The reigning Queen Bee of political satire outdid herself Saturday night in Washington, D.C., delivering on her promise to “Finally answer the question, ‘What if Washington D.C.’s annual nerd prom were hosted by a lady nerd and had way more curse words?'” at the first annual “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee’s Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.”
Coincidentally, the event took place on the same day as the People’s Climate March, making it rather difficult for guests to get into the DAR Constitution Hall in their black tie attire (only cocktail was specified). The event took place just a few blocks from the White House, where President Donald Trump will not be attending the actual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. (It’s anyone’s guess where he actually will be: “President Trump has been in office for 100 days, and in the White House for 17,” said Bee.)
Proving her team was writing up until the last minute to ensure the jokes were lemony fresh (with plenty of zing), Bee took a hit at a different kind of disaster that captivated Twitter: “Congratulations, Mr. President, you sold people on lies, you’re basically the Presidential version of the Fyre Festival.” Another double edged joke came at Tiffany Trump’s expense, when Bee pointed out that Trump has tweeted about CNN more times than he ever has his younger daughter.
Though Bee anchored the hour-long special almost entirely on her own, (the show was so packed with punchlines, the crowd’s laughter stepped on nearly every intro), she got by with a little help from her friends Will Ferrell and Peaches. Peaches opened the show with a highly condensed version of her classic “Boys Wanna Be Her,” which acts as the theme song for “Full Frontal.”
Will Ferrrell reprised his iconic George W. Bush impression, which he perfected during his “Saturday Night Live” days. He began by boasting that he is no longer considered the worst president in history, but the second worst. “I’m a painter now,” he said. “Turns out, I’m a better painter than I was a president.” Bee gave Ferrell the task of delivering the most insider baseball-style press jokes, a hallmark of the actual correspondents’ dinner. He floundered a bit with a digression about Cokie Roberts wheeling around the corpse of Helen Thomas, a stalwart of the White House press corps who died in 2013. The joke really landed with a few tables in the front.
Ferrell concluded by holding up a portrait of Trump, which was only half finished because he “ran out of oranges and yellows.” Even though, he said, “He’s not really orange or yellow. I got a new name for that color: They should just call it Mar-a-Lago.” He also had a bit of style advice for the current president: “A big long tie that goes past your thigh does not mean what you think it means.”
Bee spoke candidly to the crowd in between tapings, thanking everyone and riffing sans teleprompter. At one point, she even disparaged one of her taped character segments: “That is so stupid. Okay, hi guys, Natalia is actually the most true to my character.” Bee encouraged everyone to avail themselves of the open bar, and if the sounds of shattering champagne glasses is any indication — they listened. Only twice did she flub a line and have to start over. The woman is a consummate professional.
For her final segment, Bee riffed on Amazon’s “The Man in the High Castle,” imagining an alternate reality where Hillary Clinton was elected president. Secretly meeting George Takei in the rain, he hands off film of this parallel universe, which she asks her Alexa to play. Bee taped the final monologue live, as if she were speaking at the real Correspondents’ Dinner in this fantasy world. She expertly turned a catch in her voice into an exaggerated sob, but when she thanked the crowd after the taping, it was all genuine.
The Peaches song rings true: The boys want to be her, the girls want to be her. Who wouldn’t want to be this funny, smart, lady at the top of the comedy game? That much is clear from watching “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner,” an event she shepherded into existence. What you get watching her live is that, like her predecessors Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, she is also genuinely kind and extremely passionate about what she does. All hail the new Queen Bee!
“Full Frontal With Samantha Bee’s Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner” airs on TBS at 10 p.m. ET/PT, and live streams on Twitter.