I have written about this before: funny is not objective. I consider myself a pretty funny guy, but I have had the distinct displeasure and exquisite torture of standing in front of a group of people whom I believed would find me endlessly amusing and entertaining only to discover that there was a difference of opinion. I thought I was funny. They did not. What made things worse, in hindsight, was that this was a couch full of stoned twenty-somethings who seemed primed to laugh at just about anything. Anything but me.
The fact that this experience kept me from actively searching out an opportunity to pursue a career in stand-up comedy seems like a modest relief at this point puts some of the pain to rest. I like to trot that anecdote out when discussion turns to "have you ever bombed?" Not professionally, I can reply, but I understand what it means to crash and burn.
Which brings me to the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, which this year featured the comedic talents of Michelle Wolf. Somewhere near the beginning of her set in front of Washington D.C.'s glitterati last weekend, she elicited a few groans for one of her remarks, to which she replied, “Should have done more research before you got me to do this.” The dinner, which has traditionally been a venue for roasting D.C. insiders and outsiders alike to a crackly crunch, picked Ms. Wolf from a sea of comedians, and it seems ridiculous that they would not have had any idea as to just what kind of heat she might be using. It is not as if she was Bob Dylan and suddenly showed up at the Newport Jazz Festival with an electric guitar and a bunch of zingers about Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She showed up and delivered.
I understand that some in the audience were shocked and dismayed. I also know that there was laughter and applause throughout her set, and by that measure it could hardly be suggested that she failed in her attempt to entertain. Everyone? Probably not. But is it fair for those who chose not to attend to insist that she did fail in her mission?
Not at all.
Is it fair to demand an apology from a comedian who poked fun at obvious targets and did her job?
But being fair isn't really what this bunch is all about, is it?