The stand-up comedy world is in the throes of a sea change, as three of its marquee names—Aziz Ansari, Louis C.K. and T.J. Miller—stand accused of various degrees of sexual misconduct. Muddling matters further is the largesse of streaming giant Netflix, whose lofty $20 million-per-hour paydays for male comics Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, and Dave Chappelle have caused much consternation among lesser-compensated women (and understandably so).
As the so-called Bad Men dissolve from the pop-culture consciousness faster than the McFly family photo in Back to the Future, and as women across all industries reclaim their time, a confident new comedy voice has emerged from the maelstrom.
Her name is Michelle Wolf. And she is fucking hilarious.
If you haven’t seen the 32-year-old’s HBO comedy special, Michelle Wolf: Nice Lady, well, you should get on that immediately. It was, in this writer’s estimation, the funniest stand-up special of 2017, packed with sidesplitting—and blessedly Trump-free—jokes on topics ranging from the fragile male ego (“A soft penis looks like the sound of sad”) and the feminism of naked selfies to pay equity and Caitlyn Jenner’s brave transition (“I still fucking hate your personality”). Throughout the hour-long ride, she is both cutting and ebullient, her piercing voice, bobbing red mane, and chortle accentuating each clever punch line.
The through-line is the outmoded concept of the “nice lady,” and how, in the immortal words of The Real World, it’s time for women to stop being polite and start getting real. Though the special was recorded in August, two months prior to the disturbing Harvey Weinstein revelations, it’s a sentiment that aligns perfectly with the current #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.
“I don’t want to say ‘serendipitous,’ because so many terrible things are happening to so many people, but it’s kind of serendipitous, I guess,” offers Wolf. “It’s just a good time in comedy right now for women, because it’s a perspective that people are now more open to.”