On Recode Media, Samantha Bee Explains The Importance Of Adding Diversity To Late Night Television

Bee: “Broadening The Point Of View Is …  Just Going To Make You See Things That You Never Thought Of Before”

From the May 12 edition of Recode Media with Peter Kafka:

Video file

PETER KAFKA (HOST): How conscious are you about having more diversity behind the scenes?

SAMANTHA BEE: We're very conscious of it. That is something that we do think about. That's something that we thought about a lot when we were hiring, and we continue to think of it. We think of it -- we're trying to build a mentorship program,  slowly but surely.

KAFKA: Like an actual program, not just --

BEE: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Because we realize that we haven’t -- it's not like we've solved the diversity problem, but we do need to kind of keep the needle pushing forward.

KAFKA: So this is something that bedevils traditional late night, Jon Stewart, he got crap for it.

BEE: It does.


KAFKA: Just mechanically, how do you go about saying, “Alright, we want a diverse staff?” How do you go about doing that? Do you say we want this -- J.J. Abrams has said for his stuff that he's doing in LA, he said, “We now want to see this percent Asian, we want to at least look at a reflection of people, a cross-section that looks like America, with actual numbers.”

BEE: Sure. Yeah, you have to do more than just putting out a submission packet for people and going like, “All people apply please.” You have to make calls, you have to contact people who you know from that community, you have to go, “Hey, who do you know? Who do you know who knows someone else? Who do you know who knows someone else who you think would be great? Or who they think would be great.”

KAFKA: “Who is a woman, who is an African-American?”

BEE: “Who is a woman.”

KAFKA: So you're asking specifically for that.

BEE: You're being really specific and reaching into places where maybe no one's ever been asked before and you're trying to say, “Hey, tell me all the people you think are great, and tell them we want to hear from them.”

KAFKA: And is there anyone tapping you on the shoulder saying, “Look, I know that's well intentioned, but there’s-- look, it works best if we go to the traditional community. It works best if we get more white guys from Harvard.”

BEE: Well, of course, we went to the traditional community, too. I mean, that's just a part of it. You do your regular submission, you do all the agents and stuff like that and you hit that territory, but then you do have to push that further. You do have to push that further. And it's really hard work.

KAFKA: So are you pleased with where you're at now?

BEE: I'm really pleased. I think we can always do better, definitely.

KAFKA: And do you think that makes for a funnier, better show?

BEE: A hundred percent. A hundred percent because broadening the point of view is only ever going to benefit you. It’s just going to make you see things that you never thought of before. People bring in jokes that I would have never thought of. People bring in stories that would never have occurred to me.

KAFKA: Yeah? Can you think of one like that got on the air?

BEE: Well, I probably wouldn’t have – I don’t know that I would have thought to go to Jordan if this woman Roseanne didn’t work here. She brought this story to us, she was like, “We should do this, we should go talk to refugees.” And I was like, “Oh, what a great idea!” She’s wonderful. She has great ideas. You need that. You need people from all different walks of life. It helps so much. I’m not sure why it hasn’t –

KAFKA: Well, it takes effort, right?

BEE: Takes a lot of effort. Takes a lot of effort. Certain amount of creativity.