I watched Michelle Wolf’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner speech just now. Would someone please tell me what all the outrage is about? As far as I know, she didn’t say anything that wasn’t true. Trump and his team are all liars, the Democrats can’t get their shit together, and the media gave Trump the presidency and are making billions off of it.
As my father used to say, “He can dish it out, but he can’t take it,” and my father didn’t live long enough to even know who Trump was. Since Trump knew that he is unable or unwilling to laugh at himself, the President, instead of attending the dinner, gave a stump speech where he told lies and called his detractors names. Pathetic.
The President’s two spokeswomen attended the dinner and were appalled that Ms. Wolf called them out for lying. That’s like Aaron Judge being offended by an announcer saying that he hits home runs. It’s what he does best. It’s what Conway and Sanders do best—lie to protect the President from the American people. Do I need to point out that the President and his mouthpieces are on our payroll? They work for the American people, not the Republican Party.
I expected that Ms. Wolf must have said some things that were out-of-bounds, like attacking spouses and children, or saying that Trump might be a lousy lay—oops, she did say that. But Trump opened that can of worms with his notorious Access Hollywood speech. Every time the camera panned to Republicans for reactions, they just stared into space as if it was five years ago and Obama was telling them that he just saved the stock market and gave millions of uninsured Americans healthcare.
There is a fine line between comedy and personal attacks. In a recent episode of Crashing, a stand-up comic gets roped into participating in a roast contest. Ultimately, he competes against his girlfriend who tells the audience very embarrassing personal secrets he entrusted with her—clearly out-of-bounds. Personally, I don’t find that sort of thing amusing.
When I was 15 or 16, I participated in a Last Will and Testament given by my friends and me in camp at our summer-ending banquet. The idea was to poke fun at our fellow campers, counselors and staff. As we sat around our cabin creating our jokes, we kept sharpening them. I don’t recall creating any of these jokes, but I do vividly remember delivering some of them at the banquet. It hadn’t occurred to us that we were being cruel until the words came out of our mouths and saw the reaction in the room. Lucky for us, we were stopped mid-way before we hurt more undeserving kids. Even now, more than 50 years later, I feel sick to my stomach with shame. I hurt kids that I liked. I really didn’t see it coming. I thought we were doing what comics do. How do you know the difference between holding up a mirror (so people can see their own folly) and a personal attack?
Maybe it’s about the intention. Or maybe it’s about staying away from sensitive subjects that people can’t change? Maybe it has something to do with being a part of the ridiculed group yourself. Mel Brooks satirized Hitler. Could he have done that if he wasn’t Jewish?
Ms. Wolf was careful not to say anything nasty about women’s looks, but she went astray for a moment by gratuitously alluding to the fact that Chris Christie is fat and Mitch McConnell has an ugly neck. So it’s OK to denigrate men’s looks, but not women’s. Interesting. She addresses this in her interview with Terry Gross for Fresh Air. Apparently she has been bashed for insulting the women’s appearances though she maintains she didn’t, and finds it telling that no one has taken her to task for the McConnell and Christie jabs.
Ms. Wolf’s routine has gotten some criticism for not being funny. In her defense, it was a very tough room. She was hired to provide some humor, but more importantly, this was an opportunity to speak truth to power. And that is exactly what she did. At the finish of her speech, she returned to the mic to say, “Flint still does not have pure water.” And I might add that Puerto Rico still does not have electricity and criminals are running our government with impunity. Hopefully these things will change soon. As the blues teaches us:
Life is hard,
Life is hard,
But the sun’s gonna shine on my backyard one day.
Ever onward and upward.