If you take a look at the comedians who came out of the 1970s-1990s comedy boom, as it has often been referred to, you will see a common thread. Jerry Seinfeld, Andy Kaufman, Richard Belzer, Elayne Boosler, Chris Rock, Gilbert Gottfried. What do all of these comedians have in common? The East Coast. There was a time when helming from the East Coast was a common principal among the majority of stand-up comics you see. But as we’ve progressed and diversified, a stand-up comedian can now literally be discovered anywhere.
Michelle Wolf is proving that an East Coast comedian is still as powerful and alive and well as ever.
“I love New York,” Michelle Wolf tells The Laugh Button over the phone. “I’m from Pennsylvania, but I’ve been in New York since 2007. I think it’s really good for stand-up. I regularly do anywhere between 3 and 7 sets a night. You can’t do that in L.A. I remember I tried to do 3 sets in a night in L.A. and I almost died. I had to drive all the way across town, and I almost missed everything. In New York, you can put yourself on a pretty good grind there.”
On Saturday, December 2nd, Michelle Wolf will have her first stand-up comedy special, Michelle Wolf: Nice Lady air on HBO. In the age of Netflix and streaming, having a special on HBO is still an honor, and a prestigious one at that. It’s not something to be taken lightly. So, if you’re going to do it, you best make sure you’re fully ready to take it on.
“I got the offer from HBO in November of last year, and I took up until August working on it. I wanted to do 100 headlining sets before I taped it. So I was on the road for most of the last year working on it, and then I was finally ready to tape in August. We started counting actually in late December.”
Wolf has been making quite a name for herself the past few years, between being a writing supervisor on Late Night with Seth Meyers, to becoming a writer/correspondent for The Daily Show. In August of 2016, she debuted her debut hour So Brave in Edinburgh, about half of which has made its way into the special.
Nice Lady serves as an examination of culture in this day and age, and where we are at currently. But one of the most remarkable things about the special is that it does this through a semi-distant lens. This allows the special to, hopefully, stand the test of time and not feel like it’s a time capsule or dated. We are literally viewing the times in which we are living through a unique perspective that you normally wouldn’t get to experience otherwise.
In her special, she discusses a range of topics from Feminism, why we need ugly people, working out, mother nature, to why she never wants to get married and why she doesn’t even like dating. It’s a cliché old saying, but it remains true, there is nothing off limits when it comes to comedy. With the exception of one thing. Trump.
“As much as everyone says it’s good for comedy,” she tells us, “I’m actually quite bored of Trump jokes, and I think they’re verging on realm of hacky. I had one that actually made its way into the special, and I went ‘You know what? I think this can live without that.’ I think we’ve all heard enough.”
One of the hardest things for any comedian is learning how to find your voice, what you want your voice to be, and how to perfect it once you’ve found it. Every comedian needs to have a persona onstage, and it can take some comedians an entire lifetime to figure out what exactly their voice is. But as she stands onstage in her V-neck black shirt, blue jeans, and eye-popping gold gym shoes, one thing is clear. As of this moment, Michelle Wolf knows precisely who she is.
“I feel like, personally,” says Wolf, “I’ve only been doing stand-up about 7 years. I would say the first couple years were real garbage. But you know, it was experimental. Figuring out who I was and what sort of jokes I wanted to tell. In the last couple years, I feel like I’ve honed [my voice] even more, but I still feel like it’s evolving. I think it constantly needs to evolve because comedy is so personal. I feel that the more honest I am with myself, the funnier my jokes will be.”
A writer for The Daily Show by day, Wolf spends her nights at the various comedy clubs New York has to offer, with The Comedy Cellar being one of her frequent hot spots to go up and do a set. Here is someone who is always on the grind, always out there performing and perfecting her craft whenever she’s not at her day job.
“Writing for someone else’s point-of-view kind of helps you expand your own,” Michelle tells us. “It’s kind of like having a debate with someone who has maybe a different stance or something than you do. You get to hear an argument from a different side, and it’s like ‘Hey, I never thought of it that way.’ And comedically I feel like that’s very helpful.”
Probably one of the most inspired bits is at the end of the special, when she takes out her phone and she reads a text conversation she had with a guy she had gone out with once, and his relentless attempts to hang out again. She then proceeds to try to weird him out to get the message across, only to discover that this guy is apparently “weird-proof.” This part says a lot, but most importantly, it tells you everything you need to know about what kind of person Michelle Wolf is. It shows her sheer commitment to everything she does, that when she goes all in, there is absolutely no turning back.
“I hope to have a long enough career to influence other comedians behind me, but also as a woman, try to help people break out from being a quote-unquote ‘female comedian’ to being just ‘I’m a comedian, and I just so happen to be a woman.’ That’s kind of the direction I would like to take people’s points of view.”
Michelle Wolf’s special Michelle Wolf: Nice Lady airs on HBO Saturday, December 2nd at 9pm. More information about Michelle can be found at her website michelleisawolf.com