Based on hard, empirical data, the vast majority of Americans have no idea who Samantha Bee is. She has a “comedy” show on basic cable, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, but hardly anybody really watches it. Her ratings tend to be pretty low, with what could generously be described as a niche audience of around half-a-million per broadcast. Those kinds of numbers would probably get her cut from beleaguered CNN.
To make matters worse, Full Frontal gets a rather embarrassing Rotten Tomatoes Average Audience Score of 28%, although the program’s website falsely claims, “The show has a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score.”
Somehow, though, she has convinced her network to keep renewing her contract. Defying all logic, she is now in her sixth season. Perhaps they may want to look into her ratings, or at least her Rotten Tomatoes score, in case they are relying on Bee to self-report.
Usually, her show covers a number of topics that are in America’s zeitgeist when she broadcasts, but this week, she decided to focus her entire show on guns.
If you are familiar with Bee’s brand of humor, it went about as you would expect. If not (which, again, based on science, is likely), then here is her show from this week, in a nutshell.
Naughty words are a substitute for writing actual comedy, and Americans should be completely disarmed.
To promote her anti-gun screed, Bee recruited a number of “celebrities” and political types to plead for something to be done to restrict the access to firearms by law-abiding citizens. The general message, repeated over and over, was to “do one thing,” although many thought they should also throw in an expletive.
We can only presume the expletive was scripted and encouraged by Bee, since she tends to throw the same one, or derivations of it, into her regular routine. Whether this tactic is intended to show Bee is an “edgy” comic, or to show how “serious” she is about whatever she is talking about, it tends to get fairly old, fairly fast.
It’s hard to tell if this is a crutch utilized by her writing staff, or just a sign of her limited vocabulary. Fair warning: the clip we watched had the words bleeped out, but if that’s SOP for the show, you’ll still get the “joke.” It’s as obvious as her set-ups and “punch-lines.”
Now, we referred earlier to Bee recruiting “celebrities” because, in all honesty, we didn’t recognize most of them. We only presumed they are actual celebrities because one media story about this particular episode referred to them as “minor celebrities.” She did, however, have Richard Marx on this show, who was kind of a big thing a few decades ago. For those of you unfamiliar with the name, he is a singer who had a few hits in the previous millennium.
So, what was her overall message? We really don’t know, because we were only able to watch the first five minutes online before it cut off. In that time, though, we caught the numerous profanity-laced demands to “do one thing,” and the title of this episode is “Full Frontal Wants To Take Your Guns,” so we believe her goal is the complete disarmament of American citizens. That must be the “one thing” Bee and her collection of supporters would like to see accomplished.
According to other reports, the program referred to the Second Amendment as “outdated and useless,” a position with which most Americans do not agree. She also seems to think that accessories added to firearms that are designed to greatly enhance their accuracy and, thus, safety are actually there “to create the illusion that this deathtrap is a video game or toy….”
Like many of the most extreme anti-gun activists, she clearly has no idea how guns actually work or why people own them.
She also reportedly does the same old tired comparison of guns and vehicles, and the predictable, shallow attack on “fragile men” who own guns.
Apparently, anti-gun comedy, like anti-gun activism, is all about regurgitating the same old tropes that serve to merely insult law-abiding gun owners, try to shame them into subservience, and promote more restrictions on lawful citizens.
Some might say we are being unfair for commenting on Bee’s recent program without having watched the whole show, but who really has time for such nonsense? The first five minutes were enough of a mess to warrant not putting forth any effort to watch the rest. If she’s not going to put any real work into her show, why should we? Besides, we have seen commercials for her show over the years, and each episode looks to be about the same.
Take a topic, scream and gesticulate wildly to appear outraged about it, and throw in a bunch of swear words. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. It just seems awfully repetitive, and awfully lazy. Not to mention just plain awful.
Normally, we wouldn’t bother commenting on a comedy show, but Bee’s isn’t really one. It tries to pass itself off as a program that leads “the cultural conversation” on “stories inside the beltway and beyond,” and touts awards it has received like the Television Critics Association Award for Outstanding Achievement in News and Information. Apparently, Bee fancies her show to be like 60 Minutes, but with less actual journalistic investigation, and more bleeps and blurred screens to satisfy the censors but still titillate her small audience.
Sure, we get the idea of using humor to push a political agenda, but we really cannot tell when she is supposed to be funny and when she is supposed to be serious. Maybe that explains the low ratings. People expecting provocative satire are as disappointed as those expecting inciteful, well-researched political commentary.
We always thought humor, at least political satire, was supposed to have a foundation in truth. But from what we’ve seen of Bee’s work, she simply takes a false narrative, then sprinkles in profanity and fake outrage. It has all the subtlety, nuance, and thoughtfulness of the jokes you hear in a junior high locker room. Her comedic formula seems to come from the same labs used to produce racist and ethnic “jokes.”
Bee’s views on guns are, of course, woefully out of step with those of mainstream Americans. If month after month of gun-buying data have shown anything, it’s that more Americans are embracing their Second Amendment rights than in any point in the recent past.
We certainly are not experts on TV ratings, but maybe if Bee tried relating to the average American with her “comedy,” she might get a boost in her numbers. Maybe she’ll even get to a million viewers one night. Bee’s viewers average roughly one tenth of NRA’s membership, but if she can get to one fifth, that would be quite an accomplishment for her.
Then again, if she’s happy with her niche audience, more power to her. She clearly started her show in 2016 as an obvious attempt to stop Donald Trump from defeating the candidate she supported, Hillary Clinton, and spent the majority of the next four years trying to insult and undermine the president with her brand of humor. After losing the bulk of her source material, she still probably makes a comfortable living without having to do much more than assure the handful of folks who like her routine and support her particular worldview that they are “better” than the majority of Americans. If that’s her goal, who are we to judge?
But if she wants to see a rise in her ratings, perhaps she should listen to the immortal words of Homer Simpson.
Be more funny!