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The White House Correspondents Dinner: A Tale of Misguided Blame

Michelle Wolf performs her stand up routine during the White House Correspondents Dinner much to the chagrin of both media critics and press. PHOTO/ ABC News
Michelle Wolf performs her stand up routine during the White House Correspondents Dinner much to the chagrin of both media critics and press. PHOTO/ ABC News

By Muhammad Rahman

Published: May 2nd, 2018

After watching Michelle Wolf’s comic routine from this year’s White House Correspondents Dinner, I was not all that surprised to hear that many prominent conservative figures aligned with Trump had felt her skit was either far too crude and in poor taste.

What had surprised me was watching several notable mainstream media figures such as Andrea Mitchell and Maggie Haberman say they were appalled by the comic skit or certain jokes such as those directed towards to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. 

Sanders was in attendance for the dinner as the only attendant close to the Trump inner circle, a gesture that many journalists felt was telling of a restoration of trust in media now squandered by harsh jokes directed to her.

In the eyes of these critics, Wolf’s performance proved not only to be fatal for the mainstream media, many of whom are attempting to undo the perception of coming off as being both undignified and callous, but also in some way gave added leverage to sympathetic figures like Sanders due to some jokes coming off as Ad Hominem attacks.

It is in my opinion that comedians like Wolf in this case, regardless of being considered humorous by one or neither, are not liable for any of the points of blame she is receiving.    

Furthermore, when one who invites a comedian for a ‘roast’, should not possess any expectation of a limit the quality of ‘crudeness’ said comedian should be especially in regards to a particular person involved in politics.

While it may indeed be true that the comic event may come off as unruly and full of needlessly contemptible expressions which only seems to further divide an already split audience, one should note that while the goal of a comedian is to entertain, their jokes may not necessarily align with one person or an audience’s views.

If the audience is unappeased by this, then they should reconsider requesting comics to perform during these sorts of events.

If they are still concerned such performance somehow undermine the integrity of events which should be on a more serious note, then that only further solidifies the point that the blame should be directed to those persons that arrange the White House Correspondents Dinner and who performs in it.

In doing so, however, would be an admission of being unwilling to joke with oneself, an attribute that even the most previous did not share, as noted by skipping out on the dinner as Wolf notes when referring to Trump’s absence: “It turns out the president of the United States is the one pussy you’re not allowed to grab.”

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One comment

  1. The longstanding tradition of the Roast had at its modern founding that a comedian only roast those they love. The way I understand it, the rule is the same as people from the same family, community or religious group can call one another names which , if hurled from the lips of someone from without that grouping would be considered rude or even racist, sexist, etc. Comedians roast one another because they are a small group who are members of a specific group-people who stand up and speak in public for their pay. Therefore, they can call each other names and say things that no one else can because of this.

    Michelle Wolf and Sarah Huckabee Sanders are not in the same group, they are not even colleagues. More importantly Wolfe does not LOVE Sanders. This is why her act was in bad taste and poor form. Forget that Wolfe (whose name I did not recognize immediately) could be said to be Punching Up towards Sanders (who I am familiar with). Civility dictates that Wolfe take a little time off from her day job of Punching Up on public figures and do what she was paid to do. As a comedian and standup comic. Be funny. I am not suggesting Wolfe had any responsibility to celebrate or endorse the administration, of course not. I am however, suggesting that Wolfe got this whole thing wrong.

    No Love equals no Roast equals not funny.

    I bet Wolfe is not asked back to the Correspondent’s Dinner. At best Wolfe stuck to her ideals, called it like she saw it, and told Sanders what was on her mind. Sometimes that can be admirable. This was not admirable.

    Yet, the biggest crime was that it was just not funny material delivered in the wrong way to the wrong person.

    Admittedly, I saw only short excerpts of the speech, but I came away feeling that Wolfe appeared petulant and out of order. A comedian who could not “read the room”, much less the nation these correspondents report to each day and night.

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