power of Late-Night TV

What’s up? I’m back, like acne. Back like a burner. Back like baby ribs. Back like Beyoncé is with her new, unrestricted, revolutionary visual pop album LEMONADE.

If you look closely at her braids you can see the think pieces already.

Can we just discuss for a moment that glory… BeeHive, it’s been quite a while, but I’ve finally come back home. I don’t have to tell you about the amazing, revolutionary, poetic, powerful, pro-Black glory that is ‘Lemonade’. You already know the truth. What I will say is this: my favorite part of this new Beyoncé era, besides the complete lack of modesty or fear of critique, besides the total reclamation of Black womanhood, besides the top-notch production value, my favorite part is how utterly M A D the exclusionary white feminists and fake POC intellectuals are right now. MAD. And they can stay that way, because Mother Bee is so unfazed that she wouldn’t even bother to sting you bitter bastards. I can feel the think pieces brewing (the word ‘co-opt’ has never felt so loved as it will in the next few days), I can hear the keypads rigorously typing up Tumblr posts to boast their ‘unpopular opinions’ about Beyoncé, how she’s overrated, not a real feminist, not an activist, blah blah blah, I can practically taste how salty these people are. And it makes my melanin feel so vital. SO. VITAL.

But I digress. Anyway, Spring Break was heaven. I slept so long I blurred the lines between wakefulness and my REM cycle. When I went to turn on the news, I saw that my little brother left Cartoon Network on the night before. To my surprise, I saw Bubbles, Buttercup and Blossom fighting a Men’s Right Activist. Crazy, right? You know, sometimes my dreams really get wonky. Good thing I was just imagining it.

So let’s discuss late night shows. Those are definitely fun. I’m lying, they’re the worst. Well, not all of them. Mainly Jimmy Kimmel. That guy is the absolute worst. I mean, just look at him.

Jimmy-kimmel1

What a punchable face.

Anyway. Let’s talk about the hosts who actually matter, like my South African comedian/actor/talk show host/husband Trevor Noah.

If I had to describe Trevor Noah with one word, it’d be a quadruple compound word: why-you-so-fine? Because just look at the man.

No really. Look at him.

Look. At. Him.

Those dimples could make fiscal policy sound sexy.

His face is simply perfect. I mean, did you see Twitter feeds when he officially took over as host of  The Daily Show? People went wild. I haven’t seen that many offers of thrown panties and free nookie since my last visit to my nana’s retirement home.

But I digress. Lust aside, so many positive and adulatory words would go a long way to describe him, but if I had to describe Trevor Noah in one word, this one often comes to mind: “powerful”. As a fan of his previous work, I have seen Noah transcend borders to incredible degrees. In his hilarious, provocative and outrageous stand-up shows, he uses impressions and absurdist humor to casually eviscerate dim-witted politicians and paradoxical cultural ideals in his homeland as well as across the globe; take for example when he called Britain out on their crappy weather and the “fun game” that is British colonizationin front of a British audience no less. Or how about when he criticizes the politics of the prefix before ‘American’then personified America as a buff guy kicking sandcastles down on the beach. Language is a powerful tool, comedic language even more so. Catch someone off-guard with laughter and you’ll have an easy time slipping some truth down their throat like cough syrup.

Much like Jon Stewart, Trevor has a great way of exposing ignorance and corruption in his comedy, which explains why he became a correspondent—now host— of the Daily Show. And his work there has been pretty consistent with his work on-stage. I was a late fan of Jon Stewart, but I’m a fresh Trevor Noah one, and I greatly enjoy him as the new host. The guy tells the truth by making you laugh—it also doesn’t hurt that he often smiles when he tells ridiculous jokes about how much people hate Ted Cruz or how Donald Trump may or may not wash his hair with urine.

Now, on to my other late night fave hot babe Samantha Bee.

Watch out, chauvinists: that mic wire is the patriarchy.

Much like Noah, Samantha Bee was a correspondent on the Daily Show prior to Jon’s leave. And a fantastic one at that. I mean, her investigation on the suspiciously vague statistics on police shootings alone exemplifies her late night prowess. And how could we forget her segment on the injustice of rape victims fighting for custody against their rapists? So many great lines:

  • “So we’re cool with #TeamGrape, but not #TeamHelpingRapeVictims? Got it.”
  • “Would you look at the lack of soul crushing government dysfunction?”
  • “Good job Florida.”

Amazing.

In Bee’s case, instead of taking over on Comedy Central, she got her own talk show: Full Frontal, a program where “hypocrisy isn’t as interesting to us as injustice.”And, indeed, this has been the case for her segments like the one where she exposed US torture of an innocent Guantanamo Bay prisoner thought to be a terrorist. Talk about injustice.

Samantha Bee was one of my favorite veteran correspondents on the Daily Show. Although it was a gut-punch to many people to see her leave after 12 years of amazing work, I think she’s been long overdue for her own talk show. And Full Frontal proves that. She is a total natural. The show has only been on for a few months and it feels like a late night staple already.

Bee is funny. Like, really funny. Like, I have to pause her on my DVR sometimes because I’m laughing too loud to hear the next joke. And she’s mean; the kind of mean that Los Angeles Times writer Mary McNamara calls “a far cry from Jon Stewart’s sardonic bemusement or Stephen Colbert’s satiric obliviousness: Bee is ticked off about a lot of things, and she is more than happy to explain why. This meanness gives her an edge that I think hosts like Trevor Noah and even Jon Stewart lacked. As she said, her show is less about mocking hypocrisy and more about looking at injustice and giving it the finger by showing you why it’s nonsensical. Bee does this brilliantly, often without even doing much work.

Take for instance how she calls out Senator Mitch Holmes for his sexist dress code proposition. Holmes said the policy only targeted women because men “already know how to dress.” Well without missing a beat, Bee uses Holmes’ senatorial shortcomings to prove how inept he is. She lists how his “broke-ass state” Kansas has the highest food tax in the country, was forced to close schools early due to a lack of funds, and had to divert $1 million dollars from a highway fund to close a budget shortfall. She wittily offers that while all of these horrible occurrences went on, Holmes and his colleagues were so “hypnotized by our cleavages that they can’t hear female testimony over the sound of their own boners popping”. Later, she tells Holmes that he can’t regulate other people’s clothing options just like she can’t tell him not to wear his “finger-painted tie or skeevy facial hair [that may be] the lingering impression of a glory hole.” With her sharp, witty, passive aggressive delivery, Bee destroyed this unqualified statesman as easily as one might step on a leaf and crush it.

Now, I would never compare late night hosts on the basis of their content because they are all so different; it’d be like juxtaposing a lime and a Capybara.

                 

I mean, I guess we could say which is furrier…

But alas, when you’re in a Mass Media class and your professor asks unreasonable questions like “Who do you like more?” or “Who is better at their job?” or “Which show is better?”, and you want a good grade, well, you just do what you gotta do.

As far as who I like more, that’s a relative question: if we’re talking romance, I think the ring on my finger makes that clear. Work-ethic wise I simply cannot chose. They’re both great at what they do.

Now the doozy: which show is “better”. This is tough. It’s a choice between a satirical absurdist comedian who evokes the image of Harriet Tubman on a jet-ski to mock people who are ignorant about Black history, or a biting, no-nonsense host who points out that those same people have literally offered to make her currency 3/5ths of a $20 bill. Hm….

*DRUMROLL PLEASE*

On second thought, cat roll works just fine.

And the answer is….

DING DING DING Samantha Bee rules late night!!! Now excuse me while I ring the old man at home:

Hey, Trevvy-Wevvy, how was your day? So I know we’re probably gonna have a fight when I get home tonight but I just want you to know you’re the only late night talk show host in my life. I promise I still love you babe and– Babe… Hello? Trevvy-Wevvy? Where’d you go?

AH CRAP. See what you did, Professor? You made my husband disappear.

Anyway, my Sophie-esque choice of Samantha Bee stems from her delivery. In my eyes, Bee hits on issues way harsher than Noah does, and I very much like abrasiveness. However I do regularly watch the two of them and in tandem they often supply me with similar laughs. Naturally their subject matters overlap, considering they are both satirical figures who crush the status-quo.

Can I just say I love how Samantha Bee and Trevor Noah both call Trump’s hands diminutive? I just adore it. I thrive off of it. I relish in the reduction of that ridiculous fool’s self-regard. Evidently, as a poet/writer I also relish in alliteration. Sue me.

While Bee’s focus, as previously mentioned, lies with injustice over hypocrisy, Noah often works with the former. Take the Daily Show segment on Trump and his habit of talking out of both sides of his mouth. In it, Noah puts Trump on blast for making contradictory and paradoxical statements a la his electoral peer Hillary Clinton who literally can’t maintain one consistent viewpoint on like anything except the fact that she’s a woman presidential candidate who likes to pander.

For example, as the segment showed, one day Trump speaks about his supporters beating up protesters with glee: “Can I be honest with you? It adds to the flavor, it really does. Makes it more exciting. Isn’t this better than listening to a long, boring speech?”

Match that with, “I love the old days” along with “Part of the problem is nobody wants to hurt each other anymore”, the latter statement which Noah reacts to with a furious bewilderment that is definitely warrantedGod, he’s even beautiful when he’s angry, I just… AHEM. Sorry.

Noah wonders who would believe this crap when “on one hand, he’s saying ‘I’m an upstanding citizen who hates violence’. On the other hand, he’s rolling up his sleeves bellowing about tearing down the system to a pack of followers who love getting into fistfights… This guy doesn’t want to be president, he wants to be Tyler Durden from Fight Club.”

While I love how Noah shows how manipulative Donald Trump is, I wish he would take the Samantha Bee route and go for some edge. Though I find humor in speculation over whether or not Trump uses urine to replenish the falls in his Trump Tower office, I want blood to be shed—metaphorically, of course. Samantha Bee isn’t afraid to go there. Her Trump segments stand in stark comparison to Noah’s, partly because of her perspective as a woman. That’s not to say one needs to be a certain gender to properly criticize someone or understand that what they’re saying is ludicrous, but at the same time I can only imagine a woman conflating Trump’s orgasmic proclamations of his future victories with Fifty Shades of Grey. “Oh my God, yeah… Win me harder. Yeah, win all over me.” I mean, that’s freaking hilarious.

Anyway, I know I should probably relate this all to Satire’s Brew or whatever. So let’s do that. #ThrowBackTh–I mean Sunday to when I wrote about this lovely textbook in my 2nd Blog Post!!!! Behold:

“Listen, the protagonist in this book is a weird one. I mean, he’s literally just “the Protagonist”. Like, what’s up with his name? Is this supposed to be satirical? I must be missing the joke. Also, what’s up with him and the French Press? It’s not that good dude, calm down. Not to mention that oblivious Dutch dude who thinks everything is “remarkable”. Who hasn’t seen Daily Show before?!?! Noob. Anyway, Stewart and Protag of Satire’s Brew have a lot in common, and by a lot in common I mean Protag is obsessed. Stewart is like his personal Jesus (*cue Depeche Mode interlude*).  I do think Protag brings up some good points about Stewart’s place in the media as a sort of modern jester. “Every generation has their satirist or jester and their fight against those in power coincides not just with the time, but technology would play a role, too.” Remarkable.”

Yes, I just quoted myself. Why, you ask?

Don’t make me hurt you, Krazy!

Don’t worry, I promise I will not step on my wooden coffee table and berate you. Not yet.

Late night hosts like Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, even Jon Stewart, they represent a tradition of jesters using their positions as what one might call a “fool” to actually subvert their role and call attention to the hypocrisy and inconsistency of the court—or, in a modern-day sense, the bourgeoisie. Remember what I said earlier? Catch ‘em off guard with the laughs, then BOOM! Truth syrup all in your mouth like liquor.

For all of the kooky and goofy jokes they tell, Bee and Noah’s shows are rooted in a grim understanding that the world today is extremely dire. And they understand that they have such a massive influence on those dire circumstances when they use their voices to create real world change. It is a powerful thing for these hosts to distill hard-to-grasp political information into a form that is palatable, coherent and most of all funny, in order to not only appeal to the common person watching but to make that same person understand injustices and feel moved to change it.

Now, you could be argued that many, if not most,average Americans couldn’t be bothered with politics—though the average Tumblr-user would certainly disagree with you. Regardless, when enough people see a satirical work criticizing unfair laws, that eventually sparks policy change on a governmental level. According to AJC writer Rodney Ho, after Bee attacked the irresponsible destruction of thousands of old rape kits by numerous states’ police departments, folks got to moving:

Key folks in the state legislature found a way to work around Unterman to ensure the bill would hit the Senate floor. It did so at the very last second last Thursday and passed with flying colors… “The Samantha Bee piece definitely made an impression,” said Scott Holcomb, the House sponsor of the bill, where it passed unanimously before Unterman refused to let it go to committee on the Senate side. “Nobody wants to be ridiculed on national television…””

Well, it looks like Samantha Bee told the first quality rape joke! Oh, wait. Sorry, it was definitely Patricia Lockwood who did that.

Samantha Bee is not alone in enacting real-world change in the late night sphere. I think we all remember John Oliver’s call to “Make Donald Drumpf Again”, AKA the greatest thing ever. It even got its own domain name with Donald Drumpf merchandise! What a wonderful time to be alive. In case you don’t remember, let Oliver tell you himself:

The very name Trump is the cornerstone of his brands. If only there was a way to uncouple that magical word from the man he really is. It turns out the name Trump wasn’t always his family’s name…One biographer had found that a prescient ancestor had changed it from — and this is true — ‘Drumpf.’ Yes, fucking ‘Drumpf.’ And ‘Drumpf’ is much less magical. It’s the sound produced when a morbidly obese pigeon flies into the window of a foreclosed Old Navy. ‘Drumpf’… That is why tonight, I am asking “America to Make Donald Drumpf Again.

Glorious. Just glorious. And lest we forget retired veteran Daily Show host Jon Stewart, who made a name for himself as the late night talk show host that only the bravest politicians paid a visit. CNN explains:

…[P]lenty of studies show that many young Americans get their political news not from TV networks or newspapers but from Stewart’s biting satire. In a 2012 survey, the Pew Research Center for People and the Press found that 39% of “The Daily Show’s” regular viewers were between 18 and 29, but the group makes up just 23% of the public as a whole. That is a demographic politicians kill for. And it explains why those running for office — particularly Democrats keen to connect with Stewart’s urban, left-leaning audience — brave appearing on his show.

Hell, Time Magazine declared that Stephen Colbert “changed the world”, whether it was through testifying before Congress to shed light on migrant farm workers, or inspiring an actual Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor.

Mm. Tastes like democracy and a rejection of partisanship.

Clearly, these talk show hosts go beyond the scope of mere television programs. Their segments have real world effects, which speaks not only to the power of these shows but the power of the media as a whole. When that power is given to jesters as opposed to the court leaders that they make fun of, I say that’s power well spent.

Now if you’ll excuse me, this piece took a lot out of me. I need to redefine the 3000s for myself.

The teddy bear is me after writing this post. No spoilers.

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One thought on “Okay Ladies, Now Let’s Talk Fomentation: Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah and The Power of Late-Night TV

  1. Isaiah. One, all hail Queen Bee. Now for your post. As usual. Really awesome. Filled with examples and specifics. I am so sorry the questions posed were hard and seemingly unfair, but you conquered them well and with attitude. Super fun tone as usual and just overall enjoyable.

    Like

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