By Justin Zirilli
The Republicans are livid, and even worse, their feelings are hurt! The GOP’s newest raging fixation? Stand-up comic, former ‘The Daily Show” writer, and soon-to-be Netflix late night host Michelle Wolf. As you should know by now, she delivered a stand-up set at the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner (WHCD) on April 28th.
Each year, the reporters and news people who cover DC’s comings and goings get together to get drunk, congratulate each other, and then sit in awkward-ish silence while a stand-up comedian makes jokes about them. This year, it was Wolf’s turn to tell jokes to people who cannot take a joke. As we say in the biz, Wolf crushed it. Unfortunately, politicians and the press didn’t see it that way.
The backlash was immediate. President Trump tweeted that Wolf had “really ‘bombed’.” Sean Spicer called the event a “disgrace.” Liz Peek of Fox News wrote that Wolf “took the event to a new low.”
Liberal reporters then jumped on the bandwagon. Meg Kinnard of the AP said Wolf’s set “made the chasm between journalists and those who don’t trust us, even wider.”
Politico reporter Kyle Cheney tweeted that Wolf was “(spectacularly) one-sided” and “unnecessarily cruel on a night the WHCA (White House Correspondents’ Association) was trying to showcase decency and purpose.”
Ironically, there is one group shouting rationally into the firestorm: stand-up comics. Leave it to the joke-tellers to be the voice of reason, right? I dropped a line to some of my favorite LGBTQ comics on both coasts to get their take. Here’s what they had to say:
“I think she was perfect,” said LA comic Zach Noe Towers (host of “Killing Time w/ Debra and Zach,” available on iTunes). “She took no prisoners and did it in a really funny way. Most importantly, she told the truth and I think that’s the only way to create seriously good comedy.”
Los Angeles stand-up Christopher Smith Bryant (@TenderChris on Instagram) said: “I think it’s funny that Trump supporters who defend him for being ‘blunt,’ ‘honest,’ and ‘to the point’ are now turning against a comedian for those same reasons. They are acting like martyrs for having to sit through a stand-up routine.”
Keith Carey, LA-based comic and co-host of the "Mean Boys” podcast on iTunes didn’t hold back: “It must have been hard for Sanders to clutch her pearls since it’s gotta take, like, twenty minutes to dig them out from under her chins. As much as they hate gays, conservatives getting uppity because someone threw shade at their girl’s makeup is about the queerest shit I’ve ever heard.”
LA comic and booker Michael Cornacchia took issue with the press response: “I’m very concerned that the media’s response saying it was ‘not in the spirit’ of their mission to Michelle Wolf’s fabulous roast is a massive step towards normalizing a dangerous administration.”
NYC queer comic Jay Jurden (writer for The New Yorker and Teen Vogue) pointed out: “The jokes weren't nearly mean enough, especially considering that this administration's most notable moment regarding LGBTQ issues was an attempted ban on trans military personnel. Michelle Wolf and her team of writers did everything that they were supposed to do that night.”
Jurden added: “I've been to drag shows with much more cutting remarks, and if Sanders wants to go (she shouldn't) maybe she could get even more makeup tips.”
“There was no way that anyone in that room was going to like what she had to say,” began NYC comic Sarah Kennedy (@SarahKomedy on Twitter), “but she said it anyway because her jokes were getting at a deeper truth—bigger than what was happening in that room that night.”
“The only thing missing was a mic drop,” said NYC trans comic Margo Reiss (host of the “Gumbo” podcast, available on iTunes). “It was a perfect call-out to a group of powerful people who sorely need to have their bullshit called out publicly more often. Flint still doesn’t have clean water and every past civility norm has been obliterated by the current administration, and these chuckleheads have the gall to act outraged at what Michelle Wolf said?”
NYC stand-up comic Veronica Garza came quickly to Wolf’s defense, saying: “It says a lot of Wolf since she didn't stoop so low. Wolf took the high road and chose NOT to address Sanders's wonky eye or the fact that she looks like the evil version of Grimace. She instead gave us twenty minutes of truth which the White House, apparently, is not familiar with.”
Comedian Drew Lausch (producer and host of “Homo You Didn’t” at West Side Comedy Club in NYC) said: “Her entire set proved that the White House is filled with sad middle school-like bullies whose bark is bigger than their bite. The Trump administration simply cannot hang. Michelle Wolf was like “you all are fucked up and here’s why it’s hilarious” and I was absolutely here for it.”
NYC comic Ashlynn Salzano (@AshlynnSalzano on Instagram, producer and host of Hump Day Comedy Night) summed this whole mess up perfectly: “We're in this time right now where we take what a comedian says while performing comedy way more seriously than what our politicians say, which is insane. Only a woman can do her job and then be criticized. It's comedy, not sex; no one needs to take it up the ass.”
Justin Zirilli is a six-time published author, stand-up comic, comedy writer, voice-over actor, social media guru, host of the weekly "Sucker Punch Tuesdays" stand-up comedy show in New York at Boxers Upper East…and a bearded, single, vegan cat daddy living in New York City. Drop him a line, take him to dinner!