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March 05, 2019

Michelle Wolf on Trump, comedy and that White House dinner

Comedy Controversies
Michelle Wolf Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

Michelle Wolf during a comedy special on HBO

Michelle Wolf morphed from a relatively unknown comic to a national news item last April after her incendiary performance at the White House Correspondents' dinner. The cerebral humorist skewered the Trump administration, particularly White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Wolf, 33, who will perform Thursday through Saturday at Punchline Philly, looks back at the impact of her 19-minute roast, comments on the state of female comedians and where you might find the Hershey native, who ran college track, when she's not onstage in Philly.

Q: You've become quite the polarizing figure since the correspondents dinner. Were you surprised that so many people were offended since you were just joking like comics do during roasts?

A: One guy said to me, 'you were really harsh on Sarah Huckabee' and I said, 'have you seen other roasts?' That's what people do during roasts! People made such a big deal about what I said about Sarah Huckabee. The media talks about that but they don't talk about how the media loves Trump. He's helping the media make a lot of money. It's the same story over and over again with Trump. There's an abundance of other news but it's not as sexy a story as anything with Trump.

Q: But it makes sense that you roasted Huckabee since shouldn't a female comic goof on a female political figure as opposed to roastmaster general Jeff Ross slicing and dicing a target?

A: Sure. Everyone gets upset about how I joked about her makeup but if you think that was what my material is about you're not a very smart person.

Q: Your jokes were all about her lies.

A: Yes, but when people read today it's all about click baiting headlines. How many people read the actual story?

Q: Kathy Griffin nearly lost her career due to a photo of her and a ketchup stained mask of Trump. You were heavily criticized by some for your treatment of Sanders. How badly are female comic's pushed around?

A: I think the people that hired me for the correspondents dinner probably thought, 'she's a woman,' she'll be easy on everybody.' I think people can be more critical of women.

Q: A generation ago it appeared that women had the power in comedy. Joan Rivers was the first female to host a late night talk show on a network. There were a number of sitcoms starring women, such as 'Roseanne,' 'Grace Under Fire' and 'Caroline in the City.' What happened to women in comedy?

A: Joan Rivers got to host a talk show at the cost of severing all ties with Johnny Carson. He tried to ruin her career. I think It's all about women having to say 'I want this and I don't fucking care who wants to step in front of me.' Joan Rivers kept fighting.

Q: Rivers was good friends with Trump. She told me he was a big fan of comedians. How do you think the President is dealing with so many comics slamming him?

A: I can't imagine that he's really a fan of comedians since no one has ever seen him laugh.

Q: You worked in corporate before you turned to comedy just like Jeff Foxworthy. Was that a difficult transition?

A: I got fired on purpose I got over nine- months of severance and saved up. I had a year to get this going. I wasn't going to spend my life in a corporate job.

Q: What did you learn writing for Seth Meyers and Trevor Noah?

A: I learned about timing from Trevor and the economy of words from Seth.

Q: When you're not performing in Philly, where can we find you?

A: Out running somewhere.

Michelle Wolf appears Thursday through Saturday at Punchline Philly, 33 E. Laurel St. Philadelphia. Tickets are $36. Show time is 7:30 p.m. Thursday and 7:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information call 215-606-6555 or visit