May 2, 2018

LIEBERMAN | Funny Girl

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The funniest people I know are women, which might seem strange given how overwhelmingly male the profession of comedy seems to be. The top ten highest paid comedians in 2017 were nine men and one woman — Amy Schumer, who also happens to be exceedingly white and exceedingly problematic.

Performers at the White House Correspondents Dinners, keeping with this trend, have been historically male as well. Not to say that funny women haven’t graced the stage; recently we had Wanda Sykes, Cecily Strong and, this year, Michelle Wolf. So, we are getting somewhere in terms of equality.

As I watched Wolf perform, I tried and failed to feel offended. Republicans called it an absolute disgrace, even members of the liberal news media appealed for an apology from the comedian. Everyone seemed to think that she had taken it too far, especially in terms of Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

And, I will admit, she did take it far. She was blunt, she was crude and she was, at times, scathing. I do feel that this is what is generally expected of modern-day comedians. She reflected on the year and the players involved with tongue-in-cheek wit and honest evaluation. This year’s White House Correspondents Dinner might have felt a little surreal, like nothing we have ever experience before, but I would challenge you to recognize that this year in American politics has been a bit surreal as well.

We are in the middle of various legal scandals involving the President of the United States. We are forced to ask ourselves questions such as, what happens if the most powerful man in our nation paid off a porn star to keep quiet about their sexual relationship? Or what if, during his campaign, there was collusion with Russia? These seem like plot points in a soap opera, but they are genuine, day-to-day concerns when it comes to domestic politics.

The other day I was looking up the weather forecast online and said, “Oh, look! It’s stormy.” One of my friends thought I was referring to Kylie Jenner’s newborn baby, Stormi, and another friend thought I was referring to Trump’s alleged mistress, Stormy Daniels. What a world.

I can’t help but believe there would’ve been an elephant in the room if neither Russia nor Stormy Daniels were addressed. There was no comfortable way of doing this. Wolf’s sarcastic bluntness and the nervous tittering from the crowd seemed almost like the best we could hope for. However, Wolf has received barraging criticism, criticism that feels vaguely disproportionate. When a comedian like, oh, I don’t know, Louis C.K., stepped up to the plate, we expected his crudeness, his bluntness, his taking-it-too-far. It’s this boys-will-be-boys mentality that has enabled so many famous men to over-exert their power and run rampant with sexual harassment for so many years. For some reason, a woman speaking her mind isn’t met with the same shrugging and nodding.

To me, Michelle Wolf spun gold from straw. She picked up the absurdity that is the state-of-affairs in America, and she did not sugar coat it. Her exit, with a remark that Flint still doesn’t have clean water, was the perfect way to end it all. Wolf was fair, she was honest and she was not taking politicians’, or the media’s, bullshit. If we were all as enraged about the condition in Flint as we were with a comment about Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ eyeshadow, maybe we wouldn’t be in the middle of a human rights catastrophe. So, I give Wolf my respects, for making a room of elites feel wildly uncomfortable when called out on their own behavior and expressing no remorse for occupying this role and this space in a male-dominated-field. Bravo.