Monday: The Double Edged Sword of Comedy’s Double Standard or Why Can’t she just be a nice funny lady?Posted: April 30, 2018
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
Comedienne Michelle Wolf has managed to do what other Lady Comediennes have done before her. She scored a triple hit on Politics, Comedy, and Journalism. She’s ripped apart another old boy’s club (or three) by letting us know it’s not funny when a woman does it to another woman. We’re only allowed “cat fights” when there’s the chance they get to see our lacy underwear.
So, the nerd prom exposed the pearl clutching double standards of DudeBros of Comedy, Journalism, and Politics. I’m actually counting Andrea Mitchell in the DudeBro ranks for this. C’mon Imus? He took deeply personal pot shots at the Clintons that made Trump’s Nasty woman comment look like a compliment! Wolf pointed to the obvious amount of lying behavior rampant in any one speaking for this White House including its sycophant women.
I recognize laughter in the age of Trump as though it were a cousin of anti-totalitarian laughter. It is the reaction to seeing act-based reality, as when “Saturday Night Live” essentially reënacts White House press conferences, or when late-night comedians offer up what amounts to straightforward reportage and analysis. The hunger for a reflection of reality is so desperate that, I have discovered repeatedly over the last year and a half, one can reliably get laughs simply by quoting Trump during a public talk.
Last month, Hillary Clinton got laughs and applause during her Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture, which concluded pen America’s annual World Voices Festival, by merely referring to Trump’s lie about the size of the crowd at his Inauguration (around the twenty-three-minute mark here). There was nothing funny about any of it: not about the President’s lies, nor about the grief that this had not been Clinton’s Inauguration, nor about the fact that, speaking a year and a half after her electoral loss, addressing the friendliest of all possible audiences, Clinton was as stilted, scripted, and unapproachable as ever. She was still campaigning, still losing, and there was no reason to laugh.
Political satire in less troubled times exaggerates existing facts, pointing out the absurdities inherent in all ideologies, or playing up smaller disagreements and failures for bigger laughs. But Trump is hard to exaggerate—it is enough, it seems, merely to mirror him. But why does faithful portrayal of fact-based reality elicit laughter in a country that has a free press and a healthy public sphere in which, it seems, reality is robustly represented? What do late-night comedians reclaim from the Times?
Wolf’s performance at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner suggests an answer. She called the President a racist, a truth as self-evident as it has proved difficult for mainstream journalists to state. Her humor was obscene: she joked about the President’s affair with a porn star; about his “pulling out,” as promised (of the Paris agreement); and about the G.O.P.’s former deputy finance chair Elliott Broidy’s $1.6 million payoff to a former mistress. She also made minced meat of White House staff, House and Senate Republican leaders, the Democrats, and journalists on the right and left, in their presence or in that of their colleagues,
I often skewer Campaign Mommy (Kellywise Conway) and Sisterwife Huckabuck (Sarah “Aunt Lydia”Huckabee). They’re easy prey for any woke woman because they’ve so obviously sold out everything modern women hold dear and at what cost and benefit? From Emily Stewart writing for Vox:
Wolf, a former Daily Show correspondent and host of an upcoming Netflix late-night show, skewered Sanders as the press secretary sat just a few seats away from her onstage. Wolf compared Sanders to Aunt Lydia — a fearsome character from the dystopian Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale who reeducates women into subjugation and enforces strict punishmenton them — and drew attention to the press secretary’s lying, saying she was an “Uncle Tom for white women.”
Here’s what Wolf said:
We are graced with Sarah’s presence tonight. I have to say I’m a little star-struck. I love you as Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s Tale. Mike Pence, if you haven’t seen it, you would love it.
Every time Sarah steps up to the podium, I get excited, because I’m not really sure what we’re going to get — you know, a press briefing, a bunch of lies or divided into softball teams. “It’s shirts and skins, and this time don’t be such a little bitch, Jim Acosta!”
I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. She burns facts, and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.
And I’m never really sure what to call Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you know? Is it Sarah Sanders, is it Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is it Cousin Huckabee, is it Auntie Huckabee Sanders? Like, what’s Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women? Oh, I know. Aunt Coulter.
I’ve seen less flattering and meaner portraits of her and Conway in print media by political cartoonists. Could it be Wolf’s sex or is it just that TV journalists are more self-absorbed with their own images and appearances? Come on! Every one know’s they both lie like rugs. Wolf just pointed that out in a comedic satirical frame. Is it just the guilty conscience of an enabling set of TV journos? Trump and his minions are out to destroy a free press and y’all want to demonize the ones shouting that the building is on fire?
From Eric Wemple at WAPO: ‘The president is seeking to destroy journalism. Now let’s debate dinner entertainment!’
And for a bit of historical enlightenment, who can forget the time that two WHCA titans used a USA Today essay to establish rough equivalence between the Trump and Clinton campaigns vis-a-vis their approach to the media?
Extreme caution. Bland statements. Neutrality above all else. Those are the pillars of the WHCA’s approach to the Trump White House. For more on this dynamic, check out New York University professor Jay Rosen’s new piece, “What savvy journalists say when they are minimizing Trump’s hate movement against journalists.” The gist: White House correspondents preoccupy themselves with matters of access and protocol while the president’s “fake news” campaign hacks away at their profession’s very core. “It’s just theater,” said New York Times White House correspondent Peter Baker at a WHCA event.
Now consider this incongruity: It was this conciliatory and deferential organization that hired comedian Michelle Wolf to provide the entertainment at Saturday night’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. She killed it, in every way possible. Her jokes were original and nasty, as she roasted Sanders herself, who was seated nearby at the head table at the invitation of the WHCA itself; she did stuff about vaginas, stuff about President Trump and hookers, stuff about the day’s news; she advanced her own career by offending scores of longtime Washington types who used Twitter to express their consternation over her raunch-filled riffs.
Also from WAPO and Molly Roberts: ‘Michelle Wolf got it just right’.
That’s how comedian Michelle Wolf answered Sean Spicer’s declaration that her headliningstand-up set at the the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner was “a disgrace.” Her response is instructive: To Wolf, an insult from Spicer is an accolade – and accolades, surely, would be an insult. She’s 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.
Wolf faced particular criticism for (besides all that sex stuff) her satire of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who apparently was a profile in courage for sitting still with pursed lips while someone told jokes about her — “to her face!” These commentators spun the strange narrative that Wolf went after Sanders for her appearance, when in reality Wolf’s barbs centered on the press secretary’s falsehood-filled performance on the White House podium.
“She burns facts, and then she uses the ash to create a perfect smoky eye,” Wolf said of Sanders. Correct, on both counts — and many would rejoice at such an endorsement of their eye makeup. Callous attacks on women for their looks, even after Saturday night, still belong to the president who refused to attend Saturday night’s event — not to the comedian who skewered his cohorts.
All the same, countless journalists rallied behind Sanders, the same woman who spends her days lying to them. And that says a lot more about them than it does about Wolf’s routine. Everyone who told Wolf to read the room is missing the point: The room, and the misplaced notion of a “special” night to celebrate the “special” relationship between the press and the presidency that brought everyone to it on Saturday, is precisely the problem.
Wolf, according to the commentariat, violated a sacred standard of decency that defines the correspondents’ dinner every year. The comedian should roast people, yes, but she should do it at a suitably low temperature for this town’s all-too-tender egos. Wolf broke protocol by turning on the broiler. Yet the figures she scorched have shattered norms that are far more important than an unspoken prohibition on vagina jokes.
The correspondents’ dinner supposedly celebrates the rapport that journalists have with the people they cover. This three-course fete of access journalism has always made some skeptics queasy, but after the Trump administration’s active attempts to undermine every organization in the room Saturday that doesn’t treat the president as an unassailable dear leader, it’s hard to pretend that the fourth estate and its subjects can carry on a relationship that’s adversarial and respectful all at once.
Yup, That is it. Exactly.
And who doesn’t remember all the examples of shooting women messengers? Kathie Griffin any one?
Comedian Kathy Griffin has claimed President Donald Trump ordered federal agents to investigate her and make her life miserable in the wake of her ill-considered bloody severed head online post featuring him.
Griffin, who apologized in the wake of the post when she received a barrage of outrage from both sides of the aisle – but later said she wasn’t sorry – was speaking on the ABCStart Here podcast with host Brad Mielke. She is also attending tonight’s White House Correspondents Dinner as a guest in what was anticipated to be a showdown with the president. Instead, Trump opted to hold a rally in Michigan.
Mielke asked Griffin about the aftermath of the photo incident. “You were cleared of any wrongdoing by the Secret Service. But you did say the investigation dragged on for months, and you have said this goes all the way to the White House. Are you saying that the president personally directed federal agents to investigate you?”
Griffin replied, “Of course.”
A woman’s place in journalism, politics, and comedy appears to be safe when you’re the bearer of patriarchy propaganda. Otherwise, no white knight rescue for you princess! Just a burning stake waiting for you baby!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?