The Daily Show correspondents open up to MAKERS about their careers in sketch comedy
In an interview with AOL’s feminist platform MAKERS, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart correspondents Samantha Bee and Jessica Williams open up about working in comedy and what it’s like to be a woman in the industry.
“I remember getting that first laugh and being like, ‘Holy crap, I want people to laugh at me again – I need them to laugh!’ ” Williams, 25, says of her entrance into sketch comedy in high school.
Bee, 45, came into comedy later in life, after trying and failing to become an actor.
“In retrospect, I can see that nobody ever took me seriously,” she says, until the day her less-than-enthusiastic agent suggested she audition for The Daily Show.
“It was my favorite show, and I just trained for it like I was an Olympian, honestly. I ate salmon every day, I was like, ‘Brain food!’ ” Bee recalls.
Williams’ manager was a bit more encouraging: “She was like, ‘Hold on to your butt! Jon saw your tape, he wants to fly you out in two days to audition with him in the studio.’ ”
Her audition obviously went well, and Williams became the youngest Daily Show correspondent ever, as well as the first black woman to hold the position, in 2012. Bee joined the show in 2003 and surpassed Stephen Colbert to become the longest-serving regular correspondent until her departure in April of this year. She’ll soon be getting her own late-night talk show on TBS, although a premiere date hasn’t yet been announced.
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Both women agree that it takes a certain kind of bravery to work in political satire.
“I’m nervous before every single interview, it has never changed, because we’re always talking to different people about totally different things,” Bee says. “In an interview I can literally feel that moment where I’m like, ‘Okay, things are about to get weird,’ and I depress the gas pedal in my mind and I’m like, ‘Punch through, it’s gonna be fine, everybody’s gonna live.’ ”
Williams says being comfortable with being so outrageous is something she’s still working on.
“I’m starting to get there, where I’m like, this is my job, I’m gonna take all this shame, throw it out the window and just kinda sit down and do this interview and be as weird as possible,” she says.
The show’s “Senior Youth Correspondent” is also still getting used to being such an anomaly in her line of work.
“I didn’t realize being black and a woman on this show – or just in any sort of capacity in late night – was a big deal until I got here, and then when people were like, ‘Oh yeah, finally we got a sister up there.’ When I first started to get that, I was like, ‘What – oh, yeah, yeah, yes I am black, yes I am a woman, oh, now I remember,’ ” Williams says.
Both she and Bee credit the show’s satirical format with giving them a platform to openly discuss issues like racism and sexism.
“It’s really cool to have this show and use different takes and ideas to shine a light on what is white privilege, does it exist, does it not exist and we talk about it,” Williams says.
Bee adds, “It gives us the freedom to look at the news through an entirely different set of lenses, so we can sort of say whatever we want. I talk to real reporters all the time, and they’re like, ‘Ah, I wish I could say these things that you get to say.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, you shouldn’t have gone to journalism school because I didn’t, and I get to say whatever the f––– I please.’ “