Making a big life change isn’t easy. Even if it’s inevitable. Even when you know deep down it’s the right choice and you look forward to it with every fibre of your being. And especially if you’re a person like me, who enjoys such life-affirming concepts as “stability” and “routine.” I’ve eaten the same thing for breakfast for the past 20 years. I’ve never, ever skipped flossing, not even when camping (I’d floss with shredded tree bark if it came to that), and the last time I changed my hairstyle, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien was being maligned for Peppergate. (Yes, I got bangs, and no, I’d rather not discuss it.) I am what’s called a creature of habit.
So when it came time to leave my job after 12 years as a correspondent for The Daily Show — the job that largely made me who I am — I was simultaneously terrified and excited. Not because I couldn’t go through with it (I could), not because I didn’t want to (I did), but because change is scary and, my God, do I hate it.
You know how sometimes a job or relationship becomes such a core part of your identity that you almost don’t know who you’d be without it? Well, it’s a big understatement to say that The Daily Show changed my whole life and the life of my husband (who was also a correspondent). It plucked us from relative obscurity, relocated us to Manhattan and gave us the freedom to explore our passions from the relative safety of a beloved platform helmed by a comedic titan. It was non-stop challenging in all the right ways. Our three babies were born during our time there, and the people we worked with have become dear friends.
Then it happened all at once. Opportunities that my husband and I had very intentionally pursued — the chance to create not one but two shows* of our own on a different network (TBS) — presented themselves. Change was afoot; decisions had to be made. In the two months I had to ruminate before actually cutting the cord, my anxiety became intense. I realized that if I was going to get through this transition in one piece, I’d have to take really good care of myself — spring training for the emotions! I ate brain foods, exercised a ton, read actual books before bed and cut down on caffeine. I stayed home, hunkered down, organized my closets and prepped meals to put in the freezer. In short, I did all the things I did right before having my first baby. When it was time, I gave the oxygen mask a big yank, placed it over my face and breathed deeply — just like you’re supposed to do — and I handed in my notice.
Oh, I gave myself permission to cry, a lot — great gushers of emotion. The people I (formerly) worked with were so used to it by the time I left that they fashioned me a novelty tissue box that was three feet square and filled with bedsheet tissues. That level of emotion probably fares better at a TV show than at a law office, but every workplace has a cupboard somewhere for emoting in, right? A sobbing closet? My husband was patient and kind, but he did ask once if I could attempt to cry “50 percent less” so that he could continue to enjoy his life somewhat as well.
Today, having battled my way through the difficulty of saying goodbye to something so dear, I face the thrilling prospect of building a new TV show out of nothing. I now get to change my official title to Samantha Bee, writer, executive producer, host, boss. Because it’s time. And it feels right.
*Bee will host a still-unnamed late-night show and co-star with husband Jason Jones in the comedy series The Detour, both on TBS.
Samantha Bee is a comedian, author, mom and esteemed alumnus of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Also, she’s Canadian.