When I learned the name of Daily Show alum Samantha Bee’s new show recently, my heart sank a little. “Full Frontal?” Really? Here’s my theory about why prominent comedy shows hosted by women have titillating names. From a studio exec’s point of view, having a female host is a risky proposition. Some viewers will simply assume that a show hosted by a woman is just “for women.” Also, to be a comedian is to be an authority figure, and some people just aren’t into watching a lady in that role. (Whenever I write about this, I get comments from guys protesting that they like female comedians, so let’s just agree I’m not talking about you.) The solution, as far as the entertainment industry is concerned, is to go “Full Hooters” with the name, making the show appear non-threatening to the easily-emasculated.
Note for nitpickers: I’m well aware of the arguments behind reclaiming female sexuality and am fine with women being desnudas or whatever, but Sam Bee is a political humorist. The name seems gratuitous. It occurred to me that the title might have been inspired by Jessica Valenti’s book Full Frontal Feminism, but that’s using the concept in a very different context. My point here is not to pick on Bee, who I admire and who is probably under incredible pressure to make the show succeed, but to illustrate a double standard that’s hard not to see as a sad commentary on the state of women in comedy and the media.