A Nice Chat With Samantha Bee About Her ‘Choice Words’ Podcast, Air Conditioning, And The ‘Crazy S**t’ She Did As A Teen SuperNayr

Interviews are fun and useful, but also deceptive when it comes to thinking that you actually understand the nuances of a career and a life. For the most part, they’re snapshots, but some interviews give more than others. With Samantha Bee’s new podcast, Choice Words (from Lemonada Media), the aim is to fix on key moments in the lives of some of our favorite celebrities (Betty Gilpin, Greta Gerwig, Michelle Buteau, and Amber Ruffin in the most recent episode), creating the environment for an unusually real and revealing chat about the fascinating choices that they’ve made along the way.

It’s a great show and a great concept and Bee is great at hosting it — engaging, curious, funny. She was also predictably great in our chat — she’s always a damn delight to talk with. Choice Words isn’t specifically fixed to news cycles and movements in Washington as her TV show was, though Bee finds space to talk about the things that matter to her most. She’s also got her one-woman show (Your Favorite Woman) that just saw new tour dates added that stretch out into November.

Below, we touch on the new show, people’s penchant for asking her about politics, the nature of regret, and some of her own choices including the one that saved her from a Bonnie and Clyde lifestyle.

How are you?

I’m good, thanks. It’s very hot in my apartment right now. I don’t have an air conditioner.

Is it rubbing it in to say that I have an air conditioner on right now? Should I turn it off? Is that rude?

No, you better keep that air conditioning on. You better full-blast it. You can make it louder if you need to.

Good. Because I didn’t want to turn it off. My wife is working in an office without an air conditioner. I don’t know how she’s surviving. Me and the dog have moved into the office with the air conditioner. We’re surviving. Your bond with survival is stronger than your bond with your spouse.

That’s correct. You have to go through things together to know what your relationship is made of.

Yeah, or apart to see who can survive the summer, apparently.

(Laughs) Yeah.

So, I love the podcast. I’m curious, do you like being interviewed? I won’t take it as an insult if you say no.

Sometimes I do. Sometimes I do greatly. If I feel like it’s kind of freeform then I for sure love it. Like I don’t totally love talking about myself all the time. I hate talking about myself, but we can talk about you. That’s the problem: I try to flip it back. I’m like, “I’m interviewing you now!”

I always have more trouble if it’s like, “We’ve got to get these things into this,” like load this interview with so much information. It’s very distracting. You know, when you’re doing a bit on a show and they’re like, “You’ve got a cool 2 minutes and 25 seconds to make all the points you want to make, but also sparkle.” Those are kind of hard. You end up sweating. Like your knees sweat, and you’re like, “I don’t think I got it in! What did I say!?”

So, I love the premise of the show. What kind of choice-maker are you? Are you someone who deliberates a lot?

I’m a deliberator. I’m a deep deliberator.

That’s a nice way of saying you have to put off things (that) you can’t decide.

I can’t decide.

That’s me. I’m indecisive. Deliberator, I like that better.

I actually used to do this thing. There was a show I used to work on that I cannot mention due to my double strike status, but I would say this thing all the time that drove absolutely everybody crazy and I was in charge so everybody had to pretend like it was fine, but it was so not fine. I’d be like, “Ah, these are great ideas. I’ve got to mull this. I’ve just got to sleep on it.” I feel like if people were going to make a joke sweatshirt about me that was pointed, it would just say the word MULL. (Laughs) I love to be kept awake by an idea for weeks.

Oh, I love that too.

I really take my time. Just alarmingly. An alarmingly long time to make critical decisions and everything gets weighed. I love a list. My husband and I had a big decision to make many years ago. We were like, “Okay, it’s not an urgent decision that we have to make. Let’s give ourselves two weeks to decide and let’s go through every version of any possible answer. Let’s just be the opposite about it. Let’s really go there, think about all the contours of this problem we’re trying to solve. We’ll just go to the depths of it. The dark places and the happy places. At the end of two weeks we’ll just go, ‘Did I feel more in the happy place or did I feel more in a dark place?’ And that’ll clinch the decision.” We clinched it and it was so good to give time to really wrestle with all the demons of an issue. And then there’s no going back, and then you’re like, “Oh, we decided, moving on,” and it was good.

The true skill of that is not pushing back the period of time that you give yourself to think it through. That’s my problem.

Oh, I’m a deadline-based person. I love a deadline. I thrive with a deadline and stick to them in a way that is actually kind of robotic. (Laughs) You know what I mean? That’s probably the middle-aged woman in me. It’s like, the deadline is Tuesday at six, and then I’m just like, “Well, it has to be. There can be no alternative. It can’t be 6:01. How could it? I said it was a deadline.” Ridiculous.

Usually, I’m into deadlines in the way that it’s like holding onto a burning pot until it gets red. To feel something you need that deadline.

(Laughs) Oh my God, I love it. Is your wife the same way?

Very much an order-based person. We’ve been together a long time and we’re completely opposite in every way.

I like that because I’ve been with my husband for a really long time, too, and it’s like where he has hard edges, mine are softer, where I have hard edges, his are softer. Somehow you end up molding to each other or it keeps it very fluid. One person fills in the gaps, fills that crevice in where another person is very rigid, and then it switches and it swaps back and forth. I think it’s just a healthy dynamic.

It’s nice. Um, jumping back to the idea of choices, are you a regret person? Are you someone who luxuriates in regret?

No.

You make a decision, and move on?

I make a decision and move on. I mean, this is not to say that I don’t make terrible mistakes. I’m sure other people regret my mistakes. I don’t wallow in regrets, for sure, because I feel like all of those things, all of those errors or like crazy things kind of add up to the person that you are. It’s just a kind of waste of energy to regret things. You cannot reverse time. You cannot go back. All you can do is move forward. All you can do is make the situation better by moving forward and by going through it. You know what I mean? Regret is kind of a waste of time, I think.

It is.

I don’t often answer that question, so now I feel like I’m finding my way through it. As I say it out loud, I’m like, “Wow, that sounds rigid,” but I don’t know. (Laughs) I don’t sit around and go like, “Aw.” I think I’ve been awful in different scenarios. In my twenties, I was not a great girlfriend to a lot of people. Would I have wished for them to have better memories of our time together? Of course. (Laughs)

That, to me, is different. That’s growth more so than regret. Just the conscious decision of, yep, could’ve done that better. Moving on.

Yeah.

What made this the concept you wanted to pursue with this show, the idea of examining those choices as a starting point for these conversations?

I love the idea that a small decision that you made as a young person can have these reverberations in your life later on. By way of example, I talked about this a little bit on the show. It was kind of a small thing. Well, I guess it wasn’t that small, but I had a really bad boyfriend in my teens. We jacked cars and we would do all this crazy shit together. He was kind of a small-time criminal and I was like, “I’ll be a criminal. I think I will live a criminal life with you. We’ll go and we’ll be Bonnie and Clyde, and that will be our future.” And I was very serious about it. I was like, “This is what I am good at. This is what I want. This is what I think could provide us with what we need in the future.” I think I was, like, 15. I was young, but it was not unserious.

It was what I thought I wanted. Then I kind of just walked into a wall one day. I mean, really it was like all those stories where it’s like someone’s hand on your shoulder, but no one’s there. It was like just being shaken, something, some force, internal force, shook me out of it. It was like running my face into a wall. I was like, “What the fuck is wrong with you? You’re not good at this. This isn’t the life. This isn’t a life for you. You can do better. You can do better than this.” I broke up with him and put myself on the right path that day. I don’t know how to describe it other than it was just this moment in time where I was like, “Oh, I will not do that anymore. I give up on that and I’m going to choose a different trajectory for myself.”

It was in high school. This is like a high school decision. This is not like an operatic decision from, like, in your thirties when you’re just handling all this. It was just the smallest moment, the smallest little pivot in my life that literally changed everything. It changed my interior, the interior makeup of my personality. I feel like I can even remember where I was standing when I went, “What the fuck?” I’ve spent a lot of time ever since then just going like, “Oh, my actions hurt people. I owe the world a debt. I owe the world something. I owe people something. I owe the world goodness because that was very bad. (Laughs) I think, moving forward, I need to be an ethical human being.” I think I’ve operated on that basis ever since that day, or I’ve tried to, for the most part.

In terms of the show, from what I’ve seen, yes, but you could be living this double life that I wouldn’t know. You could have, like, some kind of illicit gambling ring on the side.

(Laughs) You caught me! No one ever asked that question! It was you! I would’ve gotten away with it, too!

But with the show, examining those questions (choices, regrets) is obviously a way into the kind of interview that you were talking about at the start, a casual conversation as opposed to something that’s more like a project. Not that projects don’t come up, but, yeah, I think you sort of have that. It’s sort of a sneaky trick.

It is sneaky.

But it’s good.

It’s just a starting point. No one really wants to just talk about their project.

No.

People want to hear what you’re up to. They don’t want to have a long conversation about your individual projects usually. Now we can’t even do that at all.

Yeah.

And that’s fine because I don’t really want to do that either. Although I will say the exception is I do love talking about people’s books. I do love talking to people who are authors.

It’s such a personal project. Not that I have a problem with films or TV shows, love them, but that’s a collaborative effort versus a book, which is so personal.

Oh, yeah.

Do people always expect to talk to you about politics and what’s the latest in Trump? Do you just get peppered with that constantly? I imagine that happens a lot. We’ve talked before and I have done that, and I apologize.

I get it in the street more than in an interview setting, actually.

Fun.

People are like, “What about this January 6th hearing?” I’m like, “Yeah, I’m just a civilian.” I’m still reading the paper every day. I just don’t have a platform to talk about it anymore, so I don’t process it in the same way. Now I’m just a distressed citizen without a platform to talk. I definitely know that I don’t miss talking about politics. I don’t miss it in the least. I have moved on in a very happy way to be able to just do the things that are very particularly interesting to me, which does not preclude talking about newsworthy things. It’s just I don’t feel like I have to do it all the time.

‘Choice Words With Samantha Bee’ from Lemonada Media can be here and wherever you find fine podcasts.

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