Late-night hosts and former Daily Show colleagues Stephen Colbert and Samantha Bee compared notes onstage about sexual harassment, President Donald Trump and a range of other topics, putting their quick wit and shared political leanings on display.
The Saturday night conversation at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark highlighted the seventh annual fundraiser for New Jersey non-profit Montclair Film, which provided a transcript to Deadline. (Colbert is a resident of Montclair, N.J.)
Taking stock of the wave of sexual harassment scandals, Colbert said one of his children had told him, “You know, if sexual impropriety were weather, this is hurricane season! Every day there is landfall of another hurricane, and another career gets ripped away!” Bee parried, “Yeah, it is a tsunami of penises! Coming onto the shore!”
Late Night‘s Colbert began one question for Full Frontal‘s Bee with a long windup, then cut himself short. “Fuck all that preamble!” he said. “Guys are getting busted for getting their their dicks out in front of women. I was gonna Charlie Rose this one but then I thought ‘Don’t Charlie Rose this one! Because that has a totally different meaning now.'”
The pair mixed in plenty of sincere sentiment with the cracks. “It’s heartbreaking,” Bee said of the current moment, “but it’s not surprising probably to most women I know in the comedy community. It’s definitely not surprising to any woman who lives on planet Earth. The speed and ferocity at which everything is coming forward at the moment is impressive to me, and I’m happy to be alive in this moment. In a moment where people are feeling freer with their stories and we don’t have to live with shame.”
Don’t expect an end soon, she predicted. “It’s really still hard for people,” she said. “This is the tippy top of the flag on the top of the iceberg.”
Colbert confessed, “I feel dumb… I’m not surprised that men are bad but… I didn’t know about Louis C.K. I didn’t even know about Cosby! And that’s dumb.”
The pair then discussed the prospect of whether the artistic work by Louis C.K. could be separated from his behavior. Colbert asked Bee if, for example, she can listen to a comedy album by Bill Cosby.
“I can’t,” she said. “I think that’s a really valid thing and it’s not the same for every person or artist. There are certain artists that I just can’t separate it with anymore. And that’s my prerogative, others can.”
Bee added, “I do think we are having this crazy conversation now where it’s seeming to some people like the consequence is we are just having to talk about this now. But there are real consequences to people’s real life behavior and sometimes the consequence is you lose your job and you lose a lot when these things are revealed.”
When Colbert teed up the subject of former Today anchor Matt Lauer, Bee marveled, “I mean, the button under his desk!? I wish I had a button under my desk and sexual harassers would just slide into a pit of crocodiles. And we would not have to see them anymore.”
Bee offered the audience her office-conduct pledge. “There’s a one million fucking percent guarantee that I’ve never shown my dick to anyone in my office!” she said. “And you can put my Good Housekeeping stamp of approval on that! That’s probably the one thing I can guarantee about my workplace. The easiest thing I’ve done all day is not masturbate on this stage in front of all of you. Effortless.”
Turning to their shared nemesis, Colbert asked Bee if the Trump presidency was better or worse than she imagined. “So much worse! So much worse! I wreck the set now I’m so angry!” and then the two Hulk-ed out, exaggeratedly knocking things over on stage.
“I thought he would be this benign idiot,” Bee said. “I just thought he would do a terrible job just by letting other people do things for him, and I could not have imagined this.”Colbert said, “Me either, that he would be everything I imagined plus dismantling institutions that are necessary for stability around the globe.”Turning more serious, Bee said, “To combat Trumpism in a way we need to find our shared decency, as opposed to accentuating the things that happened before. You can’t forget those things. And you don’t have to forget those things in order to see the lightness in other areas.”Agreed Colbert, “FDR said that the presidency is essentially a moral position, that the country could go on without the president but you need a central figure to set a moral tone for the nation. And that’s probably one of the most heartbreaking things about our President is that there’s no moral center to the nation.”