The Big Bad Wolf
Words by Alexander Kamczyc
First rule of comedy: Always punch up.
It’s something that’s not taught, but something you learn the more you find yourself standing on a stage in front of people, trying to make them laugh. Good comedians learned this through trial and error and use it to their advantage. Great comedians like Michelle Wolf use it to tear down the idea of something while making people laugh in the process. This weekend she was invited to the White House Correspondents dinner and did exactly that.
“Of course, Trump isn’t here if you haven’t noticed,” she said to a audience of journalists and politicians. “I know, I know. I would drag him here myself, but it turns out that he’s the one pussy you’re not allowed to grab.”
The joke killed, people laughed (except maybe Sarah Huckabee Sanders), and the show went on. In a night that was meant to celebrate freedom of the press and free speech, Wolf held everyone accountable and left no stone unturned in the process. She made fun of Trump, Pence, Jake Tapper, Donald Trump Jr., Reince Priebus and so on.
But a normal routine that would kill in front of a normal audience has been met with controversy over her remarks for Sarah Huckabee Sanders, for some reason. The joke in question is:
“I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. But she burns facts, and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smokey eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.”
The comment sparked outrage from not only the free speech-loving journalists in the room but surprisingly, it also pissed off a lot of free speech-loving Republicans in the process also. All of whom jumped at the bit on Twitter (of all platforms) to throw her under the bus for her comments made.
It wasn’t her comment about how the media essentially gave President Trump the election with all the coverage they gave him. And how they now profit off him through their shows, papers and books, a solid truth most would agree with. The news cycle makes a killing off of him.
“There’s a ton of news right now,” Wolf said to a now uncomfortable audience. “A lot is going on, and we have all these 20-hour news networks, and we could be covering everything, but we only cover like three topics. Every hour it’s Trump, Russia, Hillary and a panel of people that remind you why you don’t come home for Thanksgiving.”
If that isn’t the most insulting thing to hear about your industry, I don’t know what is. Clearly, it wasn’t; everyone was angered at her comments about Huckabee (or is it Sanders?), which confuses me, not only because Republicans who love to call liberals “snowflakes” are up in arms about a softball insult at best. It also confuses me because reporters, who were there in the room and heard the full context of the joke, were also insulted by it.
I have watched and re-watched the routine. I honestly cannot find something wrong with this bit. It’s so hypocritical on both sides, but let’s ignore the Republican side; that’s easy. I want to talk about how journalists and liberals reacted to the routine.
Michelle Wolf is not the president of the United States. She doesn’t need to be held to the same standards as the leader of the free world. I’m reminded of when Tucker Carlson tried to grill Jon Stewart for not asking tough questions to John Kerry. A comedian, not a reporter, asking the hard-hitting questions to a presidential candidate doesn’t sound right. It’s because they don’t have to ask those questions. Wolf, like Stewart, has made a living off of making fun of things. They are not paid to make important decisions that could impact millions of people.
A comedian isn’t free from criticism. A few years back, Daniel Tosh told a heckler in the audience while he was performing that he wished someone would rape them. Anthony Jeselnik and Jeff Ross have both made careers off of saying the most out-of-line jokes they could possibly make. Kathy Griffin burned her own career down because she thought beheading Trump was funny or art or something.
But to say Sarah Huckabee Sanders using the truth she burns into ash to use for a smokey eye — as I type this sentence, I’m still lost as to why everyone sat on their moral high horse. Just because you cry big bad Wolf doesn’t mean that someone actually is one, despite the fact that her last name is — OK, never mind. No one is safe from comedy, not a working mother, not a tragic event, not a movement based out of good intention. Comedy is comedy is comedy.
Just like Kanye saying ill-informed nonsense on TMZ, Michelle Wolf is allowed to make fun of the ill-informed nonsense on C-SPAN. That’s because of freedom of speech and all — the thing they were gathered to celebrate at that dinner.
Also while we’re at it, because the list would be too long to just write out here, The Washington Post did a recent piece about all the lies Donald Trump has made in his first year of presidency. Let’s talk about this before we throw a comedian, hired to do her job, gets thrown under the bus.
Wolf has since gone on record and isn’t backing down, which she shouldn’t. She’s a comedian who has made a career through comedy like the routine currently being dissected by everyone. It’s not like she made any real joke that crossed the line.
Near the beginning of her speech she says:
“You should’ve done more research before you got me to do this.”
Whatever blame there is to be had, it belongs to those few who sat in the room and felt offended by her comments. It belongs to the people who invited her thinking she would tone down her message. Not Wolf.
Life is comedy. It’s good to laugh occasionally.