How Samantha Bee’s ‘Celebration of the Free Press’ Alternative WHCD Programming Happened

Bee talks to Lena Dunham

Headshot of Corinne Grinapol

Although one doesn’t necessarily need a reason to interview Samantha Bee these days–she’s been covered a lot, and deservedly so–but if you’re looking for a reason, she does have her still-largely-secret night of counter-WHCD programming coming up this weekend. And she does divulge a few hints in an interview with Lena Dunham in The Hollywood Reporter. Dunham herself has something new planned in her post-Girls life, and will be taking her and co-founder Jenni Konner’s Lenny Letter newsletter on the road for a six-city tour beginning in May.
According to Bee, her dinner wasn’t intended necessarily as counter-programming, but as a fill-in, in case the WHCD was cancelled:

Our minds wandered to the [White House Correspondents’] Dinner. And we were like, “I wonder if it’s even going to happen. Would [Trump] even show up for it? He’s marginalizing people. He’s going to abolish the White House press corps, perhaps. Who even knows?” And we were like, “I don’t think the dinner’s going to happen. Why don’t we have a dinner just to make sure something happens on the night?”

Bee calls the night a “a celebration of the free press,” with a particular focus on smaller and regional papers. “We’ve invited a lot of people from small news outlets. We want to highlight the work that … lesser-known news outlets and some old newspapers, local newspapers do because it feeds us. We are parasitic. We take from them and make a show,” she told Dunham.
We also loved Bee’s description of the no-fear, no-compromise attitude she and showrunner Jo Miller took toward creating the show:

Well, I and the showrunner, Jo [Miller], we are both women of a certain age. I’m 47. She’s 50. And the only thing that we truly knew that we wanted to do was really go for it. We just knew that it was a very rare opportunity. And we thought, “Even if we only have six episodes, let’s make them the most kick-ass six episodes of television that we could possibly make. Let’s make the show that we would want to see, and only cater to our own interests and kick the door in with it.”