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Michelle Wolf at the Door, but Her Best Snarls Were Saved for Last at the White House Correspondents' Dinner
May 1, 2018  | By Ed Bark  | 4 comments

The detractors and defenders of Michelle Wolf continue to pile up like a chain collision on a slippery freeway.

Most of America’s latest case study in “tribal” polarization is over the pointed shots she took at White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was seated just a few chairs away from her at Saturday night’s annual White House Correspondents' Dinner.

My interest here isn’t in the propriety of those jokes, although the full-blown outrage from some defenders of President Trump is ironic if not laughable in the face of the many coarse insults he’s lobbed at anyone perceived as an enemy. Wolf, now likely to have a huge hit with her upcoming The Break with Michelle Wolf talk show (below, May 27 on Netflix), is neither Joan of Arc nor Cruella de Ville. Whether she’s funny is another matter entirely. I was hit-and-miss amused -- but on the whole more amused than not -- after catching Wolf’s act on TV and then re-reading her entire presentation. But we don’t have to agree on any of that.

What most of the hand-wrenching analysis is missing, though, is the utter truth of her big finish Saturday night. It was directly aimed at the media’s continued slavish devotion to all things Trump.

“There’s a ton of news right now,” Wolf said. “A lot is going on, and we have all these 24-hour cable news networks, and we could be covering everything. Instead, we’re covering three topics. Every hour is Trump, Russia, Hillary, and a panel full of people who remind you why you don’t go home for Thanksgiving . . .

“You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you used to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties, or Eric. But he has helped you. He’s helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him. If you’re going to profit off of Trump, you should at least give him some money -- because he doesn’t have any.”

And by the way, she said in closing, “Flint still doesn’t have clean water.”

Amen, sister, with a special debt of ingratitude to CNN.

As I’ve written before, no network has been more fixated with Trump, during both his campaign and his presidency. Whatever Trump’s wealth, he couldn’t begin to pay for all that free, uninterrupted airtime -- whether it’s his speeches or whatever “chaos” currently is bedeviling his administration. Stormy Daniels’ spotlight-grabbing attorney, Michael Avenatti (right), might as well pitch a tent outside CNN’s studios. Why is he on so much? Because CNN potentate Jeff Zucker, who made Trump a “reality” series star while running NBC, sees the Avenatti/Stormy/Trump trifecta as a win/win/win bet. A president who has bragged about grabbing pussies, a porn star whose privates have been on display to him and many others and a telegenic pit bull of an attorney who loves to prod the President and his representatives. 

From almost Day One at CNN, Zucker demanded that the network “own” a story by covering it to the virtual exclusion of all else. The infamous Carnival “Poop Cruise” and the missing Malaysian airliner were early manifestations of that game plan. At the 2014 White House Correspondents' Dinner, President Obama got perhaps his biggest laugh of the evening when he deadpanned, “I am happy to be here even though I am a little jet-lagged from my trip to Malaysia. The lengths we have to go to to get CNN coverage these days.”  

Only on Sunday nights does CNN usually rest with its prime-time lineup of original series and documentaries. Wolf touched on this earlier, noting that “we’ve got our friends at CNN here. Welcome guys, it’s great to have you. You guys love ‘Breaking News.’ And you did it. You broke it. The most useful information on CNN is when Anthony Bourdain tells me where to eat noodles.”

But CNN, regularly ridiculed by Trump as television’s main repository of “fake news,” is not the principal culprit on another news battlefield. MSNBC and Fox News Channel are television’s Grand Poobahs of polarization. Their prime-time lineups are wall-to-wall fortresses for the respective true believers in Trump and all who oppose him. It’s all part of their business plans, and business has seldom been better. Meanwhile, the foundations of our democratic system and journalism, in general, are not well-served by two “news” networks that pledge allegiance to one side or the other while CNN provides a marginally more balanced alternative.

Wolf let both FNC and MSNBC off easily in terms of specifically ridiculing them for their roles in exacerbating the country’s Great Divide. I would have preferred more barbs at their expense rather than a tame riff on how MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow “never gets to the point” or a bare mention of FNC’s Sean Hannity (right) being exempt from comedic criticism because “this dinner is for journalists.” 

Instead, she tore into the now basically irrelevant Megyn Kelly in what arguably was the cheapest broadside of the night. “What would I do without Megyn Kelly?” she asked. “Probably be more proud of women. Megyn Kelly got paid $23 million by NBC, and then NBC didn’t let her go to the Winter Olympics. Why not? She’s so white and cold and expensive she might as well be the Winter Olympics. And by the way, Megan, Santa is black. That weird guy going down your chimney was Bill O’Reilly.”

The White House Correspondents' organizational brain trust now must decide what to do for an encore. They overcorrected the last time a comedian created such a stir, hiring impressionist Rich Little as their entertainment in 2007, the year after Stephen Colbert tore into President George W. Bush. Charitably speaking, Little was painfully awful.  

Don Imus also offended some of the masses with his dicey monologue at the 1996 White House Correspondents' Dinner. This time the Clintons were on the receiving end, and conservatives weren’t exactly outraged. 

Whether these “Nerd Proms” should be held at all anymore is an increasingly valid question. But it’s assumed that the shows will go on while Michelle Wolf’s career soars on the strength of her newfound notoriety.

Whatever the case, the Republic will survive. It even survived Rich Little. But the three principal cable news networks continue to sew their seeds of discord while taking Trump to the bank. The Clinton News Network? What a ridiculously out-dated notion. Contrary to the President’s rhetoric, CNN dearly loves being all Trump all the time. Don’t think otherwise -- not even for a minute.

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R. Dunn
HAHA...So where were all the jokes about FLOTUS Michelle Obama looking & dressing like a Wookie with those awful arms & always changing hair 'wig/hat'...? Or all the jokes about her 'Senior thesis' from Princeton; I read it and it was like an uppity, rather cluesless about real politics, 8th grader wrote it (with all the grammar mistakes)
Or all the jokes about "Barack Hussein Obama" and why he sealed all his college & law school records...? They said Obama was the "smartest" President ever, but I never saw any proof he went to Colombia Univ or Harvard Law
May 2, 2018   |  Reply
R.Dunn, You are just filled with off topic factoids/opinions, with no reason to share them,
other than to make a message board about television less pleasant to read.
Perhaps there's a better place for your contributions than this topical website?
Add something about Television, please.
May 3, 2018
Need Obama jokes? Seth Meyers had a bunch at the 2011 WHCD,including Obama making the Kool-Aid for the MSNBC table. Obama's remarks might have ignited Trump's desire to seriously seek the Presidency. Making the rounds recently as Michelle Wolf-remember she is the source of the story-worked for Meyers. Meyers made fun of Arianna Huffington's accent. Fox blondes. NPR. Anderson Cooper.This after Obama's birth certificate jokes from Obama and his writers... and Trump's reactions. A smirk,a wave-no applause.
Evidence of Harvard Law? Ran the gd Review,though,of course, probably ghost-written by Tony Schwartz.
May 3, 2018
Uppity.An interesting word to bring to the discussion.As loaded as that word is,I always think of a great blues group from the '90s-Saffire,the Uppity Blues Women. A trio of middle aged women playing real gutsy blues-some new,some classic. Barrelhouse keyboards,guitar & bass,singing about subjects overlooked since Sippie Wallace. Songs about younger men,domestic violence,the woes of a teacher and feminist issues(does "feminazi" help clarify?). When I brought my date to a show-she was an outlaw-country fan,never exposed to stuff like this-she wanted to drive their tour bus. "Uppity" was a badge of courage,defying its pejorative meaning. Always signed stuff:"Stay Uppity!" We followed them till they broke up and a founding member died. Just the titles of their albums spoke the truths inside: Ain't Gonna Hush,Hot Flash!,Broad Casting. My date that night-now 24 years of marriage. I had to stay with this Uppity woman-she's smarter than me.
May 3, 2018
Everyone who Enlists in the US Military (like myself) who holds a "TOP SECRET" Security Clearance has to fill out and pass a SF-86 form.
Sadly I do not think 'Barack Hussein Obama' ever had to fill out a US Government clearance... And he was allowed to be a US Senator and President :-(
May 2, 2018
Up front: I am a fan of Michelle Wolf.
This was not her best work-(see Nice Lady, HBO)--but it's a huge room, and difficult to play to, as well.
She said nothing much different than many of the Men who preceded her!
(She also said a lot more than about SHS!!) Colbert, with W on stage, mocked WMD, Cheney shooting someone, Mission Accomplished photo-ops, more.
Imus asked Clinton about "astroturfing his pickup truck"!!
I believe much of this is reaction to a Female comic- and the current climate.
The best part was the take-down of the Press for style of Trump coverage.
both before, and now after the Election. Nailed them for soft pedaling!
Her very best comment-- shoulda done more research before you had me do this!
Who, indeed, expected any different? Shoulda done more research.....
May 1, 2018   |  Reply
Shrill Wolf is not appealing or funny. No doubt that far left of center CNN is a Trump hating network. The Kelp farming story on 60 Minutes was an example of worthwhile informative news. Google it.
May 1, 2018   |  Reply
Wolf of her own free will chose to be a public figure thereby opening herself to criticism about any aspect of her presentation whether PC or not.
May 2, 2018
Hmmm... with the understanding that one shouldn't criticize for looks, because we do not choose them.... Should that not apply to a voice, not an optional characteristic?
May 1, 2018
Eagerly awaiting Michelle's interview,taped Monday with Terry Gross for NPR's Fresh Air(early feed @ noon).Outside of bringing in the Southwest incident where an innocent passenger died,Wolf could have hit harder and meaner.The "smoky eye" joke was not an insult to Huckabee's features as much as the ashes were made of lies. And thanks to CNN-a very interesting Kellyanne Conway interview with Stormy Daniels's lawyer in the picture while Huckabee nudges Conway about it all. Sad that Trump stays away when he would get the last word,but with Dennis Miller or Greg Gutfeld providing ad-libs in his earpiece,those lines might not see the light of day until Memorial Day. "Trump deadpanned"-a phrase for the SyFy Network.The only scary moment in Nerd Prom history was watching Trump stone face during Obama's roasting in 2011 which possibly led to Trump throwing his MAGA cap in the ring. Truly sad.
May 1, 2018   |  Reply
After two passes on the Fresh Air interview... Michelle's offstage voice is much less hyper,sounding very calm & normal for a young woman. She admits her shrillness onstage;both voices sound OK to me and I listen to a lot of radio. She has no regrets on her voice nor her words. The "voice"topic is covered in the interview,after the WHCD headlines. Last Fri.,Fresh Air replayed a 1982 interview with Bob Dorough(RIP) and the difference between Terry Gross 1982(Fresh Air was a 3 hr. local marathon,and recorded to tape, today to digital) and 2018 is jarring. Terry & guest are rarely in the same room,town,state,etc., but on an audio line,no video and Terry likes it that way. The result-conversation with personal quirks-great audio! To quote Terry Cashman about listening to baseball:"I saw it on the radio."
May 1, 2018
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