Michelle Wolf's stand-up routine at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner roast was a pretty typical roast: crude, profane, uncomfortably sharp at times, occasionally hilarious, and more often cringe-worthy.
It showcased why I stopped watching televised roasts a long time ago. Comedy Central had a series (maybe they still do?) that was funny the first time I saw it because it was shockingly blunt ("I can't believe they can get away with that!"); not as funny the second time ("Okay, that was just mean..."). After watching Chevy Chase be publicly shamed, I just couldn't justify watching a format that humiliated, debased and mocked with such wanton profanity and cruelty, even if this format gave permission for comics to say (in their better moments) what everyone was thinking and no one wanted to say.
So I don't like this kind of roast. It coarsens our culture and hardens our souls.
But the response to Ms. Wolf's routine has highlighted a glaring inconsistency. Supporters of President Trump were (rightly) offended at how Ms.Wolf referred to the President and women in the administration. But...there's the problem. The President himself has set the tone.
Teddy Wayne wrote a sobering article entitled "More Appropriate White House Correspondent's Association Dinner Jokes For 2019" composed using punch lines that President Trump has used, mostly on Twitter, to discuss other people. It's an uncomfortable read. Here are the highlights (the article substitutes conservative names for the people President Trump actually referenced, as if Ms. Wolf was giving the speech again next year, I assume).
As for the First Lady, I did try and f*** Melania. She was married. I moved on her like a bitch. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the p****. You can do anything.
In closing, I will reserve my most civil words for the president himself, who has finally made an appearance at this dinner. Bad (or sick) guy!
Here's "The 459 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter: A Complete List." Here is a list of Trump's attacks on prominent women. There's a lot of unused material here for the 2019 roast. In other words, the President has conceded the high ground on this issue long ago. He has made insulting those with whom he disagrees an staple of his public communication. Ms. Wolf amplified the crudity, but she built on a foundation laid by the President. I happen to think it all contributes to the coarsening of our culture and our hearts. I happen to think that being silent about the President's language while decrying the comedian's language makes no sense. Perhaps we should demand more of both of them.