A Comics View of Michelle Wolf at The White House Correspondents Dinner
So, unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock for the last couple days, you are fully aware that comedian Michelle Wolf was the featured act for The White House Correspondents Dinner. Michelle Wolf is an extremely funny comic that got her breakout on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and then had a scorching hot HBO special that pretty much put her all over the radar of comedy fans around the country. Are we following so far? Wolf plays all over the country to sold out crowds, frequents the biggest clubs in LA & NYC regularly and she is very well known for her act and general boundary pushing comedy style. Wolf is not some watered down, PC comedian with a beige act. She just isn’t that type of comedian.
After her performance on the WHCD, she was essentially dragged through the mud by the internet for her act, claiming things like it being raunchy and mean spirited. Here’s the thing: It was. It was supposed to be. People have been referring to this as a “set” or a “speech” and, I hate to break it to you but, it wasn’t ever supposed to be either of those things. The WHCD is a roast. A roast is a comedian insulting, through jokes, the people that hired them. So you have Wolf, a naturally boundary pushing & crass performer, being hired by one of the most controversial presidential parties in history to pull off a roast. What did they expect was going to happen? Did they really think she was going to come up and toss out a few softballs about foreign policy or some other bullshit? No, she did what she was hired to do. She roasted everyone. And she did it well.
There’s a lot that rubbed me the wrong way about the reactions to her performance, honestly. Some people shit on her voice or cadence, which is fine. That’s subjective and, since I believe in being honest, she has a shrieking voice at times. It doesn’t personally bother me but I could see how it would fuck with some people. But people actually watched that performance and said she went too far. They said she was raunchy and crass, which indicates that they had never seen a single minute of her act prior to this performance. If they had seen her act prior to this, they’d know that shitting on the presidents wealth was far from “controversial”. In fact, I’d bet money that it was very difficult for her to not go into him even harder than she did. I think what a lot of this boils down to is something that pisses me off even more, though: They hated giving that power to a woman. They hated seeing a woman on that stage, putting all their shit in their faces.
What Michelle Wolf did was her job. She simply did the job she was hired to do, nothing more and nothing less. She made fun of people’s looks but she also made fun of policies. She made jokes about everything ranging from racism to sexism to terrorism to abortion. People talked about some things being “off limits” while they defended a man running our country that is fine with grabbing women by the pussy and making fun of disabled reporters. That seems a bit hypocritical, if you ask me, because she did these things as a hired comedian. She didn’t do them as a politician on a campaign trail. That’s a key difference between her and the ones judging her. Her job is to make those jokes. Her job is to not have kid gloves on when confronting a powerful structure of wealthy people responsible for the direction of our country. Her job was to make jokes about the state of our current government. She did her job.
Part of the fallout of this whole thing is that people are saying Michelle Wolf didn’t advance journalism at all in her performance. Here’s the thing about that: No shit she didn’t. She isn’t a journalist. Comedians are performers that write material. Sure, some comics also moonlight as journalists but for the most part, we’re the ones saying the words into a microphone rather that putting them in the New York Times. People in that room and in that White House simply didn’t like one thing: They didn’t like that she told the truth. How dare this woman go on stage during an event charging hundreds of dollars per plate of food and talk down to them? How dare this hired jester make light of people in power being liars? How dare she…expose dishonesty?
In the words of Michelle Wolf, while people are freaking out about a smoky eye makeup joke, “Flint Michigan Still Has No Clean Water”. Perhaps the people in power need to stop taking themselves so seriously and get their priorities straight.