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The Not-So-Secret Life Of Samantha Bee

Jun 2, 2010 (Fresh Air)

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On The Daily Show, "Most Senior Correspondent" Samantha Bee conducts interviews with a range of hapless subjects — and often gets them to say things that they are likely to later regret.

Bee has spoken with a group of "revolutionaries" who wanted to make Long Island the 51st state. She's interviewed market analysts while dressed like a "money honey bee" to explain the financial crisis. And she tried (in vain) to get delegates at the 2008 Republican National Convention to say the word "choice" — a word, she says, the campaign had "eradicated from their vocabulary."

"Everybody got the memo," she recalled in an October 2008 Daily Show segment. "We're not going to talk about choice anymore. ... The "C" word used to be something else. Now it's choice."

Bee maintains a straight face as her subjects search for answers to her occasionally ridiculous questions. But she tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that she always informs her interviewees what they're getting into ... sort of.

"We don't tell them the questions we're going to ask them, [but] they know where we come from," she says. "That doesn't necessarily mean that they know the show — many of them know the reputation of the show, but not the show specifically — they don't necessarily watch it."

In her new memoir, I Know I Am, But What Are You? Bee details her journey from young Canadian comic to correspondent for The Daily Show. She describes her teenage years stealing cars, her love affair with Jesus Christ and her early work in a touring children's show — one of many jobs she took while trying to start her comedy career.

But she says she doesn't regret the time that she spent in odd jobs onstage.

"Everything made sense when I was onstage," she says. "I got that approval I'd been craving, and that changed my life."


Interview Highlights

On learning about sex

"I was playing with my dollies at the time — getting them ready for bed, putting their hair in pin curls — when [my mother] tossed [a book] at me. It was this little red book. It wasn't a scientific book. It was just a book that described every sex act imaginable. And I was an avid reader so I opened up the book and I started reading and man, I had questions."

On working at The Daily Show and being a mom

"The Daily Show could not be more accommodating. It really is a very family-friendly place to work, and I think maybe that would surprise people. Maybe it wouldn't. But they are great about it. They are happy when people have children there. Nobody goes into distress or lockdown mode. Everybody's very warm and embracing and they've been so accommodating with us bringing our children with us when we go away. When we went to the conventions in 2008, I actually brought both my kids. Fletcher had just been born. He was only 8 weeks old. And we carted him off to Denver and everybody was so great about it. So they really make it possible for us."

On working with her husband, Jason Jones

"It's very helpful. It's really nice that they hired Jason because that makes it a lot easier on me because we have adult time together. Being at work is kind of like being on a date minus the S-E-X."

On being Canadian and making fun of universal health care on The Daily Show

"I love our health care system in Canada so it's a really hot-button issue for me as a person. And I remember ... I was taking the alternate point of view on the show and I had to tell everybody 'You know, I really like the Canadian [health care system] — hold on, I don't know if I can make a joke about that. It's really great up there.' It was very silly."

On satirizing the Catholic Church and the pope

"I'm a lapsed Catholic, Terry. A terribly lapsed Catholic, so it is joyful for me to do that. That is pure pleasure for me, I will say. ... I don't have any of that Catholic guilt. I've worked my way through that."

On having a crush on Jesus

"I've spoken to a lot of lapsed Catholics since I wrote the book and we all had a crush on Jesus. I mean, he was really designed that way for young girls to find him sexy and attractive. ... I can instantly recall the guy who played Jesus in Jesus of Nazareth — I mean, that was a really important part of it for me. I wouldn't have been interested in it at all if he hadn't had dazzling blue eyes and wonderful silky hair. I mean, would any of us?"

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