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Review: ‘In Conversation with Samantha Bee…A Moderated Q&A’ at The Kennedy Center Concert Hall

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It was a match made in heaven: Rebecca Traister, author and commentator on feminism and politics; and Samantha Bee, Canadian-American writer, comedian, producer, and (according to TIME) one of the top 100 most influential women of 2017. For one evening only, The Kennedy Center presented In Conversation with Samantha Bee…A Moderated Q&A in the Concert Hall for a full house.  Traister and Sam (as Traister referred to her) covered an enormous range of topics from current news headlines about Trump and the #MeToo movement, to what brand of sneakers Sam preferred to wear. There were many serious moments and even occasional tears, but more than anything there was laughter.

Sam first appeared as a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, a role she stayed in for twelve years. But in 2015, Sam left to start her own show on TBS, Full Frontal, which has since won four Emmys and been nominated twenty-three times.

Traister writes for New York magazine and has won numerous awards for her work. She has written two books, the most recent titled, All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation. Traister and Sam have known each other for years and their camaraderie was immediately evident as they entered to wild applause.  Traister served as a mediator for the event, and the women sat in two arm chairs, with an end table in between, on the apron of the stage.

Despite the enormous space and number of people (the Concert Hall seats over two-thousand), the room felt incredibly intimate. Traister and Sam were loose and comfortable, following a basic list of questions to steer the conversation, but mostly chatting naturally with off-the-cuff comedy sprinkled in as it came.

They discussed the transformation of what qualifies as “news” in the past decade and the difficulty of reconciling the desire to shine a light on stories to promote change and the need to stay within the confines of the comedy genre. Sam recalled an un-aired segment on Full Frontal about the lack of available prosthetics for female veterans. She met with one vet who could never get a foot that fit. All that was available were feet in the proportion of a man’s stature, so the woman had an oversized prosthetic. The situation is unacceptable and a disgrace, but the visual of the woman with an overly large foot, and the absurdity of the situation, is the humor.

This brand of dark comedy may be offensive to some, but Sam thrives on the controversial and taboo. Case in point, Traister brought up one of the more recent episodes of Full Frontal, with a segment called “Penis PSA,” in which Sam gives advice to men on how to NOT masturbate in front of coworkers.  While sexual harassment is in no way funny, Sam points out what to many people is blatantly obvious: that masturbating in front of her employees “is the easiest thing [I don’t] do.”

But the conversation was not entirely political. There were many personal stories as well. Traister recalled the first audience filming of Full Frontal and how nervous Sam was.

Sam shared that the reason she got into performing was because she thought a theater course would be an easy credit in college.  Lucky for women and the world or comedy, she fell in love with the art. And the rest is history.

After Traister had gone through her list of pre-planned questions and conversation topics, the house lights came up and the audience was told they could ask questions. The women were candid and fielded numerous questions beyond the time that the show was expected to end.   Topics were as broad as Traister and Sam’s conversation had been.  One audience member asked if they would want Representatives to refuse to confirm a Trump Supreme Court nominee if the Democrats took back the majority, while an owner of a donut shop asked Sam what flavor of donut she would like to be. (For the record she said maple, keeping to her Canadian roots.)

In Conversation with Samantha Bee…A Moderated Q&A was a huge success with a palpable energy that buzzed throughout the audience, fueled by the combination of adoration for Sam and the comfort of like-mindedness. Traister and Sam embraced the large crowd and managed to make a vast space feel like a cozy living room. The Kennedy Center’s comedy event was one-night-only but there are many other programs lined up.

With the constant barrage of negativity and hate in the news every day, we could all use a little laughter in our lives.  Thank you The Kennedy Center for bringing hilarious and inspiring  Samantha Bee to the DC area!

Running Time: Approximately 1 hour, with no intermission.

In Conversation with Samantha Bee…A Moderated Q&A was presented on December 1, 2017 at 8:00 PM at The Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall- 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For more information on upcoming shows go to their website.

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