Why you should care
Because she knows what makes the president mad.
Too far? She sure doesn’t think so. On her Netflix show The Break, which melds news and stand-up, comedian Michelle Wolf this week went hard with a faux recruitment commercial for Immigration and Customs Enforcement that didn’t hesitate to compare the immigration agents to terrorists. “ICE is,” actors said, increasingly eliding the space between the two worlds and pointing up similarities between ICE and ISIS.
Fox & Friends, unsurprisingly, took it hard. Appearing on the Fox News morning show, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee decried Wolf’s satire as “bitter hate.” But in an exclusive interview at OZY Fest, Wolf got into her real motivations.
Why do you think it’s important to compare ICE to ISIS?
Wolf: Oh, I think it’s just fun. People put a lot of importance on comedy holding some responsibility, and comedians don’t have any responsibility. We’re just out there having fun.
Why do you think people have grasped onto this particular thing?
Wolf: People like to be outraged. They’ll just pick a side and they find a way to get mad at everybody or everything. It’s really easy to push the buttons.
A lot of people say they don’t trust journalists. Do you think they can trust comedians more?
Wolf: Comedy is at its best when it’s based in truth. We don’t have any responsibility of reporting news or anything like that. But jokes work better when they’re rooted in the truth. It’s better if they’re based on something that’s honest.
Is there anything you think comedy should do differently when covering politics?
Wolf: I think if they’re gonna talk about Trump, they should stop doing all the tacky Trump jokes. I think they should make sure that everything they’re saying has an actual punch line. If you’re gonna joke about politics, make sure they’re jokes. They’ve gotta have punch lines.
If you had a dream film project for a career beyond stand-up, what would you greenlight?
Wolf: I just want to work with a bunch of my other comic friends and make something that’s dramatic and dark but funny, like a Fargo -type thing.
Why did you keep coming back at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner to how not rich Trump is?
Wolf: I just figured that was the one thing that might make him mad. Nothing else makes him mad! You can make fun of his appearance, how bad he is or dumb, but it seems like the one thing he actually cares about is people thinking that he’s rich. He wants posh people to like him. That’s why I love the protests in London, because that’s the exact kind of people he wants to have respect from. And he’s never gonna get it, and everyone in the crowd he wants to run in will never think he’s decent or respect him as a businessman.
Do you think we’ll ever see someone like him again in politics?
Wolf: Oh, I think there’s plenty of people worse than him in politics right now. A lot of people on the right, like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, they’re all worse than Trump. Because they’ve been doing this kind of stuff for years. They’ve just been dog whistling a lot of it. And, you know, they support him and they stand behind him, as long as they get their Supreme Court justice and their tax plan, they’re fine with whatever happens.