THE LATEST THINKING
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This Kerfuffle with Michelle Wolf
(sigh) Well, it's official, comedians are no longer allowed to be funny.
On Saturday comedian Michelle Wolf hosted the White House Correspondents Dinner … and it appears the Internet (and the country) has imploded.
Late Sunday, White House Correspondent Association chief Margaret Talev wrote in a letter to members that Wolf's monologue was "not in the spirit" of the group's mission with respect to its annual dinner. Unless I'm mistaken, isn’t one of the chief tenants of the press, that “freedom of speech” thing?
Despite what you’re reading or hearing, Michelle Wolf is a very good comedian. Accordingly, on Saturday night she did what she was hired to do, she told jokes and people laughed. I felt she killed, but I can also recognize she might’ve pushed a few buttons.
For example, back in 2016 a then presidential candidate was taped making an aggressive and offensive comment about “grabbing” a woman for his own satisfaction and it was shrugged off as “locker room talk”; in 2018 a black female comedian turns the very same phrase into a joke against the man who said it and it’s somehow X-rated and insulting.
Now this Sarah Huckabee Sanders hullaballoo is just silly. Like it or not, the minute you become a public figure you become fair game (for comedy or criticism, not for hunting). Admittedly, Sanders looked irritated … but she always looks irritated.
And let’s slow the roll on calling Sanders a hero for sitting through Wolf’s routine. If sitting through a few mean-spirited jokes in public makes you a hero, every seventh grader on earth would be a hero. Sanders proved to be a good sport. That’s all.
As a rule, comedy is wildly subjective. If you didn’t find Wolf’s routine funny, that’s fair. Just don’t blame Michelle Wolf. Her tone and her jokes were representations of who she is as a comedian. If you’re going to blame anyone, blame those who booked her. Clearly, they didn’t do their research.
At 3:40, Michelle Wolf clearly states, “You shoulda done more research before you got me to do this." You can’t be any clearer than that.
Perhaps more simply, you wouldn't take a hungry lion and let him loose in a daycare center and then get angry that he ate some children. You may not like the behavior, but you can't criticize a lion for being a lion … and you can't criticize a comedian for being a comedian.
Were Wolf’s jokes mean? No. Did they have bite? Yes. Did she cross a line? Not to me. You know who else had bite? Who berated and offended every race, gender and ethnicity? The late Don Rickles.
It’s worth noting that offense is never given, it’s taken.
Like them or not, all Michelle Wolf did was tell jokes.
Ricky Gervais said "A comedian's job isn't just to make people laugh, it's to make them think. If there's a meaning to it, and a substance and a bit of a depth, then you're doing something.”
Like it or not, on Saturday night, Michelle Wolf did something.
The comedian Michelle Wolf at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington on Saturday night.