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J.D. Connor @jdconnor
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Two days later, everyone is sick of the @michelleisawolf #WHCD takes. So I thought I'd drive right into the abyss, go long, and look at how the routine is structured. I've been a fan for a long time; that will be obvious. This will take 3 days.
I want to highlight 3 things: voice, pacing, contempt. Even this insanely long thread doesn't get at everything going on in the routine—the eye work is great—but if this was the last #WHCD, the even deserves an epic sendoff, S/Z style.
1. The first remark draws attention to the room, and immediately conveys her sense that the event is BAD. It's in what I'll call normal voice—the voice she uses to seemingly step out of the performance. That voice speaks in monosyllables and simple syntax.
It's her everywoman's voice. It ends with her saying "yeah," under her breath. That yeah is the first version of "swallowed contempt." The un-performed normal voice slides effortlessly into the performed—but authentic—contempt she'll display throughout.
2 Performer voice kicks in and the joke is straight up: Trumps fuck porn stars. The shock is prepared by the empathy of "this is long" (1) and calls back to it with her insistence that she's getting right to the jokes.
Already, that play between barreling ahead and the authentic aside is totally working. (She will break it, on purpose, later.) She jumps between those registers throughout, but she will also add new notes.
3 The first of the pileup jokes. She slams the venue, the channel, the occasion (Trump's presidency), pulls back to thank the hosts, and then flatfootedly hits the fish. Every one of these is under or overplayed.
She doesn't wait for the audience (there or at home) to swing from over to under with her. Venue and channel are insulted, but Trump is simply "not ideal"—way under what she thinks. The perfunctory attitude continues in the thanks.
The last is cliche: banquet food is mediocre. By skimming through these she is making it clear: she won't dwell AND there is something more important than the easy targets. This voice is still the performer's voice.
4 The I'm-useless-like-Congress joke is cliché. The crowd is fine with it. This is the softball they expect. It hits quick, the pacing is deceptive.
5 The Roy Moore joke is harder, but a natural follow: we almost elected a pedophile. This is the 2nd joke in which Wolf positions herself as a sexual target (2). What starts as a story about her age becomes apparently a character shot at Roy Moore.
Again, the crowd is fine with that. Character stories—especially ones where the bad actor didn't come to DC—are fine. Wolf emphasizes her real point: he almost got elected. It was an accident that things didn't turn out even worse.
That's going to be her overarching point: if there is anything funny still that is only an accident. The contempt isn't swallowed, but ironized in normal voice, easy syntax: "It was fun. It was fun." It wasn't.
6 Another self-directed softball about her own abrasive? nasal? voice. But while the joke highlights her performer's voice, it steps back into a different version of the swallowed, normal voice, in this case the patronizing voice of the aptitude test itself.
The test is breaking it to her gently. In the vignette, of course, she sees through that "or maybe mime" suggestion that's more insistent than a suggestion while at the same time she shows that the performer's voice is only one of the voices she's got.
The point of the joke isn't to be hard, but to show that her character savvy is matched by her technical facility.
7 This is another contradictions-of-late-feminism joke, and it follows the pattern of 2, but inverted. There, the joke was that porn stars fuck Trumps but don't enjoy it. Now the initial point is that women's voices are powerful, but that point is immediately undercut
Undercut by the sense that even in this climate, money can buy the silence of a sexual partner if that relationship would be publicly unsavory. "Venmo" is a cue to her young age and a contrast to the ludicrous machinations Michael Cohen went through to pay off Stormy Daniels.
And the joke about Reince Priebus combines the cliché that his name sounds like an anatomical term (pubis), with the point that it would be a terrible porn star name, with the broader indictment that people who work for Trumps are all metaphorically paid-off-porn-stars.
Priebus in the audience gives a thumb's up, happy to be called out, happy to have his time as one of Trump's tricks in the rearview mirror. Again, because the joke can be read against feminism, the crowd is fine with it.
But this is the first time Wolf has called out someone in the audience, and that would eventually be the grounds for the faux outrage at the routine.
8 2 similar jokes about craft stores & protests. Trump is good for business. This, too, is cliché, & continues the contradictions-of-late-feminism theme that the audience is fine with. She flubs one line—something she does when the joke is about to turn very intimate as we'll see
The real joke, though, comes in the decision to move away from the easy irony (women be crafting; feminism is good for business) to a refusal to take symbols as distant from her own being: the hats don't look like pussies; hers has "more yarn."
That explicitness is the thing that the pussy hat seemed to offer (Look! It's a pussy!) but that quickly enough just became a construction of pink yarn. Wolf regrounds it in the bodies Trump regards as entirely instruments of his own pleasure—in her own.
The last line moves away from the performer's voice to the swallowed contempt. They should have done more research not because she will be vulgar but because she is not going to stop the joke where it isn't personal.
That "intimization" is what the politics-as-a-game crowd will be most offended by, and it will unite her attacks on administration personalities, policies, and the media.
9 This joke veers, and as such is structurally different from any so far. In performer's voice she gets back to business and timing: no time for Russia. The joke turns toward the press directly, and is an easy (albeit sexual) joke about the "liberal media."
The joke about @jaketapper's O-face is the second shot at someone in the crowd, but the joke is that it's the same face he always has. The final line, Tapper's "that's all the time we have," delivered in normal voice, actually veers the joke back to the setup
about not having enough time. This is superb construction. It slides by effortlessly. And Tapper's "all the time we have" recalls the scathing contempt he directed at Stephen Miller cnn.com/videos/politic…
Wolf won't mention the unctuous, racist, anti-Semite Miller in her routine—some have wondered why. Part of the answer is that the press has actually called Miller out; part is that she can't find anything unhorrible about him
10 A bit of parallelism (Russia/Michigan) as a cleanser to move away from the bravura turn of the previous joke. This one is easier, and so when she steps into normal voice, the contempt thread returns: "It's a direct flight. It's so close."
How could you blow this, you supposed pros? Why tell this joke 2 years on? It's the flip side of the Roy Moore joke: it would have been so easy, she can't help but feel, to avoid this cascading nightmare. Such stunning contingencies show up in normal voice.
11 A joke about Trump's absence returns to his abusive relationships with women. The setup about "dragging" him to the dinner is a bit forced in order to get the idea of grabbing across. The payoff, though, plays on the ambiguity of being a pussy,...
and that shock erases some of the setup weakness. The excuse is intentionally hollow: he said it first. And the aim of that is to force listeners to think "He didn't call someone a pussy in a metaphorical sense—which is vulgar—he was literal."
And then for them to realize that was worse. She is trying to restore the shock of the Access Hollywood moment. The realization comes during Wolf's normal voice contempt: "Remember that? Good."
12 Another joke with a cliché setup (give Trump credit). Here pulling out of the accord becomes an easy explicit joke about sex. This is the debut of "man voice," which will return in the Sanders portion and again in the cable news discussion.
Man voice is purposefully grating, and stupid, but endearing in the "get you next time" obliviousness. And the double-clutch at the end of the joke is a look at Wolf's regular act. "There's gonna be a next time?" sounds like a sarcastic way of saying there will not be...
but the sarcasm is actually piled up into the next line, "people say romance is DEAD." These pivots all seem to be about Wolf's interactions with men, bu the setup to the joke—and the joke before (11) all the way back to 2—are not simply personal
They are social and intimized: this is how the sexual culture of Trumpworld is transactional, and stupid, and vulgar.
I'll stop here tonight. Tomorrow, from the Trump-isn't-rich portion up to the women in the Trump Administration.
Part II @michelleisawolf #WHCD Yesterday I covered the first chunk of the routine. 12 jokes (with several subjokes). All three voices in play. The crowd is with her. Tapper laughed at the joke about his O-face.
13 This joke begins as another pileup, but it twists. The I-could-say-you're-an-asshole-but-I-wont form (technically, apophasis) immediately moves away from wink-wink toL been there, done that. Instead, she announces what she'll do and directly addresses Trump.
There's a little shock in the audience, but not enough to delay the joke about relative wealth (ID vs NY). This launches the economics thread of the routine, and that is worth noting for two reasons.
1 Lately we've gotten away from the outer-boro-striver-made-good story of Trump's insecurities. This puts those back at the center. 2. We are far from Great Recession austerity culture, but she needs us to remember it.
It looks like she's moved away from jokes that put female bodies at the center of a culture of risk, but she hasn't.
14 The Who Wants to be a Millionaire joke looks like an old reference (That's still on?) but it's more a reference for an old person. Trump speaks a version of Man Voice and expresses 2 things: 1 egoistic financial desperation 2 ignorance and a need for a safe zone (Fox)
Wolf isn't doing an impression. This is just the flipside of the oblivious doofus (12). The sweetly pathetic image of Trump calling up the morning idiots at Fox stands in stark contrast to the raging phone call he'd placed just that Thursday.
The old reference wraps and hides a very current horror. A version of not-talking-about-Miller (9)
Trump is broke. Performer voice. Wolf does 4 jokes not just the rule-of-3; this clip is the first 2. To my ear, the call & response continues the game show theme, reminiscent of Match Game and its "Dumb Donald" questions. The first joke is a straight zing;
it highlights Trump's plane fetish and his bankruptcies. It's a situation that doesn't seem to be true anymore (Air Force 1); she is dwelling in the (recent) past. As usual, if you think Wolf isn't up to date, you're being set up, or the routine is working underneath the joke.
She announces it's a game to force the audience to play along. Many won't; she knows that; she is shedding their support. A gutty move less than halfway in. The director, who has been struggling to know when to cut away so as not to miss normal voice asides has an easier time
We'll see just how split the room is. The second joke about foreign oil has nothing to do with anything Trump ever did to make money; it just says Junior is greasy.
But coming on the heels of the plane joke, it reminds us of the misleading statement Trump dictated on AF1 about the Russian "adoption" visit to Jr in Trump Tower. All that stuff about how she didn't have time to talk about Russia and didn't want the O-face? Here comes the payoff
Call&Response 3 flips the timing of the reference: the Southwest engine blew up on the 17th. Someone died. Wolf flobs the line leading into it b/c it's too soon. The room should all be uncomfortable: too soon; Trump is an exploding engine? WTF?
C&R 4 is the Russia payoff in the form of a pileup. The whole scenario—Trump is broke, he needs Russian money, he's compromised (perhaps b/c in his hatred for Obama's making fun of him at the #WHCD, etc.-->pee tape) and now the republic will collapse.
Worse than the plane explosion. Instead of an O-face she gives a long mocking yea! And then snarks at the politics-is-a-game crowd who aren't as horrified as they should be: "fun game," but still in Performer Voice, now voiced contempt.
Unmentioned: Miss Universe & watersports sexworkers, but they will be implicit in 17
17 A double joke about euphemism begins explicitly calling Trump a racist, a leftover from the very veiled Obama reference in 16. But the racism callout swiftly pivots to sexual violence in a callback to Moore (5) and a joke about Weinstein
The tag—he likes plants—requires the audience to remember that Harvey jacked off into a potted plant in front of journalist Lauren Sivan. Again, it's tacit, but Wolf is highlighting the sexual risks for women in the profession.
18 Another easy-to-laugh-at joke for the room, this about arming teachers. But it's still transactional (they sell the guns) not the hack joke about teachers being angry or incompetent. They are desperate.
It's tagged with a normal voice line about "protractors" which is a funny, nostalgic word, harkening back to a simpler time, perhaps. As usual, these jokes are a setup for harsher stuff (4, 8)
19 The beginning of the Pence jokes highlights a problem for Trump-hating: what if he were actually committed and more competent? Wolf works through it, sideways. Pence-as-punchline (1st) is easy. Pence as straight-Anderson-Cooper is cliché about rightwing prudery,
here highlighted by more of Wolf's reliance on physical appearance (a la greasy Don Jr.). But in the room this joke plays spectacularly well with CNN colleague Don Lemon.
Pence as toothpaste-and-OJ enjoyer drives home the attack on prudery as lack of normal aesthetic capacity. "Mmm" is such an uninventive experience of pleasure, of course it's Pence's line. But it's not far from Tapper's O-face. And of course Pence doesn't speak in Man Voice.
20 The abortion joke starts as a shock joke, but that is just a setup for a conservative male hypocrisy joke: the more (he is) offended by the violent image the sharper the contrast when he pays for his "secret mistress"'s abortion.
Now, there are LOTS of possible secret mistresses in this scenario, but my guess is she's drawing from this piece about Tim Murphy, Elliott Broidy, and Trump. (She's not going to mention Michael Cohen either.) refinery29.com/2018/04/196758…
The normal voice tag "fun how values can waver. But good for you" has it all: the syntax, the 'fun' hypocrisy that pivots around a woman's body and a man's power. It's the extension of 2.
The director has been giving us shots of a man I don't recognize—silver haired, a kind of Cooper/Pence stand-in. He is thoroughly on board. There will be fewer faces as happy as his in this crowd.
Finally, the joke is not about Pence: he's no hypocrite about this, Wolf would say. So it sets up her real point about him: your fun situational ethics won't get any play in Penceworld (21). This is very slow burn heading for the Handmaid's Tale joke later.
21 The Pence/women joke starts by calling him a weirdo—directly, as she called Trump a racist (17)—but it turns back to the "climate" and the problems of witnessing and sexual assault.
The ways in which in a world of one-on-one encounters it takes a Weinsteinesque pileup of assault stories to change the narrative. Mother Pence is ironically drafted as a witness, hence an ally.
22 The Pence jokes set up the return to the backstory of Wolf's own hosting (4). The joke about jacking off in front of people has an explicit callback to Weinstein (17) and an implicit target in Louis CK. Her profession is just as damaged as media or politics
She will generalize that point further in 23, but first she will bring it back to her own body (8), mock-threatening in normal voice to masturbate at one of the afterparties.
23 Wolf pushes away the implicit reading that her comedy is aggressively sexualized because she's been personally assaulted. This is a tricky line to toe: has she been able to intimize so much of this routine because in some sense she has been lucky?
Or is it that she has still been relentlessly subject to egregious male power that such intimacy isn't a leap? I think she wants to keep the passage open between the literal and the metaphorical (7,11) via experience: she's been fucked.
She extends the burst (fucked is a word that just pops here) with an extended play on "going down." It's fluid in the way the grabbing pussy (11) and pulling out (12) setups weren't. (She can do it whenever she wants to.)
The normal voice aside finally makes clear why she wants the literal (sexual assualt) to appear next to the metaphorical (economic collapse): both are situations in which men escape punishment. And the least punished is Trump, implicit here but set up in 13, 14, 15.
24 Wolf uses cliché setups either to slack of before a harder joke or to pivot. It's pacing through intensity. Here though the cliché is the punchline. The joke is supposedly a bothsidesism: even liberals have suffered with the new accountability.
But just as 23 was about the similarities between sex and the economy, 24 is about the similarity of easy hypocrisy when women are the victims.
The normal voice aside explains why the cliché is relevant again (new movie, not an old reference) and emphasizes the durability of power's unaccountability regardless of party.
25 The next joke setup is a metajoke—no jokes about the cabinet because of turnover. Why let DeVos, Pomeo, Pruitt, Sessions, Zinke off the hook? Like 9, because the press seems to be doing its job. And because mere corruption isn't the theme.
So she veers back to a discussion of racism that she didn't take up in 17. The crowd groan at the bad parallelism—cabinet turnover has not been the result of racist injustice—allows her to mock-empathize with Starbucks-the-corporation.
The normal voice contemptuous payoff is that racism is not really tractable in an afternoon or maybe ever. This is, like 9, a joke that starts about pacing (fast turnover) and ends about pacing (slow problems). It's similarly superbly built.
26 Double, easy jokes about McConnell and Ryan. More dick talk. The McConnell joke is, literally, this man is a dickhead; the Ryan joke is that he, metaphorically, has no balls. The McConnell one is the most explicit attack on someone's appearance so far. She is building.
She's lost Tapper, who seems to think the jokes aren't funny (they're not great). So why do these? 1 It allows her to keep the literal (McConnell's neck is a flap of skin) next to the metaphorical (Ryan did not stop Trump's excesses and is now slinking away)
And 2 It's a statement that they aren't worth better jokes. Consider "I think Mitch McConnell is a dickhead" next to what will be the complex curlicues of hatred directed at Megyn Kelly.
27 The sense that people who don't deserve good jokes get jokes about their appearance is confirmed by the shot at Christie-the-barrel. It's a metajoke about how easy it is to joke about Republicans, but also the easiest of easy jokes.
As Wolf shifts to attacking Dems, the director puts Christie on camera and damn if he isn't eating right then. As Deep Throat says in All the President's Men: "You've got people feeling sorry for him. I didn't think that was possible." (It's always possible with powerful guys.)
But the easy shots at Republicans were setup for the sense that things aren't going to get better at the midterms. Wolf ties up threads with the Dems losing to Jeff (Davis? the unnamed Sessions?) Pedophile (5) Nazi (17) Doctor.
Jump back to Wolf's own naivete crossed with (self-)contempt (12): "Oh, he's a doctor?" she beams, hinting at just how easily she could be tempted. She worked at Bear Stearns, after all.
Tomorrow, Part III from the Women of Trumpworld to the end, and Wolf's own rejection of the persona from the end of 27. (Thanks for reading.)
Part III (This is long. This is so long.) This isn't really a new section for Wolf, but it was where the faux outrage on behalf of Sanders took off. The new section is really 37 when she pivots to the media most directly. But this is where she gets in the biggest trouble.
28 Turning to the women of Trumpland, the first joke, that Conway's name implies she is conning us, goes nowhere. It's obviously weak, which implies that it's doing something else. It does 3 things. 1. The punchline about Wolf's name being her job, hair, and tits carries over...
from Jeff Pedophile Nazi Doctor 2. But of course that isn't her name; her name is Wolf. Her twitter handle is @michelleisawolf. She is going to be (somewhat) vicious; lupine. She is not going to be the woman impressed by the Nazi Doctor.
3. It lets her avoid using the word "lies," so it can sting when she does.
29 Now come the invocations of lies: the joke begins by attacking the media for giving Conway a platform. It isn't even a joke, just an ethical statement. It becomes a joke sideways by imagining Conway's not having a platform as 1st the metaphor of the unheard treefall...
then 2nd literalizing the tree falling on Conway. The crowd does not want to endorse the idea of joking about people getting killed by falling trees, so Wolf gives them an utterly bogus kind of deniability: imagine Conway stuck under the tree.
That's a funny image—it's cartoonish—but it's also not possible to really believe that's what Wolf meant. She meant she wanted to see Conway crushed. Or sucked out a plane window by an exploding Trump (16).
30 The metaphorical tree stays literal with a shot at Scott Pruitt. Unmentioned in 25 he shows up here, turned on by deforestation. Normal voice "we all have our kinks" belies the return to Wolf's disgust at Trumpworld's version of transactional sex.
The director gives us a shot of stonefaced Conway, which clouds the joke.
31 The Ivanka jokes get sexual right away. Even Wolf won't say at the #WHCD that Trump wants to fuck his daughter, so she first emphasizes Ivanka's relation to the grabbed pussy of Trump's fantasies (11) by associating her with tampons.
Again, a nowhere joke that keeps us open for something harsher. Here, it's forced parallelism around "satisfying women." And when the crowd, now mostly? lost, groans at "like father like daughter," she follows by further forcing the issue of Trump's sexual prowess.
Think about Ivanka; now think about whether her father is "good in bed." This is a new voice—not performer or normal or man but, what? It strips away a lot of pretense. Since she's already given up most of the crowd, I'll call it the just-between-us voice.
32 The diaper genie joke seems odd, but it pokes at Ivanka's supermommy instagramming. Coming on the heels of the sex jokes in 31, the shitting baby here is just the logical outcome. You don't have to believe the unspoken incest thread, but the chronology is coherent:
empty-tampon-box, sex, baby, shit. You can't tell the diaper genie joke before the tampon box joke.
33 Sanders is on the dais, so she goes last. Conway got 2 jokes, Ivanka got 2, SHS gets an overloaded 3. If the jokes about her are less implicitly graphic than about Conway dying and Ivanka and her dad, they were nevertheless going to be the jokes that got Wolf in trouble:
going last meant they would be freshest after the event; the rule of 3 makes SHS the prime target; SHS's relationship to the media is the most sustained and intimate; and physical proximity ratchets up the offense.
Wolf turns that proximity into being "star-struck" setting up the Aunt Lydia joke. This was taken as a shot at Sanders's physical appearance (better: her presence) and it was defended as a shot at SHS's willingness to be the media enforcer for the administration.
I think Rhonda Garelick is terrific about how this part of the routine works. In what I've been tracking, it pushes away more of the crowd—Garelick's women over 40, esp—and divides what might have been a unified female front. thecut.com/2018/04/michel…
Wolf will work through that division—why it's worth making and how it feels. The contradictions-of-late-feminism jokes that the audience was comfortable with (2, 7) weren't like this: this is the real problem. Hence the return of the Pence problem: he wants this (19, 21).
34 From "star-struck" to "excited" Wolf continues to lead in to jokes by stating the opposite of what she feels. The possibilities again are 3: briefing, lies, softball. The softball stuff, again via Garelick, casts SHS as a mannish bully.
Wolf is willing to risk using the cliché homophobia of the lesbian softball coach in order to capture Sanders's demeanor. Man voice makes it endearing, as usual, and we might wink at the unmanning of Jim Acosta with its shades of Jane Lynch on Glee.
(Garelick's 4th level: the feminization of the press) But even then, the joke is not just conceptual but bodily: shirts and skins, with feminized bodies (now, flipped, Acosta's) at the dangerous center.
Wolf isn't just voicing that bullying, though, she's hitching on it, bullying the crowd (slightly) into the Call & Response. If this last section of the routine is partly the story of Wolf's own escape from swallowed contempt...
to full-throated condemnation, Sanders is a model for dgaf loathing.
35 That implicit modeling shows up in the syntax of the third SHS chunk: from "excited" to "really like Sarah" (which Wolf doesn't, but which Wolf's persona almost does) to set up the smoky eye makeup joke.
It's a strangely artisanal account of makeup, which extends the hand-made-ness of it, the witchery, too. But it reframes the opposition between a body and its appearance, "born with it" vs. "lies." Normal voice tells us it's lies.
And with that Wolf offers herself and us another weak version of deniability: these attacks on SHS's appearance are legit because her appearance is shaped by her unethical conduct, not however she was born.
It's the Gollum theory of Republicans-are-ugly jokes. It's not true, just as it wasn't true that she didn't want Conway dead in 29.
36 A forced intro (what to call SHS) that goes through too many piled-up options before it gets to the sting: Uncle Tom for white women. This proximity (intimization) of Wolf and Sanders on the dais, in age, perhaps in bullying attitude is pushed away in the strongest terms:
a betrayal so stark it goes beyond gender treason to race treason, if that's even possible. Aunt Colter is nicely parallel, is niftily easy (Ann to Aunt, and in Wolf's accednt, she has to really emphasize the t), and raises the specter of an even less respectable female politico
who was even more transphobically insulted. Coulter had turned on Trump only a month earlier after literally deifying him (In Trump We Trust: God and Mammon). Almost no one is laughing; the room is ugly.
37 Which makes the CNN jokes a radical switch: you broke the news. It's an almost happy pun. Then a joke about noodles (noodles is a funny word). It's a relief for Wolf to get away from talking about these Trumpworld women and bashing media.
The jokes are so easy, it must be down time before something else.
38 The Fox jokes about it being an organized date-rape operation ("cover your drinks") bring all the "ladies" together again. And the joke about Hannity is cliché, flubbed (she almost squishes dinner and journalists), and not one that anyone in the room would disagree with.
She gets *clapter* which is the worst. So why do it? Again, to get the name out there: Hannity is the third Cohen client alongside Trump and Broidy, who was one of the possible targets of the secret mistresses joke (20).
39 The MSNBC jokes are almost exactly the same tone as the jokes about the Dems losing to Jeff Pedophile Nazi Doctor (27). Those are jokes about a a different kind of disappointment—a lack of efficacy rather than a moral disaster (SHS)
And these jokes are firmly in Wolf's wheelhouse: again, they are funny, if anything is, only by accident. Haplessness could easily go the wrong way: crockpot explosions are the joke version of the Southwest engine horror (16)
40 That's part of the point in the Morning Joe crack about Joe and Mika: "a #metoo moment works out." The could-go-well/could-go-badly contingency in all these oppositions ultimately comes back to Wolf's empathetic position of herself in the body of the woman at risk.
What if Joe had hit on Mika and she hadn't responded? It's not called Morning Mika. There's even an old conspiracy theory about the death of Scarborough's intern Lori Klausutis. It doesn't have to be true for it to link up with this risk calculus.
41 The @maddow jokes are even sunnier, with broader gestures, playing off the short, boyish haircut in order to make the point about ineffectuality. The Target followup (women be shopping (8)) is gentle observational humor.
Again, it's more like Wolf's regular act. It's also a classic joke form where the third object isn't something you'd get at Target but something you'd get from Maddow.
42 All of which is setting up Megyn Kelly. Kelly was a Trump target—like Mika she was a bleeding woman; Ivanka's empty tampon box more sense—whose weak feminism (and racism) made her a bad political object.
The normal voice now comes with a direct address to the camera: Kelly makes her less proud to be a woman. She is a net negative. This joke comes before any joke about Kelly's actions.
We are back, suddenly, in the world of right-wing female betrayal. After your mom (who has title-nesia) and Mika and Maddow, Kelly is a harsh return to reality, and Wolf gives her a beautifully turned 3-part diss (white cold expensive)
It functions equally as an insult for NBC, which spent the money to buy her from Fox the way they spent the money to buy the rights to the Winter Olympics. It's more transactional sexuality, and it's craven. It also didn't work.
The second joke, about Black Santa, is another of Wolf's invocations of race to turn back to sexual assault. Normal voice tells Kelly to put a flue on the chimney, just as Wolf cautioned "ladies" to cover their drinks with Fox in the room (38)
43 The print media joke is hacky and a pure demonstration of Wolf's form: Print is dying, NOT, "print is ethically compromised." Normal voice says buy newspapers. This is a place where the transactional would be justified. This is the old, normal world.
44 Now, Wolf's Theory of Media: not enough diverse coverage (on tv). The midpoint is a cliché line about cable news arguing and stressful Thanksgivings, which means it's a setup for something sharper.
First, though, man voice bids a hilarious adieu ranting about nutmilk. It's the cuddliest version of Jack D. Ripper–style homophobia you'll see.
45 Theory II: The symbiosis, that Trump is good for business. This is the media version of 8 (crafting) that keeps the media in its role as "little bitch" (a last shoutout to Garelick). Dating leads to selling, as always.
The crowd comes back to laugh at the final pileup joke, about all the things Trump couldn't sell, including Eric. As a failed businessman, he fails even there. What might be missed here is that Wolf is no longer in performer's voice, no longer in normal voice.
It's the just-between-us voice, the voice she might be able to use all the time—for comedy—if she didn't have to perform through swallowed contempt, and didn't have to dig herself out of the hole of tolerating or almost admiring man voice dude or Nazi Doctor.
46 Theory III: The transaction is a success: the media created Trump (in part); the media profits (distant clapter). In this inverted world where the media get rich and Trump is still broke, she calls back to the slightly bullying moral discourse of the Call & Response (15, 16).
Again she gets them to do what she wants, at least in part. And of course the sexual asssault is a grim, stupid way to get "loose change." The moral discourse of loose, grifting women, paid off by Trump and the others with secret mistresses now returns, inverted:
Trump wants what is not his by rights; he is desperate for money. Wolf has put aside her earlier willingness to be paid off (7). Personal triumph, direct expression of contempt, and all that comes with it (not enough).
47 Two jokes on the way out, both about other news stories: DACA and Flint. The DACA joke is the Trumpworld version of Puck's final speech in Midsummer Night's Dream. "If we shadows have offended..." Did nothing wrong, gotta get the fuck out.
It's another glancing joke that analogizes ethnic persecution to misogyny. She doesn't really commit to it; in part because it seems a stretch or it seems to deny the specifics and intersections of these sorts of violence.
But Wolf has been clear that she's exploring what it means for "white women" (36) (verging on just "women") (42) to find their bodies at the center of this violent swirl.
The second joke has nothing about it that makes it a joke—not structure, not voicing, not syntax. But in the context of the routine, which is about (for her) the unveiling of contempt and the management of pacing, "Flint still doesn't have clean water" kills.
There had been Flint news that only added to the horror (the end of free bottled water), but the line is more about the ludicrous, unsupportable amount of time it has taken to fix something that, unlike racism or misogyny, is tractable.
In the room, they have clean water. As they should. Still, Flint doesn't. Puck called that "unearned luck." I've been calling it a culture of risk. Wolf was at the center of it. /end
PSes: While I have your attention, someone should buy twitter and shut it down. It's too dangerous in Trump's hands. Thanks.
If you liked this, I'd recommend going to see live standup, particularly by women. They're often doing very different things than you might expect. We should all get out more.
When I started I knew I couldn't do the whole thing at once. I hadn't realized the 3-day-bender plan was really just a machine to generate new followers. Thanks! I'm sure I'll disappoint you soon enough.
If you said something nice, I tried to acknowledge that. It may take a while.
Also when I started I figured it was for people who know I'm no performance studies expert. So...you should read some performance studies! Maybe start with Bial & Brady? routledge.com/The-Performanc…
I don't do stuff like this much on twitter, but you might like my entry in the "Is a hotdog a sandwich?" takeathon from back in the 140-character days.
I do sometimes write about moves for a general audience @LAReviewofBooks lareviewofbooks.org/contributor/j-…
I have a new book coming out this summer, Hollywood Math and Aftermath. It's not priced for mere mortals, but you can ask your library to order it. Maybe it will come out in paper? Maybe I'll have a discount code? bloomsbury.com/us/hollywood-m…
Finally finally, for now, I used to work at Yale, and then I didn't. I got to give a talk about that
Movies. Predawn typos. Eeesh
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