Crying isn’t exactly rare on the UnStyled podcast. But it took next to nothing — a couple of introductory questions — for this week’s guest, Samantha Bee, to burst into tears. Talking to Refinery29’s global editor-in-chief and cofounder Christene Barberich about her childhood in Toronto, the Full Frontal host notes, “I was raised in large part by my grandmother. I had a really tight relationship with her. Her name was Doris Macon; she was awesome. She — oh no, we already made me cry just thinking about my grandmother. Shit.”
Collecting herself a bit, Bee adds, “I haven’t actually said her name in years. That’s crazy. She was great.”
As the comedian explains it, her parents were “high school sweethearts” when her mother became pregnant with her, and got married “against literally everyone’s wishes,” splitting up not much later. “I love my parents,” Bee stresses to Barberich. “I swear I really love them, but they were kids, and so they didn’t know what they were doing. So my grandmother was always there. She was always, foundationally, the person who always was like did you eat? Have you had a sandwich? We were very, very close. She was a consistent force, the safest place.”
More than that, “Gam” as she called her, was “super ahead of her time,” Bee says. “Her side of the family, without being self-conscious about it, they were modern women who would divorce shitty husbands, and move on to be single women in the world.” Born in 1916, her grandmother understandably had fewer options than women today. “It was not really thought of or even a possibility for her to go to college, which she really wanted to do,” Bee says.
“But she did go to secretarial school, and got a job. She did not want to get married. She kind of got forced down the aisle, I think, and wasn’t super excited about it. I also loved my granddad, but there was no mistaking the fact that she probably should not have done that. There was another path for her, probably.”
While she died before her granddaughter became a household name, her grandmother did give her blessing to comedian/actor Jason Jones, Bee’s future husband, early on in their relationship. “I’m going to cry again. Fine, I’ll cry,” Bee says. “I’ll say this. Because she died when I was 27, the one thing that she did get to do was meet Jason. She was kind of dying when she met him, and he was so great. She’d been so worried about me. Because I didn’t know what career path I was going to go down, and I was kind of confused. I didn’t know what the hell was happening, but Jason was so special, and she could see that. She was like, ‘Okay, well, I think I can die because I think that you’re in really good hands. I’ve done my work and now I can pass the torch.”
For much more from Bee and Barberich’s discussion — her transition from The Daily Show correspondent to headlining Full Frontal, how her team processes all those awful headlines into good TV, and her interesting backstage meeting with Bruce Springsteen — listen to this week’s UnStyled and subscribe via Apple Podcasts today.
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