Part­ing Shot

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Michelle Wolf

“IF YOU HAVE AN AGENDA, THAT’S FINE, BUT YOU BET­TER HAVE A GOOD punch line—good enough to over­come any aver­sion to the joke,” says the New York–based Michelle Wolf, who made head­lines in April with her highly con­tro­ver­sial set at the an­nual White House Cor­re­spon­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion din­ner, which roasted Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, his in­ner cir­cle, his adult chil­dren, Democrats and Repub­li­cans. The co­me­dian’s 20 min­utes pro­voked a na­tion­wide taste de­bate, par­tic­u­larly for rip­ping into White House press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee Sanders for, among other things, burn­ing facts “to cre­ate a per­fect smoky eye.” Wolf was ac­cused of hu­mil­i­at­ing a woman for her looks. “They didn’t lis­ten to the joke. Any­one who thought it was about her phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance is not as smart as I thought they were,” says Wolf, who was too busy launch­ing her new late-night Net­flix show, The Break With Michelle Wolf, to worry about back­lash. The top­i­cal va­ri­ety se­ries takes aim at politi­cians and celebri­ties in the news, and so far, she tells Newsweek, “I haven’t made a sin­gle Trump joke.”

For your Cor­re­spon­dents’ set, you joked about Mitch Mcconnell’s and Chris Christie’s looks, and no one cared. Why are women off-lim­its? We’re so heav­ily judged based on our ap­pear­ances. It’s fair game to make fun of a man’s phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance be­cause no one is not elect­ing some­one to ofɿce or not hir­ing a man be­cause they’re ugly. If that were the case, we would have, like, three pres­i­dents. I look for­ward to the day when women will be re­spected for their abil­i­ties, so we can get back to mak­ing fun of how we look.

Has Trump been good for com­edy? De­pends. Some jokes are very hacky— it’s all about orange skin and tiny hands. For some rea­son, peo­ple think that’s a joke, but it barely is. Trump has cer­tainly been great for the busi­ness of news, for rat­ings. There’s no way CNN isn’t thrilled that he’s pres­i­dent. See­ing [CNN Pres­i­dent] Jeff Zucker hug­ging Kellyanne Con­way made me re­al­ize: Oh, this is all a show, and you don’t re­al­ize there’s real-world im­pli­ca­tions, and peo­ple are ac­tu­ally be­ing hurt and suf­fer­ing from this while you guys rake in the money.

There aren’t many fe­male late-night host role mod­els. Who in­ʀuenced you?

I’ve al­ways looked up to Carol Bur­nett be­cause [at the open­ing of her TV show] she would let the au­di­ence ask her ques­tions. I thought she was fear­less, and I’ve tried to em­u­late that.—christina Zhao

“I look for­ward to women be­ing re­spected for their abil­i­ties, so we can get back to mak­ing fun of how we look.”

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