I am not sure how far back the tradition of the court jester performing before a King goes, but my guess is that the first comedian who ever “died” was probably executed by a monarch who didn’t think he was funny, or whose humor struck too close to the bone. The White House Correspondents Dinner has evolved (devolved?) into a modern-day version of that ancient ritual, with the modern comedian expected to be satirically sharp and outrageously irreverent without being offensive, or at least too offensive to, well, who exactly? The President? Those in power? Liberals? Conservatives? The media itself?
Michele Wolf, formerly well-known on Comedy Central but now a national comedy star, did not show up at the White House Correspondents Dinner to make friends. She understands that the role of the satirist is not to make her audience feel comfortable. In fact, the great political stand-ups, from Dick Gregory to George Carlin to Bill Maher, have never been afraid to make their audiences squirm. That is because the truth frequently hurts and the best satire often reveals truth in disturbing ways.
Michele Wolf on abortion:
Mike Pence is very anti-choice. He thinks abortion is murder, which, first of all, don’t knock it till you try it. And when you do try it, really knock it. You know, you gotta get that baby out of it. And yeah, sure, you can groan all you want, I know a lot of you are very anti-abortion, you know, unless it’s the one you got for your secret mistress. It’s fun how values can waiver. But good for you.
Good for who exactly? How about former GOP Congressman Tim Murphy, an outspoken anti-choice crusader who recently urged his mistress to have an abortion and was forced to resign in disgrace? Let the audience groan all it wants.
Michele Wolf on Sarah Huckabee Sanders:
I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. Like she burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like, maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.
Note to that most uptight of all liberals, Mika Brzezinski, who whined on MSNBC that Wolf's cutting remark was a comment on Huckabee's looks. It wasn't. She was commenting on Huckabee's continual spewing of lies for a continually lying President. Not that there’s anything wrong with a comedian making fun of how someone looks, though Wolf saved those barbs for Mitch McConnell, who she claimed wasn’t in attendance because he’s “finally getting his neck circumcised,”and Chris Christie, of whom she said, “Republicans are easy to make fun of. You know, it’s like shooting fish in a Chris Christie.” Brzezinski, true to form, expressed not a word of outrage about either remark. Conservatives have no special claim to selective outrage.
Wolf made jokes about Fox News and MSNBC, not to mention their two biggest personalities, Sean Hannity and Rachel Maddow. However, she saved her most pointed barbs for CNN: “You guys love breaking news, and you did it, you broke it! Good work!”
Donald Trump, a man who has laughed in public once since running for President – at a crass one-liner comparing Hillary Clinton to a dog -- called Wolf’s performance “filthy.” At times it was, and that is exactly what a filthy President deserves. Though try at she might, Wolf could not possibly be as vulgar as Trump, who degrades the Presidency with his falsehoods, flippancy, and ugly rhetoric whenever he opens his mouth.
Michele Wolf was given the opportunity to speak truth to power and she rose to the occasion like a comedy champ. Fearless, outspoken and relentless, she let no one off the hook and offered no apologies, even as she was pilloried in the press and accused of being filled with hate for daring to do her job.
Actually, it is Wolf who deserves an apology from Margaret Talev, the spineless President of the White House Correspondents Association, who wrote: “Last night’s program was meant to offer a unifying message about out common commitment to a vigorous and free press while honoring civility, great reporting and scholarship winners. Unfortunately, the entertainer’s monologue was not in the spirit of that mission.”
Really? I'm sure that mandate came as news to Wolf, as it would come to any humorist, that her role as a standup was to offer “a unifying message.” If that’s what the White House Correspondents want, next year, instead of a standup, I suggest they book a pastor.
Did every joke work? Of course not. Every joke never works. But far more often than not, Wolf's shots either hit or landed close to the comedy bulls-eye. That is exactly why so many powerful people in Washington are still so upset.
Bravo Michele! You made us comedians and comedy writers proud.