Columns, Opinion

Miss Leading: It’s all fun and games until a harmless roast becomes a fire

As most Americans know, the White House Correspondents Dinner is basically the Comedy Central roast, except it’s for the president of the United States instead of some random, sometimes irrelevant celebrity.

I usually love watching the comedians make jokes about the current politicians and people in office. And for the last two years, the comedians have broken some incredible feats. Last year, Hasan Minhaj, a Muslim comedian, took the stage and took a stab at Donald Trump in his first year of presidency.

This year, Michelle Wolf did the same. It’s really important that Wolf — who is only the fifth woman to host the White House Correspondents Dinner in American history — hosted this year.

However, while all of these accomplishments are great, Michelle Wolf’s set was a lot — and that’s understatement. It started out great. But like all things that start out great, you never know what you’re going to get until it hits you all at once. Michelle Wolf’s humor is essentially a mix of cringey, a little bit of dirty and a lot of uncomfortableness. She started out by poking at Congress’ job as well as pointing out that because it’s 2018 and she’s a woman, we can’t shut her up.

And I completely agree, we can’t shut her up because she’s a woman. I’m glad it only took us 242 years to figure that one out. But on a serious note, after giving women a moment to be proud that we’ve made it this far as a gender, things took a turn for the worse.

Wolf kept current with the times by making jokes about recent events in our country’s history, such as the Women’s March and the porn industry. However, the part that everyone has been talking about as being controversial and disappointing is when she started talking about Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary. The Correspondents Dinner is supposed to be a lighthearted evening filled with jokes that poke fun at the general problems that the United States has issues with, but instead, it evolved into dialogue that looked like: “Hey Everyone! Let’s go bash on the White House press secretary and see where that gets us.”

I have two opinions about her jokes about Sanders. First of all, I don’t think it’s ever okay to attack someone personally, especially when they are just doing their job. That’s also how I feel about Trump, when he literally attacks every person of color because of his ignorant misunderstanding of who we are. It’s quite absurd that Wolf had such a strong moment of women’s empowerment in the first five minutes of her set, but then proceeded to tear another woman down in the rest of her piece. The whole point of empowering women — no matter how we personally feel about them — is to help each other rise up.

Second, her whole piece was more about attacking specific people, rather than discussing serious issues that are going on in this country. In the past, other comedians have done a great job questioning why the president has or has not done something that benefits the people of this country. And while I think it’s awesome that a woman hosted the dinner this year and that she was funny for the majority of her set, the way in which Wolf attacked Sarah Sanders was inappropriate. It made the set less funny and more uncomfortable, which is fine in some settings, but not in the sense where a roast turns into a flaming campfire.

I’m all for women breaking the glass ceiling, but I’m also for all women breaking the glass ceiling — not just the ones who I like. I think more people should be like that too.

One Comment

  1. Desmond Molloy

    “A lighthearted evening”? That’s the problem–that the “best and brightest” of our press corps spends an evening fanboy/girling over the very elites they’re supposed to cover. The truth is that a) no one went after Wolf for her attacks on Paul Ryan’s/Mitch McConnell’s appearances, which puts the lie to the idea that this sudden uproar has ever been about women’s rights, and b) the odds of Wolf getting dragged by the DC press corps if she hadn’t called them out for monetizing Trump’s ascendancy are approximately zero. I’ve seen my fair share of people lashing out after being called out on lies or hypocrisy, and it always looks a good deal like the way the Beltway commentariat has clutched its pearls this week. Ms. Sampath, Ms. Wolf’s lines about Sanders were about her repeated, documented lies to the press and the country. I am more than a little surprise that a FreeP writer’s first instinct is to defend power, rather than the one who speaks truth.