Maintaining a sense of humor while you’re living in a one-bedroom apartment with a spouse and two children is no easy feat, but husband and wife Jason Jones and Samantha Bee, both correspondents for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, pull it off with aplomb. The family of four lives in the West 60s, just a short walk from the Daily Show studio. When they’re not taping segments, you’ll find the couple writing books (Samantha’s memoir will be published in spring 2010) and filming movies. Jason’s in the Sandra Bullock comedy All About Steve, due out September 4, and they’ll both appear with Tina Fey and Steve Carell in Date Night, which will be released next year.
Why the cozy living situation?
SB The reason we have a one-bedroom apartment is because we have a spacious place in the Catskills that we go to on weekends. And we also enjoy hearing Piper shout out words in the night. They’re usually candy and cake related. “Chocolate...cake.”
JJ It’s like a nightmare. A candymare. “Aaahhhhh cupcake.”
Are your kids funny?
SB I think so. We’re pretty sure Piper’s going to end up being a comedian. She’s very into potty humor. She thinks it’s so hysterical. Unfortunately, I also think it’s hysterical, so I encourage it.
JJ That’s half the problem with our parenting. We laugh at the stuff that other parents are scolding their kids for. Like Fletcher will take a handful of eggs and whip them at the wall, and we’re like, “Sorry, but comedically, that was very funny. It came out of nowhere. It had every element of a great joke: surprise, mess and deadpan after.”Is a sense of humor inborn or learned?
JJ I’m going to say learned because I was desperately unfunny as a teenager.
SB I remember my first joke, and it was terrible. It was: What did the grape say when it got run over by a car? People would make up answers to it, and I was like, “Uh, nothing, it was a grape and it got run over by a car.” I was in the anticomedy scene.
Are you funny at home?
JJ Well, you’re not.
SB Ha, ha, ha. That’s true. I’m too busy cleaning up.
JJ Is obsessive cleaning and nagging funny?
SB It’s true. I’m not going to deny that. I can own that.What would your kids say is the funniest thing you do?
JJ I think any impression of the grandparents.
SB And Piper likes it when Jason sings the music from The Little Mermaid poorly. She loves to give him the thumbs-down. We try to teach her that it’s nice to encourage singing, even if it’s bad. You’re both from Canada. What parts of that life do you miss?
SB I miss the slower pace of living. And I miss peameal bacon and our family. Not in that order. Perhaps I should’ve said family first.
JJ No, I think in that order: peameal bacon, slow pace, free health care, family.
Do your kids go to any classes?
JJ Piper’s getting a scholastic education. Fletcher’s getting a street education.
SB He attends the school of whatever Piper learns in school and teaches him later that day.Who are the better parents: you two or Jon Stewart and his wife?
SB Jon and his wife. They are infinitely more interesting than we are.
JJ They know their kids’ names. Do your kids ever have playdates with Jon’s kids?
SB Our kids don’t have time to play. They’re too busy with their side jobs making pottery.
JJ Mama’s got to pay for her Manolo Blankets somehow.
SB Did you just call them Manolo Blankets?
JJ Hey, people in the know call them blankets.
SB Manolo Blankets. That is adorable. I love you. You’re like a grandma.
What’s the biggest challenge in raising your kids in NYC?
SB The main thing is space.
JJ That said, I wouldn’t trade it for a three-bedroom in the suburbs. The city has everything.
SB Even just walking around with Fletcher, he’s so amused.
JJ Yeah, that’s the great thing. And oh, the smells! You know what, after being in Iran, New York is not bothering me in the slightest.
How do you fit additional projects, like movies and books, into your super busy lives?
SB I don’t really know how we do it, to be honest. We don’t do that many outside projects. And the ones that we do are very short-term, except for my book. We try and give ourselves a broad time frame, and we do our best. It’s hard, but you always want to work when you can. It’s such an uncertain future as an actor. So when people want you for stuff, you kind of have to take the opportunity if it’s humanly possible. But sometimes it’s not humanly possible, and then we can’t do it.
JJ Honestly, I watched a lot of TV before.
SB I know, I think we wasted a lot of time.
JJ I wasted a lot of time. There are hours in the day for everything if you give up wasting time. And don’t get me wrong: I love wasting time. On Sundays, I used to watch every game of football. Now I watch just maybe the fourth quarter of my favorite team.
SB We have to multitask. Like, Jason will take his computer into the bathroom.
JJ It’s true. I do a lot of writing while I’m on the throne. The kids don’t always get baths. Sometimes they get showers with Daddy.
What’s your child-care situation?
SB We have a great babysitter who we love. We adore her.
JJ And we will not release her name because we don’t want her poached.
SB We love her—she’s fantastic. We have her about 28 hours a week. And when she gets a better job we’re going to be heartbroken....
What’s the best part about being a parent and working for The Daily Show?
SB How amazingly flexible the show has been with our children. We bring our children to work all the time, and nobody has a problem with it. Everybody’s so supportive.
JJ People are upset when we don’t bring them in.
SB It might surprise you, what a nurturing environment it really is. Everybody there has kids. Kids and dogs. The whole place is swimming with children and dogs.
Have the kids ever made guest appearances on the show?
JJ Yes. They both have. Fletcher was only a couple of months old. Piper, however, guest-starred at four weeks, which I took a lot of heat for. Because there’s one shot where I hold her up in the frame and people were like, “You’re choking her.” And it’s a perfectly safe hold, you know, to hold them around the chin...but people were like, “He’s choking the baby! How dare he!” and then the mothers wrote in and they were like, “That’s how you hold a baby.” It was the one and only time I’ve been supported by the mothers of America. They hate my character. If they only knew the real me, they’d really hate me. I’d remove all doubt.
Some of your skits aren’t appropriate for kids. Has Piper ever seen your work on The Daily Show?
SB She saw one of Jason’s pieces once, and she cried so hard that we don’t show her anything anymore. To be fair, it was the one where he was making fun of being a dad early in her life. She just saw it recently. It it appeared that he had dropped her out of the Baby Bjrn, and she thought that he'd really dropped her. So we’re not going to let her watch any of our stuff for a while. We’re having a little moratorium on appearing on the show and also watching the show. It was so upsetting. We didn’t think it through. We were like, “Don’t you love the irony of this?”
JJ “The sketch was an illustration of what a bad father I am, but really, I’m a great father. Do you not understand that? How does your two-year-old brain not understand that?”
How do you deal with fans approaching you when you’re with your kids?
SB We don’t have to deal with it too much. And it’s never a problem. People are so nice about it. They are generally very appreciative and sweet. And they approach you so tentatively when you have your children that it’s never an issue.
JJ It’s never a problem for me because I don’t have any fans.
What makes your kids laugh the hardest?
SB If Piper can substitute the word poop or pee into any song or aspect of the conversation, that’s her favorite thing. And when Piper attacks Fletcher in a way that’s not pleasing to us, that’s his favorite thing. It’s very hard for us to discourage her from attacking him. He loves it...it’s insane. We don’t know what to do. We really are not doing a good job at setting the limits.
JJ That and a potent Maureen Dowd essay. They love that.
What are your favorite family activities?
SB We go for a lot of walks. We eat out a lot as a family. And we go to the Catskills and we hang out a lot. I don’t know that I can really articulate how it is that we spend our time.
JJ We sit in the pool
SB We swim, have barbecues, go for walks. Relaxing. Our family time is mostly spent relaxing.
JJ I can tell you what my favorite family activity in the future will be: getting each child a backpack and globe-trotting. I think before the teenage years is the right time. At eight you still think you’re cool.... You can only bring what you can carry because I’m not carrying any of your stuff. We each get a backpack and we’re taking off. I look forward to that.
Describe your perfect day.
SB I wake up at the cottage. Sleep in until 8:30 or 9. Everybody wakes up smiling at the cottage. Mommy gets a coffee and goes to the farmers’ market alone. Mommy comes home and makes waffles or something. We eat outside. We swim in the pool. We eat again outside. We swim in the pool. The children take a two-hour nap. Mommy and Daddy enjoy some private time together. A little more swimming, a little more eating. Maybe Piper watches a princess-style movie that keeps her mind occupied. Fletcher sits in his bouncy chair. We read a little bit. They go to sleep. Mommy and Daddy watch a movie—an adult movie. Not pornographic—like a good-quality dramatic feature or documentary, and we all go to sleep with the door open and the warm breeze blowing in.
JJ Me, 10 grand, Vegas.
SB And your family.
RESTAURANT “With us, it’s a three-way tie for first: Landmarc (10 Columbus Circle at Broadway, 212-823-6123), Nice Matin (201 W 79th St at Amsterdam Ave, 212-873-6423) and P.J. Clarke’s (44 W 63rd St at Broadway, 212-957-9700). They are all very patient with our child-related spillage.”
DESSERT SPOT “Well, it depends on our mood. We love cookies from Levain Bakery (67 W 74th St at Amsterdam Ave, 212-874-6080) and anything from Bouchon Bakery (10 Columbus Circle at Broadway, 212-823-9366). The cakes at Soutine (104 W 70th St at Columbus Ave, 212-496-1450) are great. We could go on. The Bee Joneses love their sweets.”
NEIGHBORHOOD HANGOUT “We hang out in Riverside Park (Riverside Dr at 79th St, nycgovparks.org) as often as possible. It clears the head. We love it for the lack of tourists tottering around in high heels and the abundant restrooms.”
TOY STORE “We don’t like toy stores very much. We avoid them at all costs and go to multipurpose stores that have a small, well-chosen selection of toys, like Therapie New York (309 Columbus Ave between 74th and 75th Sts, 212-877-3308).”
CULTURAL ATTRACTION “The American Museum of Natural History (Central Park West at 79th St, 212-769-5100). Our kids go there regularly. It’s one of the best museums in the world.”
ANNUAL EVENT “Halloween for sure!,” says Samantha. “I look forward to it with so much geeky enthusiasm every year that I am already smiling about our costumes as I type this.”