Michelle Wolf Interview: ‘Nice Lady’
“I know what kind of comic I am and I knew I wasn’t going to do it like Seth (Meyers) did because I tell harder jokes.” During our recent webchat with comedian Michelle Wolf (watch the video above), this was how she described her approach to her material for the 2018 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. She received a lot of criticism from the media for jokes that they interpreted as taking a shot at the looks of White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. This caught Wolf off guard.:”I was most surprised that people thought I was making fun of Sarah’s looks because I think it said a lot more about what people thought Sarah looked like.”
Wolf also thought it was inappropriate for some in the media to interpret her correlation between Sanders and the character of Aunt Lydia from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” to be regarding their looks rather than the policies they seek to implement. Wolf thought that was especially insensitive to Ann Dowd, the actress who portrays Aunt Lydia and won an Emmy for the role last year. “You don’t call Ann Dowd ugly! She is a very attractive lady,” Wolf says.
The other aspect of the reaction to her set at the dinner that surprised Wolf a lot was how many fellow comedians stepped up to defend her performance after media figures began to criticize her material. “In comedy, you really want other comedians to like your stuff because we are, by far, the harshest critics of comedy,” she reveals. She adds that it was completely surreal for her to see people that she has admired, including Dave Chappelle and David Letterman, rallying people to stand by her.
Last month Wolf earned her first Emmy nomination in the Variety Special Writing category for her HBO stand-up special “Michelle Wolf: Nice Lady.” While this will be her first time attending an awards show as a nominee, it’s not the first time that Wolf has been a serious part of a showbiz ceremony. She contributed to Seth Meyers’s performance as host of the Emmys in 2014 and was also one of the writers who helped Chris Rock when he hosted the Oscars in 2016.
Wolf remembers the distinct craziness that surrounded that year’s ceremony and the “Oscars So White” theme that resulted from that year’s nominees. “We had a whole monologue written that Chris had tested out. Then the nominations came out and we had to write an entirely new monologue because we realized people were going to want Chris to solve racism in his eight-minute opening.” Wolf also felt anxious when she started working with Rock because she had never met him before. But her nerves were put to rest right after she met him. “The very first I met him to start working on stuff, I immediately could tell this guy likes it if you pitch him ideas and that he’s very open and collaborative.” Rock’s jokes during the ceremony won wide praise and Wolf provided one of the most pointed and remembered jokes from the monologue about how Hollywood is “sorority racist.”