I watched the C-SPAN tape of Michelle Wolf’s comments at the White House Correspondents dinner last weekend to see what all the fuss was about.
Really? This has the news media and the cable pundits worked up? I’ve read cruder and crueler comments in Facebook threads about old head shots, and aside from a couple of gratuitous F-bombs, it was no worse than a late-night talk show opening monologue on network TV. Leave in the F-bombs, and it’s Bill Maher’s shtick. And given that the Trump people and Trump himself have said far worse things and worn t-shirts with more graphic comments about Hillary Clinton and her anatomy, this was a one-news-cycle story.
Oh, yes, of course there are those pearl-clutchers who tut-tut and say that we shouldn’t get down in the gutter with the Trumpistas and two wrongs don’t make a right and when they go low, we go high. But in the long history of political humor and attempts at it, this was nothing new or even original. The only indication that it was effective in the least was that it got Trump tweeting angrily, but then again, so does a misplaced pickle on his cheeseburger.
All this does is prove once again that both Trump and his defenders do not understand the basic points of comedy. They never have, and given the vein of their attempts at it, they never will. Michelle Wolf’s routine was a classic case of punching up and self-deprecation, which has been the root of comedy since Aristophanes and passed on through the ages by the likes of Mark Twain, the Marx Brothers, Phyllis Diller, Mel Brooks, and every stand-up at a nightclub from here to Bora Bora.
The more Trump and friends rail about the meanness of Michelle Wolf or Kathy Griffin or the opening act at the Laughing Academy, the more they make themselves the target of comedic attacks. And I think they realize that the more people laugh at them, the more impotent they become.