It’s hard to know for sure whether Comedian Michelle Wolf, whose performance at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner last Saturday is by now widely known, actually got the result she had intended. She did draw some laughter, although much of it was uncomfortable. People from both parties have expressed shock and distaste, but if that is what Michelle Wolf was going for, after all, then her performance was a success.
On the other hand, instead of taking offense, many are praising Michelle Wolf for her equivalent of “telling it like it is” (Let’s remember who this characteristic has most often been attributed to in recent times). Others say that in light of the tasteless comments, insensitive remarks, and cruel opining that Trump and his administration are now known for, Michelle Wolf was just responding in kind. Again, despite the lack of laughs in the room, this indicates that Wolf succeeded, really, at what she set out to do.
If one is trying to make a point to a group one strongly opposes, however, is insulting, rant-heavy monologue the best tack to take? Does stooping to the same level of vindictive, vulgar, offensive commentary really make the intended point?
“We’ve had awkward dinners before, no question. But this is a different time,” says USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page. “…This week, a poll came out by Quinnipiac that showed that the majority of Republicans believe the press is the enemy of the American people, not a defender of democracy. That is an impression that we need to do everything we can to show that that is not true, that that is not the case, and that we’re motivated not by partisanship, but by a search for the truth.”
Perhaps, as some have remarked, the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner has begun to take itself too seriously. Michelle Wolf, says Masha Gessen of The New Yorker, “blasted open the fictions of journalism” with Saturday’s performance. Nevertheless, the White House Correspondents’ Association has supported the work of journalism in several ways, providing, among other things, scholarships for journalism students.
Donald Trump and his ilk have made every effort to discredit and belittle American journalists and the press, in general. Michelle Wolf’s set on Saturday did nothing to elevate the press in the eyes of the GOP.
“I’m someone who has dinged President Trump often for his narcissism,” said Los Angeles Times Columnist Jonah Goldberg. “The institutional narcissism that was on display (last night) at the correspondents’ dinner I think was a gift to Donald Trump. The crudeness toward Sarah Huckabee Sanders was a gift to the White House. It lets them double down on their ‘These elites are persecuting us’ storyline.”
No matter what Michelle Wolf’s intent was with her comedy set on Saturday, and no matter whether she succeeded or failed that night, we can be almost certain of her success as a self-promoter. No publicity is bad publicity. She may not have been well-known this time last week, and she may not be very funny, but the name Michelle Wolf is now trending globally.
Did Michelle Wolf go too far at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner? | Face the Nation [2018-04-29]
Comedy writer: WHCD was vicious, not funny | Fox News [04-29-2018]