Michelle Wolf versus US media

A speech by comedian Michelle Wolf at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner has caused a stir.

It’s same old for the White House to complain about being the target of criticism and a lampooning, but what was different about Wolf’s speech was her targeting of the media being too cosy with the White House – media that criticised her for poor taste humour and being too personal.

CNN: Michelle Wolf was the big winner of the WHCD, not Trump

Despite what Donald Trump and some others on the right may think, the big winner from Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner was comedian Michelle Wolf. Her performance was not just funny — it’s still grabbing headlines and will make this comedian, who is on the verge of stardom, even better known.

True, not every joke she told got big laughs in the room. I was there and some of her material did make people uncomfortable. But political comedy, at its best, shouldn’t always be comfortable. It should make you laugh while also challenging your views. And Wolf did just that in strong moments like this quip: “I’m 32, which is a weird age — 10 years too young to host this event, and 20 years too old for Roy Moore.”

She did it again with this joke: “[Trump] loves white nationalists, which is a weird term for a Nazi. Calling a Nazi a white nationalist is like calling a pedophile a ‘kid friend.’ Or Harvey Weinstein a ‘ladies man.'”

Did you cringe a bit when you read those jokes? Good. That’s what political comedy needs to do, especially in the time of Trump.

…what’s most telling is what Trump left out of his tweet about the WHCD. Since Saturday night, there’s been a backlash against Wolf for her jokes about Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Sanders, who was sitting on the same dais where Wolf was performing. Here’s an example of one of Wolf’s barbs about Sanders: “I actually really like Sarah.

I think she’s very resourceful.” Wolf then joked: “She burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.” (Keep in mind, Sanders was sent by Trump to represent his administration, which has been plagued by serving up lie after lie to the American people.)

That’s not a joke I would tell, nor do I think any male comedian could get away with it. But Wolf did.

Team Trump was outraged that Wolf dared to mock the person sent to represent the most powerful man in our nation. On Sunday morning, Mercedes Schlapp, a White House senior communications adviser who had stormed out of the WHCD with her husband in protest, commented on “Fox & Friends” that Wolf’s jokes were “so incredibly disrespectful.”

The way I see it, a person in the Trump administration saying something was “disrespectful” while defending a man who bragged on the “Access Hollywood” tape about grabbing women by the pu**y, has demonized Muslims and Mexicans and mocked a disabled reporter is truly hilarious.

Claiming that Wolf’s jokes were disrespectful is more than a little hypocritical when trump has made a political career out of being disrespectful.

Targeting Trump and his lying cronies shouldn’t be a big deal in the current climate.

So why the fuss from the White House media?

@Mikel_Jollett tweeted: Let’s be honest, this is what they’re REALLY mad about. Michelle Wolf called out THE PRESS.

No wonder the media squirmed.

Molly Roberts: Michelle Wolf got it just right

Wolf managed Saturday night to scandalize the majority of Washington’s tuxedo-clad intelligentsia with a barrage of bon mots that, in the eyes of much of the press and political establishment, weren’t really so bon at all. The speech, these pundits have argued, wasn’t amusing; it was lewd, and worse than that, it was mean.

That Wolf’s performance was not “normal” for the correspondents’ dinner is a testament to its timeliness and necessity — nothing is “normal” right now, and pretending otherwise out of a false sense of the fourth estate’s friendship with the executive would have been the real disgrace. Wolf called the Trump administration out for tearing down democracy. Then, the people who are supposed to care most about holding autocrats to account called her out in turn for, essentially, not being chummy enough.

That persistent chumminess is why Wolf’s performance, in the end, wasn’t really for the press. It was about us. “You guys love breaking news, and you did it,” Wolf said to CNN. “You broke it.” To everyone else, she said: “You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him.” Instead of listening — to that or to Wolf’s final line, “Flint still doesn’t have clean water” — we got grumpy on Twitter. Which means Wolf did a better job of defending the First Amendment than those who say that’s our business.

We have a real issue in New Zealand with how close our political media is with our politicians, not as disgraceful as in the US but still a threat to a properly functioning democracy.

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  1. David

     /  May 1, 2018

    This could well be a tipping point.
    It was a white tie event not a roast but having Trump having fun with his “deplorables” versus a bias media posh soiree makes the flyover media look terrible. Kanye West,s support of Candace a young black woman who is not a Dem, the Korea breakthrough and the appalling taking out of Admiral Jackson to head the VA not at a hearing but in a dirty and disgusting way. Oh and dont forget the house intelligence committee cleared the Trump campaign of any collusion but again focused the attention on proven links between the Dems and Russia with the collusion of the heads of intelligence. And Comeys trainwreck of a book tour, the caravan of migrants, the rebellion in California against sanctuary laws.

    • High Flying Duck

       /  May 1, 2018

      Careful David, that kind of talk could bring Joe Bloggs out of retirement…

      But you’re right. If the Korea talks result in any kind of resolution and amicable path forward it will be fascinating to see how the world reacts and reports it given Trump’s high level of involvement.

  2. sorethumb

     /  May 1, 2018

    Imagine making jokes about tangata whenua?

  3. Traveller

     /  May 1, 2018

    No comedian here in NZ having more than a half-hearted poke at Ardern, her Fisherman/businessman consort or the rest of the Govt. Ardern is rich pickings with that accent and pronunciation, that faux earnestness and that constant glancing at notes. Her consort is so deserving of mockery for his skiting, self promotion and obvious piggy- backing on her elevation as PM. It’s criminal they’ve shut up shop. Apart from the first fishhook family, the mates of Ed Sheeran, there’s an entire caucus that would make for rich pickings. But First Family are besties with the powers that be and comedians. Jesse Mulligan ( 7 days,The Project, afternoons RNZ)is one of Gayford’s best mates and Tom Salisbury of mock Paula Bennett fame is an ardeRnt fan of PM. Another who’s letting them off the hook is Guy Williams – about as left as you can get but a devoted ideologue and the partner of Golriz Gharahman.

    If only we saw the cutting zealotry Michelle offered up directed at Ardern. I see on Twitter the NZ left all applauding Wolf, but how the same crew howled at Deborah Hill-Cones and her mere opinion on Gayford. Last night Gayford MCed the Metro Restaurant awards and regaled the crowd with skiting stories of meeting the Royals and mocking the food they were served up at Buckingham Palace. I mean let’s have some satire about that ghastly man who has trebled his social media following on Twitter, exponentially increased it on Instagram, earns speaker’s fees undreamed of before Ardern’s rise, tows his boat with a Tesla and gets very special treatment elsewhere.

    However clowns as they might appear to me, it’s rare to see the left mock their own. Obama – we’ll SNL admit they couldn’t do him at all, he was unmockable apparently. Back to NZ, After 6 months of a free pass it’s getting to the point where empirical evidence can start to be collected on the LACK of political satire directed at a regime. My opinion is it’s because there is a collective ideological bias.

    • Blazer

       /  May 1, 2018

      do behave and try and contain that ravenous green monster always searching for …blood.

      • Traveller

         /  May 1, 2018

        You think it right our comedians aren’t bothering to hold this Govt to task through their art?

        • Gezza

           /  May 1, 2018

          1. Cartoonists are.
          2. Did circuit comedians make fun of John Key, his wife and his kids? I don’t recall any.
          3. Gayford’s an obvious wanker. No one needs to make fun of him. He makes an idiot of himself.
          4. These comedians you do mention aren’t even funny: Guy Williams is pathetic, & Jesse Mulligan’s a pain in the butt. If they’re on tv3, it follows they’d be rubbish anyway.
          5. You probably should consider just keeping calm & carrying on. You’re obsessing over this.

          • Traveller

             /  May 1, 2018

            You’ve not watched Steve Sharp then? The purloining of the the right was merciless and good on them. That’s what comedians do – it’s part of our freedom of speech and holding the Govt of the day to account.

            • Gezza

               /  May 1, 2018

              Who’s Steve Sharp? Sounds like he was too blunt for you?

              Has he been convicted of anything? o_O

              Gary’s mate never said anything about him … 😕

  4. Joe Bloggs

     /  May 1, 2018

    Spare me the cheap charades of clutching at pearls, dusting off the fainting couch, and calling for smelling salts..

    Wolf called trump and his staff liars, which is true, and pointed out that the media benefits from trump’s circus, which is also true.

    She called trump a racist, which is a self-evident truth. She joked about trump’s affair with a porn star – given it’s undermined respect for his office, why would you not joke about it?

    And all these demands apologies from Wolf for allegedly insulting Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ looks (which Wolf didn’t do) and for comparing her to Aunt Lydia in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ which is as accurate a comparison as you can get – the frowning female enforcers for a fascist patriarchal society, punishing those of us who resist their lies.

    But Wolf’s critics completely ignore, even defend, trump when he speaks like this (and defend his apologist Sanders):

    Wolf’s biggest crime is that she pointed out what a farce the Correspondents’ dinner is: with its WH correspondents, and its Wannabes, and the people they cover – government employees and elected officials – all dressed up in their fancy clothes, all enjoying their mutual fame, and all pretending to inhabit the same reality.

    What a farce.

  5. sorethumb

     /  May 1, 2018

    Over the past two days Washington has worked itself into a tizzy over Michelle Wolf’s unusually scathing monologue. She mocked everyone*

    *in the Trump administration – Economist is 100% globalist.

  6. MaureenW

     /  May 1, 2018

    Mirror, mirror ….
    Michelle Wolf bombed in her performance with her unfunny material and poor delivery. She missed her Trump targets, but inadvertently landed blows on the media glitterati whom she was basically mimicking. They got to see close up how one-eyed, Ill-informed and ugly they themselves are.
    Trump, meantime, scored where it matters – at a well attended rally in Michigan.

    • Gezza

       /  May 1, 2018

      The excerpt I saw was pretty excruciating to watch, must admit.

      It’d be difficult for Trumpy not to score well at a Trump rally Maureen. 😐
      They’re Trump rallies.

      If he got up on stage & just farted they’d applaud his brilliance as soon as he finished applauding it himself.

      • MaureenW

         /  May 1, 2018

        Lol, that’s funnier than anything Michelle Wolf said.

      • lurcher1948

         /  May 1, 2018

        Are there any hispanics here?no well im shutting the govt down till i can put up the trump wall, said in a pure white town

  7. Zedd

     /  May 1, 2018

    It would have been even funnier/ironic ?
    if she had used Mr Ts own words; Spectacular, Tremendous, Fantastic, Wonderful, Amazing.. Best EVER at everything; Ho Ho hum, now thats a REAL JOKE !