Jason Jones is a busy man. It’s been nearly eight months since he made his final appearance as a correspondent on The Daily Show and soon his new sitcom The Detour is set to premiere on TBS.
But right now Jones is running late for rehearsal at his wife Samantha Bee’s new late-night program Full Frontal.
What’s it like being married to the only female host in late-night? “It’s a lot like being married to any other woman,” Jones tells The Daily Beast by phone from New York. “She’s not ‘the only female late-night host’” when she’s at home with their three children, he says. “I always make fun of her when she’s bent over, picking up dirty underwear from our kids. ‘Yeah, how’s it feel, TV star?’”
Long before Jones and Bee began their decade-long stints as correspondents on The Daily Show, the pair met while performing children’s theater in their native Canada. When Jon Stewart decided to retire from the host chair last summer, both of their names were floated as possible replacements. Perhaps they would even take on the job as a team.
But after it was announced that Trevor Noah would be getting the gig, the pair felt it was time to move on as well. That’s when TBS swept in and offered them a home to produce and star in not one, but two new shows.
The Detour, a family sitcom in the mold of the Vacation films, stars Jones and has its premiere next Monday. Bee’s Full Frontal debuted in early February and with its pointed political commentary quickly became a welcome presence in a late-night landscape sans Stewart and “Stephen Colbert.”
“I’m so proud of her, she’s doing such a great job on the show. And she’s really enjoying it too, which is the best scenario,” says Jones, who serves as an executive producer on Full Frontal. “I just kind of act as her sounding board,” he adds. “I’m almost like an outside voice, just to say, ‘This could be funnier, this could be sharper,’ to which she mostly tells me to go to hell, this is fine.”
When he’s not helping to tackle some of the bigger picture questions on Full Frontal, Jones has plenty to do as both the star and primary showrunner of The Detour. “The genesis was our relationship with our children and the blunt, honest nature of the way we speak to our children,” he says, discussing how he and Bee conceptualized the show together. “We look at each other as not only family, but friends.”
“We wanted that relationship put on camera,” he continues. “And I think with a lot of these sitcoms nowadays it’s always, ‘We hate each other,’ but then there is some sort of forced, ‘But we love each other’ at the end of the episode. Whereas we just wanted this couple and this family that really, truly love each other, who bicker like crazy throughout it, but at the same time really do enjoy each other’s company.”
“And what a better journey to go on this family with than a physical journey?” Jones asks.
On The Detour, Jones stars as Nate, an increasingly desperate figure who decides to take his wife (Natalie Zea) and two young children on a doomed road trip from Syracuse, New York, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. At a press event earlier this year, Jones described the show as “one journey that becomes something very different as it goes along” and said he likes to think of it as “Breaking Bad: The Comedy.”
“When I quit The Daily Show, I drove that trip just to remind myself about what that looks like,” Jones says. “And as I was going along, maybe four or five hours into it I just kept saying, ‘Boy, I really didn’t need to do this, everywhere I go looks exactly the same.’” The unfortunate homogeneity of America allowed them to film the entire show in and around Atlanta.
While The Detour does not confront politics as explicitly as The Daily Show or Full Frontal, Jones has managed to inject some controversial issues like political correctness into the narrative.
For instance, in the exclusive clip below from an upcoming episode, the family ends up stopping at a restaurant that features a full-on Conquistador stage show. Nate gets in trouble when he innocently uses the expression “chink in the armor” in reference to an Asian-American performer’s costume. The situation only escalates when a blatantly racist bystander starts giving him some unwanted support.
Jones says he believes potentially divisive issues like these are “a little easier to digest” in a narrative format than they are on late-night television. “They’re not necessarily preachy, they’re just a conversation.”
Despite the political messages embedded within The Detour, Jones insists he is just trying to tell a simple story about one family. “I think it’s a show that can cross political boundaries,” he says. “I think a conservative family can watch this show and still like it, maybe disagree with us, but still like that family dynamic and that honesty.”
The same cannot necessarily be said for Full Frontal, which has proactively attacked the GOP’s “obstructionism” on filling the Supreme Court vacancy and called into question John Kasich’s so-called “moderate” record. While Bee, like her former colleague John Oliver, has attempted to explore some under-covered territory, she has not been able to resist the lure of Donald Trump, especially when it comes to some of his more sexist statements.
“It couldn’t be better for a comedy show, it couldn’t be worse for our country,” Jones says of Trump’s apparent inevitability in the GOP primary, echoing what many in the comedy world have been saying of late. “I have mixed feelings about it, honestly. Because I do want a good country, but, boy, it is just the ultimate circus show.”
Should The Detour get a second season, Jones would like to see how the family at its center would handle life in New York City. Partly because he thinks it would make for a good story and partly just so he can film closer to where his wife tapes her show. Because for these two comic minds, working together only makes them stronger.