By GWEN OREL
Local news is everything, says Samantha Bee.
At a party before the Montclair Film fundraiser for the Montclair Film Festival, “SAD! A Happy Evening, with Stephen Colbert & Samantha Bee,” Bee said in an interview, “Local news is the cornerstone of good reporting. We did a big push for a paper in New Brunswick and he is an amazing person and he had done some great reporting and if his paper had folded, and it was very close to failing… he wrote stories that never would have been reported on.
“It’s essential. I wish I could save every local paper.”
Charlie Kratovil, editor of “New Brunswick Today,” wrote on May 17 that Bee had saved the paper with her segment on March 22.
Colbert and Bee both returned to the theme of the importance of the local during their discussion in the sold-out house of New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
Local organizations like Montclair Film are “part of that answer” to healing what Colbert called a “broken and heartbroken country.” As the show’s title suggested, the comics often talked about what made them sad — in comic ways.
Bee said she was excited about secrets that might be revealed by Jared Kushner, her best “elf on the shelf,” but added that she was “sad by what gives me joy now.”
Colbert, a Montclair resident, has since 2015 been the host and executive producer of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” He hosted “The Colbert Report,” in which he played an extremely right-wing host, a parody of extreme political talk shows, from 2005-2014, and was a correspondent for “The Daily Show” from 1997 to 2005. He has won nine Emmy awards, two Grammy awards, and two Peabody awards.
Bee joined “The Daily Show” as a correspondent from 2003 to 2014, and has hosted the weekly political comedy show “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” since 2015. Her special “Not the White House Correspondents Dinner” was nominated for four Emmy awards, and is Glamour’s 2017 Woman of the Year.
Colbert interviewed Bee about her history as a comic, how she came to be on “The Daily Show” (an audition in Canada, where she was just about to give up comedy); a segment
about gay penguins; and differences between Canada, where Bee is from, and America. Universal healthcare would never go away, Bee said, or there would be rioting in the streets. And yes, Trudeau is as shiny and good as he seems.
The set, which Bee called “delightfully homey,” was designed by Montclairites Jim and
Julianne Fenhagen. It included furry pillows and a bar. At one point Colbert mixed drinks, and offered one to an audience member sitting in the front row who had turned 21 that day.
‘THE DAILY SHOW’ OR FOX NEWS
Bee said that she has to be nimble, because for her Wednesday show, “if something happens Monday or Tuesday, which I assume it will…”
“I love the word nimble,” Colbert said. “It’s the nicest way of saying ‘panic.’”
Colbert reminded Bee of a childhood newscast: a cassette tape titled “Goof News,” which was literally fake news. “You could have gone to ‘The Daily Show,’ you could have gone to Fox News. You’re lying, you’re blonde,” he said.
The two also touched on the cultural moment with regard to women coming forward to talk about sexual impropriety and harassment. Colbert said that “if sexual impropriety were weather, this is a hurricane.”
“There’s a tsunami of penises coming in,” Bee replied.
Questions from the audience largely focused on politics, although questioners from a CharityBuzz fundraiser, from Texas and California, asked more playful questions. The couple from Texas asked “Toilet paper: over or under?”
“Did you say under? That is grounds for annulment!” Colbert said.
Bee confessed she sometimes goes into restaurants to switch under to over.
The California questioner asked what one person, living or dead, would they want to spend an afternoon with. Colbert said he would kill two birds with one stone and go with Jesus.
Colbert told one questioner, who identified herself as a member of New Jersey 11th for Change, that he would never run for political office: “They would bury me up to the neck and come after me with lawnmowers for the things I’ve said.”
HIDING IN A TURTLENECK
Bee, who is a dual citizen, said that this first vote for president wasn’t a great one: “The
day started so hopefully.” Her show had planned a celebration, with a balloon drop, and musical act, and the intent to be magnanimous in victory. Bee decided to watch what was happening by checking the face of her producer, Pat King. “At 10 p.m., the light went out in Pat’s eyes.”
She and her staff then hid in their turtlenecks.
Colbert said that on election night he watched his own show “from somewhere near the ceiling.” He ended up talking for 10 minutes, just talking honestly to the audience. That was a turning point for him, he said, adding that today “honesty suddenly seems cool.”
Bee said that when the current president is gone, “and he will be gone,” she said as the audience applauded, the institutions that have been dismantled can be put back together.
“I think local politics is the way to do it,” Colbert said. “All hope for politics is local.”
Bee told an audience member that while yes, she sometimes misses Toronto, “While I’m alive on this earth I’m going to live in New York City and try to make things better.”