Watching our late-night hosts deliver somber eulogies in the wake of mass shootings has become a familiar part of our national grieving ritual. After Sunday’s massacre in Orlando, Jimmy Fallon spoke of needing “a lesson in tolerance.” Stephen Colbert called for love, declaring “despair is a victory for hate.” Conan O’Brien, striking a more political tone than usual, declared “weapons of war have no place in civilian life.” And Samantha Bee called on God to send the NRA a plague of boils.
The traditional late-night format tends to favor an an air of wry, newsman-like detachment. But Samantha Bee is no straight-laced newsman, and cool detachment is not her style. Since her show launched in February, Bee — desk-free, unabashedly feminist, allergic to bullshit — has added a welcome dose of ruthless candor to the late night lineup.
“Now, after a massacre, the standard operating procedure is that you stand on stage and deliver some well-meaning words about how we will all get through this together, about how love wins, about how love conquers hate,” Bee said last night. “And that is great, that is beautiful. But, you know what? Fuck it. I am too angry for that. Love does not win unless we start loving each other enough to fix our fucking problems.”
While her colleagues opted to begin with somber remarks and then move on to lighter stuff, Bee segued immediately into a blistering seven minute rant, lambasting Rick Scott and Marco Rubio for their pathetic responses and observing that “sit[ting] quietly in a room with your eyes closed, talking to nobody, isn’t a reasonable solution towards fixing our mass shootings.”
“We can’t constitutionally get rid of all guns, but can’t we get semiautomatic assault rifles out of the hands of civilians?” she asked. “‘Sam Bee wants to take your guns away!’ Yes — the ones that mow down a roomful of people in seconds. Yes, I do want to take those guns away. These high-capacity penis substitutes are a shitty choice for hunting and home protection, but perfect for portable mayhem.”
Much like Jon Stewart at his best, Bee is capable of harnessing her righteous anger and distilling it into something devastatingly effective. Her ability to be funny, moving and scathing at the same time is a testament to the strong and consistent voice that sets her show apart, which never feels watered down or like it’s pandering to her audience. As politicians line up to offer “thoughts and prayers” after yet another senseless and preventable tragedy, it’s a voice we badly need.