Here's Why Comedian Michelle Wolf Is Making Headlines
It's all fun and games until somebody dissolves the press.
We're well into day three of the latest big controversy but if you haven't yet caught up you might be seeing comedian Michelle Wolf's name popping up and wondering why.
Though you might not necessarily be familiar with Wolf's name just yet you've probably seen some of her work. A prolific stand-up who's toured the world, Wolf also worked on Late Night with Seth Meyers where she'd occasionally appear. Wolf later joined The Daily Show with Trevor Noah as a contributor and since then her star has only continued to rise.
The past few weeks Wolf featured in her own HBO comedy special, Michelle Wolf: Nice Lady, and at the end of this month she'll launch her own weekly, half-hour variety series on Netflix called The Break with Michelle Wolf.
All of that is great, she's incredibly funny and that leads us to the White House Correspondents Dinner. The annual event traditionally features a comedian who performs a roast of everyone in the room. From the press in attendance, any political figures and scandals of the past 12 months and especially the President who is USUALLY also in attendance, no one is safe from a light roasting.
Now in this context by "roast" we don't mean a delicious lamb with some potatoes and gravy but rather a comedy show that invites the speaker to make fun of anything and anyone in the room.
Because the United States is currently more like a George Orwell novel if Orwell huffed paint fumes before he started writing, current U.S. President Donald Trump has refused to attend the WHCD since becoming Commander in Chief. That shouldn't be super surprising to anyone though, considering Trump's longstanding feud with the media, it would be more shocking to see him attending an event celebrating journalists.
As Trump wasn't planning on showing up he sent press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in his place. Obviously, as the White House representative on the stage, Sanders was the target of a portion of Wolf's roast. To be fair though, Wolf didn't hold back mocking everyone. Even Starbucks wasn't safe from her hilarious wrath.
Some of Wolf's comments included a comparison of Sanders to Aunt Lydia, the character played by Ann Dowd from The Handmaid's Tale, as well as complementing her "perfect smokey eye", which she suggested was applied by burning facts.
That last comment fired up conservatives who believed Wolf was too harsh and mocked Sanders for her appearance. This then spiralled into demanding an apology, calling for the WHCD to stop inviting comedians to make the event at all interesting, and also inspired the inevitable Angry Trump Tweet.
Wolf has come under attack from Trump supporters and personalities for the smoky eye comment, which was honestly one of the softest digs of the entire set. Barely anyone was upset about her joke about Counsellor to the President, Kellyanne Conway, being stuck under a tree.
Since the White House kicked up a stink the White House Correspondents Association issued an apology saying Wolf's set was "not in the spirit" of their mission.
Unfortunately that isn't entirely true, considering a major mission of the WHCA is preserving the right to free speech and press as well as representing the journalists who cover the White House and President.
It's also surprising that out of the history of the WHCD, Wolf's gag of Sander's "perfect smoky eye" was what broke the flood gates in an attempt to de-legitimise the event, with Trump even calling for it to end.
In 2017 another Daily Show correspondent Hasan Minhaj criticised Trump outright claiming, "Donald Trump doesn't care about free speech".
"The man who tweets everything that enters his head refuses to acknowledge the amendment that allows him to do it."
Despite Minhaj's direct criticism, there was barely any backlash to his set, he even mentions being asked not to talk about the Trump Administration during his time. Other performers, like Saturday Night Live's Cecily Strong in 2015 openly mocked former President Obama as he sat on the dais. Again there was no backlash.
Stephen Colbert famously torched the ceremony by openly mocking then President George W. Bush, which reportedly led to some aides and supporters leaving during Colbert's time, but again the WHCA never issued an apology.
One person who hasn't apologised is Michelle Wolf. In an interview with NPR she said she doesn't regret a word, standing by every "controversial" thing she said.
"I wouldn't change a single word that I said. I'm very happy with what I said, and I'm glad I stuck to my guns."
"I knew what I was doing going in. I wanted to do something different. I didn't want to cater to the room. I wanted to cater to the outside audience, and not betray my brand of comedy. "
Wolf also discussed the double standard of her actually criticising the looks of two men, Mitch McConnell and Chris Christie, and how that isn't being brought up in comparison to the complaints she made fun of Sanders' looks as well as the reactions to male versus female comedians.
"I think sometimes they look at a woman and they think 'Oh, she'll be nice,' and if you've seen any of my comedy you know that... I'm not. I don't pull punches."
Unfortunately Wolf hasn't been able to avid ALL consequences, with her former boss retroactively firing her months after she had already left The Daily Show to start her new series.
The Break with Michelle Wolf begins streaming on Netflix May 27. Check out some of her other stand-up here.
Featured image: Image: Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images