It was an excellent decision to break down Michelle Wolf: It’s Great to Be Here into three parts. It’s a neat psychological trick that manages our attention span, which is a feather in the cap of an already excellent set. There is not a single dull moment or joke that doesn’t land except at one point where things go a little too dangerously far, but we will get to that in a while.
In the meantime, we would like to compliment Michelle Wolf’s excellent use of wordplay and connections to give us what she did. When she struggles with “New Neighbourhoods,” she talks about the visibility of the LGBTQIA+ community. She is not talking about it blatantly, but she is addressing things that everyone thinks about through their stereotypes. But it is in “All Struggles Matter + Me Too” that she takes it into a territory that requires a very heavy understanding of context. It requires being able to differentiate between the part of women’s brains that likes romantic fantasies and the one that hates when real men behave that way.
In It’s Great to Be Here, we feel that her good intentions are obvious only if you have this context, which makes it easy to spot where she is coming from and where she is going. However, this set becomes instantly very dangerous to be out there if you don’t understand this difference. That is why we wish that she had spared a minute for its explanation—in a more direct way, that is. Then comes “News To Me + All Beautiful,” and we believe that this is where her comedy peaked. But again, this part of her comedy needs one to have read and gained some worldview before one can truly appreciate what she is saying. If someone whose feminism ended with “Barbie” watches this, they will hate this bit and can easily misconstrue it to be anti-women.
Strangely, when we were watching Michelle Wolf: It’s Great to Be Here, we were reminded of Bill Burr. It may not make sense at first since Michelle Wolf’s comedy is nowhere near as rude as Bill Burr’s, though she pushes the boundary just as hard as him. Perhaps it was the rage between the two of them that made us think this. The extreme anger in Bill Burr is an unmissable part of his sets. That makes us think of how differently women’s anger manifests in their lives and work. You can spot it in the numbness that makes the jokes possible. It is the nonchalance of the hard truths that shows just how deep the anger has imprinted itself on them, and we see it all in Michelle Wolf’s set.
The journey she has had is not stated but can be inferred from the lessons that she tries to give the audience. Yet, at no point does that become preachy. This right here is another mark of good writing since there is a huge difference between comedy that is watched live and one that is seen through a screen. For the latter, it can very easily turn out to be monologue-y. This makes us think of Kevin Hart and his specials, including the recent one called Reality Check. We enjoyed that show and will still say that it got a lot of laughs out of us. However, it is only after watching Michelle Wolf that we realize that Kevin Hart did not leave any room for the audience to think and feel. His entire set was constructed with a single-minded objective to bulldoze with enough energy and humor that there wasn’t much room for audience thought or engagement.
As for Michelle Wolf, the people were a part of her set, including the ones sitting in front of their screens. It is also reflective of the intentions of the comedian. While provoking and pushing boundaries is a part of their job, it is worth questioning to what end they hope to take it. Is it about a few laughs, or is it about the dialogue they want to bring? It is impossible to keep one’s personality out of any art one creates, and that is what makes art so political and personal, giving it the story it is supposed to carry in its creation and interpretation.
Something else we found interesting about Michelle Wolf is how she tests her audience. That is a given aspect of any performance art, especially for comedians, who have to be prepared for how far they can take the joke. Mostly, that is why there are so many cheap and easy laughs in any set. It is a backup for when a joke doesn’t work, but they need a laugh to maintain the momentum of the audience’s mood. This is why we call Michelle Wolf: It’s Great to Be Here an excellent set. You can almost tell where some of her jokes were thought of on the spot. However, it wasn’t to cover up a failed attempt but to elevate what was already going great. It also made us so happy that we could physically see the people who were laughing at her jokes. The lack of a soundtrack made us love her a bit more, and for the first time in a long time, laughing with someone didn’t feel like an effort.
We hate the fact that not everyone will get Michelle Wolf’s comedy. You need a firm sense of gender politics to understand that when she says things that seem to support men, she is trying to tell women how to treat other women equally. When she is talking about buying fabric softeners, she is asking women to address the conditioning within themselves that makes them so happy to put others above themselves. Her words are not completely direct, which makes the audience wonder whose team she is on. But that is a deliberate sales tactic, and we can see its success when the men sitting in the front row laughed the hardest, and the women sitting in the back laughed the loudest. Michelle Wolf played an excellently structured and well-written game with It’s Good To Be Here, and we want to bless her and her existence for finally being a comedian who is saying the things that have been long overdue in a format that it deserves.