A recent Samantha Bee interview in New York Magazine reveals that the writers room for her new show, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, is “50 percent female and 30 percent nonwhite,” making it one of the most (if not the most) diverse writing staffs in late night.
Alongside showrunner Jo Miller, Bee began narrowing down her group of writers through a blind submission process. It’s a common practice in late night shows (both the Daily Show and the Late Show with Stephen Colbert have used blind submissions in the past) that’s meant to make the selection process more fair—showrunners can’t tell who the writers are, so (in theory) the job will go to the funniest person.
But it rarely works out that way, especially when submission details keep being sent the same pool of Harvard Lampoon editors and prominent (typically white and male) comedians that have always received them. To truly achieve diversity in the writers room or in any industry, you have to cast a wider net, which is exactly what Bee and Miller did.
New York’s Rebecca Traister writes:
Bee and Miller have worked hard to create a diverse production staff, carefully crafting a blind application process to make it more accessible to people who have not traditionally spent any time in writers’ rooms. The result is a writing staff that is 50 percent female and 30 percent nonwhite. It’s a mix of experience levels as well; there is one writer who was previously at Letterman and another whose last job was at the Maryland DMV. “If we don’t do anything else right, we hired incredible people across the board,” says Bee. “Our hiring process was great.”
Diversity is a problem the industry has faced for ages but has had a hard time addressing practically. “There’s a lot of people sitting around in rooms discussing how to make it happen as opposed to just, like, doing it,” Bee says. “Asking: ‘Do you have any 45-year-old-woman friends who you think are really talented who could submit an application to us?’ ‘Do you have any black friends who are great writers who haven’t had a shot?’”
Full Frontal is also in the “embryonic” stages of designing a mentorship program to bring aspiring writers from typically ignored demographics in the writers room. In Bee’s words, the program will be for “pockets of people who don’t formally have access to this world, who want to be in this world, who have no idea how to get there, and who demonstrate some skill in some capacity and a passion for it.”
The entire Samantha Bee profile—which boasts Bee’s takes on her early days at The Daily Show, being snubbed by Vanity Fair, and references towards the joke hotline she set up to field trolls’ rape threats—is well worth a read. Bee is whip smart, feminist, and crackling with energy. Hopefully (and, as the previews suggest, most likely), her show will be a true reflection of its host.
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