Skip to main site content.
Allana Harkin attends Full Frontal With Samantha Bee's Not The White House Correspondents' Dinner After Party (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for TBS)

Step up

Trump should ‘take it like a woman’ and have a sense of humor

May 5, 2017

On a humid Saturday afternoon in D.C., staffers wearing “Free Press” T-shirts guided 2,600 people to pack the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall for Samantha Bee’s Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, a sister event to The White House Correspondents’ Dinner. In sweat-soaked, slinky dresses, celebrities and members of the media sat down and prepared to be “fluffed by a minor celebrity,” in the words of Bee, who wore a suffragette-white suit reminiscent of Hillary Clinton. (Bee introduced ‘Hillary Rodham Beyoncé Clinton’ at the Women in the World Summit this past April.)

As she stressed the importance of press during the current presidency, Bee told the journalists in the audience, “Tonight is for you.” (It literally was — the event raised about $200,000 for the Committee to Protect Journalists.) Highlights of the gala included a fake press room briefing with Allison Janney, punchy performances by Peaches, Will Ferrell reviving his impression of George W. Bush (“How do you like me now?”), an In Memoriam of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, and a “Man in the High Castle”-style tape from an alternate universe where Clinton had won the election. (Watch the event in full below.)

Women in the World sat down with Full Frontal with Samantha Bee co-producer and correspondent Allana Harkin, who performed sketch comedy with Bee for years prior to the launch of her late-night show. “Sam and I started our careers together,” said Harkin. The two were in a comedy troupe in Toronto together before their careers evolved into Bee’s weekly show, which airs on TBS every Wednesday night. With the actual White House Correspondents’ Dinner to take place in a few hours (sans the president for the first time in more than 30 years), Harkin expressed concerned about having a president who lacks a sense of humor.

“God, here’s an opportunity for you. You just became President of the United States. What more do you want? What are you afraid of? Step up,” Harkin said of Trump. “And at every point he’s just not done it.” She added that if Trump showed up to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and “took it like a woman,” people might see him in a different light. “He has no sense of humor.”

Is it distressing to know that such a powerful person is so sensitive that he can’t laugh at his own expense? “He can’t joke about himself, doesn’t that scare you?” asks Harkin. “That’s the number one thing that scares me about him. When someone has no sense of humor, like when you tell them a joke and they have no expression on their face or they look like they’re going to murder you, it’s terrifying.”

Harkin believes that Trump’s inability to take a joke is symptomatic of a larger problem simmering beneath his thin skin. “I just don’t think he’s really willing to truly be President of the United States. If you can’t come to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner for a friendly roast in support of journalists, how are you going to do the rest of your job?”

Allana Harkin onstage during Full Frontal With Samantha Bee’s Not The White House Correspondents’ Dinner at DAR Constitution Hall on April 29, 2017 in Washington, DC.

According to Harkin, Bee predicted Trump’s absence for the WHCD as soon as he was elected president. She scrambled with her team to plan a parallel gala to support the actual dinner that would emphasize the need for free press and strong journalism, the lifeblood of their award-winning talk show.

As we live under a male-dominated administration that’s constantly pummeling women’s rights, Bee’s show is cathartic to watch. Surreal, shocking headlines about the president’s latest moves often sound like jokes that are too ridiculous to be true. In the past week alone, Trump has appointed an anti-contraception advocate to oversee a federal family planning program, and we learned that under the new health care bill, issues stemming from sexual assault are pre-existing conditions.

“Every day is Armageddon,” said Harkin, as environmentalists marched for climate action just outside the hall. “Defund global women’s issues. Go for it. We’re not going to f**king back down.” She highlighted how all their stage managers and band members are female. “This is a very strong female show. The upshot of having Donald Trump as our president is that there’s a little bit of like, ‘Okay, you’re gonna try and suffocate us? We will rise to the occasion, motherf**ker.’ And that’s not just our show, that’s across the board. You’re going to defund this and this and this and that, we will still keep fighting you.”

It’s an interesting and frightening time, but Harkin feels grateful for her show, and she swells with pride for Bee. “I’m proud of her. I see what she’s doing, I know the place it’s coming from. This isn’t about her job as a comedian, this is her heart and soul. It’s coming from such an authentic, good place.” Harkin clarifies that even when Bee is roasting people (like CNN President Jeff Zucker), it’s coming from a place of support for women, journalists, and the news.

Would they hold another event similar to the NWHCD?

“Our real goal is Wednesday nights at 10:30 p.m. on TBS. That is where we focus on current events, we can focus on exactly what’s happening in news at that moment. I mean, I’m not going to lie to you, it’s going to be crazy coming from this and going back to Wednesday night,” said Harkin. “I can’t wait to tell our audience how it went tonight. And I think that sometimes you kind of only get that from a woman. We’re full of feels at Full Frontal.”


Samantha Bee talks to Lena Dunham about how to cope with President Trump

Samantha Bee edits the spin out of Bill O’Reilly’s statement about leaving Fox News