• Samantha Bee addresses the Orlando shooting on Full Frontal. (YouTube)Source: YouTube
Samantha Bee joins the male political satirists on US TV who make sense of events which make no sense. Catharine Lumby salutes their clarity of thought, and wonders when Australia will follow suit.
By
Catharine Lumby

20 Jun 2016 - 11:03 AM  UPDATED 20 Jun 2016 - 11:07 AM

“Mum. Mum, are you listening? Why is Malcolm Turnbull being pushed around by the right-wing nut bags in his party, Mum? Why is he holding a plebiscite when the parliament could just vote? Why?”

“Shut up Charlie, it’s my turn. Mum, why don't Americans know the Second Amendment was written at a time when all they had were muskets? And why is Donald Trump orange? Does he have a disease? Does he?”

All this while I’m stirring the minestrone with one hand and checking emails with the other. Just another Monday night in a house with two teenage boys.

My partner and I are finding it hard enough to explain the current state of politics – at home and abroad – to ourselves. Throw in a couple of idealistic, endlessly curious teenagers and you have the recipe for a sudden desire to turn off the news and binge watch food TV.

The worst thing is that I often don't have an answer to their most pointed questions. Where has the real Malcolm Turnbull gone? Sure, he’s still personally committed to the issues that many voters want change on. But where’s the leadership?

Gun questions

And what it is with the national psychosis that defines Americans and their relationship with guns? I lived there for five years and I didn't scratch the surface of that one.

And Donald Trump? I’d have a better shot at explaining particle physics than accounting for his popularity in the polls.

Fortunately for our sanity, my husband and I hit on a solution for educating our children about the wacky world of 21st century politics some years ago.

Every night we sit them in front of the brilliant political satire that Americans have become so good at – perhaps born out of their desire to make amends for the egregious insults their politicians keep inflicting on democracy.

We’ve found a way to outsource questions for which we have no coherent answer.

And no, by satire, I don't mean Fox News. Though that can be hugely entertaining at times. I’m thinking of Jon Stewart (ex-host of The Daily Show), Stephen Colbert (ex-host of The Colbert Report, now host of The Late Show), Jon Oliver (host of Last Week Tonight) and Trevor Noah (new host of The Daily Show). All brilliant, erudite and sharp as cut tin when it comes to nailing the truth behind the euphemisms and hysteria that cloud public discourse.

These guys have guided my children through complex debates about the Syrian civil war, the rise of ISIS, the opposition to Obamacare, abortion rights, racial discrimination and xenophobia. And they’ve cracked them up while they’re at it.

And in a long overdue development, the brilliant Samantha Bee has been given her own show, Full Frontal. Bee is a Canadian American comedian who cut her teeth at Stewart's The Daily Show. She’s an expert in saying the unsayable.

Bee ever wonderful

Witness her brilliant seven-minute rant following the Orlando shootings. No point describing it. Just watch it.

She’s also living proof that feminists can be funny – a truth that, despite the existence of Tina Fey and Chelsea Handler, is still taking some time to sink in.

When conservative media outlets were bemused by so many women winning primaries in 2010, this was Bee’s response: “Men broke the country and now you need the ladies to come in and make it all better. No, it’s fine honey, we’ll do it. You just go back to sleep. We were getting bored just holding down full-time jobs and raising our kids anyway”.

Australia has a long history of news-based political satire. On television, the list includes John Clarke and Bryan Dawe’s interviews, Good News Week, Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell and, of course, The Chaser team’s various shows.

Samantha Bee just ripped into America's lack of action on gun control
She is mad as hell and not afraid to let everyone know it.

But there’s nothing approaching a weekly, let alone daily, show which skewers the political madness on a consistent and sustained basis.

Waleed Aly’s brilliant interventions on The Project are short but perfectly aimed. It would be great to see him host a show where he could really focus his rare combination of intellect and humour on political and social issues full time.

In the meantime, the sharpest political commentary is coming out of the US cloaked in satire. Which is a double bonus for our household. We’ve found a way to outsource questions for which we have no coherent answer.

And even, better, I feel a lot less guilty about our habit of all eating dinner in front of the TV. Hey, it’s educational. It must be OK. Oh go ahead and judge me. I’m too busy watching Samantha Bee to care.

Catch the latest episode of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee on SBS On Demand:

My two sons
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As the feminist mum of two teenage boys with a male partner, I am drowning in testosterone. How do I rate my Feminist Mum parenting, asks Catharine Lumby.