Michelle Wolf On Writing Feminist Jokes For Men And Running Out Of Trump Food Jokes

Michelle Wolf is looking forward to the day when she can rant about the ridiculousness of rompers. The Daily Show correspondent, who’s gearing up for the debut of Michelle Wolf: Nice Lady, her first HBO stand-up special, on December 2nd, has spent the better part of three years cracking jokes about fake feminism, taking on the patriarchy, and hilariously educating late night show talk hosts like Seth Meyers and Trevor Noah about women’s issues. It may sound fun, but it’s actually exhausting.

Comedy wasn’t always Wolf’s path. She ran track in college and she was pretty good, too, until an injury sidelined her and somehow she ended up working on Wall Street where she yelled (a lot) and was pretty miserable. So the self-described “standard overachiever” threw herself into performing and poking fun at all of the bullshit women constantly trudge through. And, in 2017, there’s plenty of said bullshit to spin into comedy.

We talked to Wolf about finally making it with her HBO special, writing feminist jokes for men, and her very real fear of running out of Trump-food comparisons.

Do you ever have moments where you have to reign in the excitement about a piece of bad news?

I would love to have the struggle right now of making something incredibly policy-based funny, something incredibly boring very funny right now. I think that would be a nice relief.

It wasn’t long ago I remember you were doing your first stand-up show on Late Night. How do you go from working at a bank to working behind the desk at The Daily Show?

It was really just a real nose to the grindstone three years. I’m at my writing job during the day and then I’ll do stand-up at night. Even after working for 10 to 12 hours, I’ll do three to five shows a night.

Is there a reason you’re pushing yourself to just be doing comedy 24/7 at this point?

I have had this conversation with so many people that are like, “You need to have a life,” and it’s not that I don’t have a life. I do things, just not as maybe often as other people. It’s just my favorite thing to do. Taking a night off from comedy to go on a date with someone I’m probably not going to like anyway sounds like the worst trade-off in my mind.

Was there a moment when you realized you needed to pursue comedy?

You know what? I don’t know if it was a moment so much as it’s how I’ve always done everything. I’m a standard overachiever. I’ve been lucky enough to do a lot of very interesting things and every time I’ve been like, “I want to put everything into this because I want to see how far I can go with it.” At the end of college, I wanted to take a break from school because I was a little burnt out and then I started working on Wall Street and that was the one where I very quickly realized, “This isn’t the one I want to throw my life into.”

Comedy and Wall Street seem a bit different.

Not the same. I think it’s also part of why I’ve thrown myself so much into comedy, because I’ve had a real job that was very intense and was not pleasant. I’m so lucky that I found comedy and that I get to do it for a living.

How do you go from Wall Street to Late Night with Seth Meyers then?

Seth is the absolute best. I know when you see him on TV you probably think he’s a nice guy and then you meet him and you’re like, “Oh, he’s even better than I thought.” He taught me so much. I really learned how to write a good joke when I worked with him. He’s a straight white guy, so all of your jokes have to be really good jokes. In my comedy, I can do it from a woman’s perspective. He can’t. They just have to be really good jokes. It’s right down the middle and you can’t get away with anything. No one’s going to give you any leeway.

I’m assuming you can’t write a joke that’s really from a woman’s point of view knowing that it’s going to be said by him on TV.

Exactly. It was actually super helpful for me at the show because there would be plenty of times during the day when I would write a joke and I would be like, “Oh, Seth can’t say that. He’s not a girl.” Then I would just get to save that joke for me.

Now you’re on The Daily Show where you’ve become known for tackling issues that affect women. Do you ever feel a responsibility to cover those issues? Or is it just purely by choice?

It’s more by choice. I don’t know want to cover anything that I can’t make funny. It’s hard. It was particularly hard with the Weinstein stuff where it is something that everyone was talking about but I don’t want to do it just to do it. I want to do it if it’s funny because I feel like we’re comedians before anything else. I think sometimes in that respect it’s hard, especially for me because I can get very angry or passionate about something and sometimes when you have a lot of emotions in something you can’t make it funny because you’re just too mad about it.

You’ve got a bit with Trevor Noah on The Daily Show where you’re constantly educating him about women’s issues. Please tell me that Trevor knows a bit more about women than he lets on, on the show.

Oh, yeah. It’s fun. It’s more like he’s just being the foil. I do think in general men think they know stuff about women and then I’m like, “You have no idea.” I think they can all use education. Women, we’re really nice about a lot of the stuff that happens to us. We [protect] the rest of the world from having to hear the horrors of our daily existence, you know? I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t want to stop saying the ugly stuff that’s happening to me just because it hurts your male ears.

You’ve got your own stand-up special coming to HBO so you’ve officially made it.

I was so nervous. The last couple weeks before taping the special I’ve never been so uncomfortable. I felt like the way I feel like most girls feel about when they’re approaching their wedding. That’s how I felt about the special. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to deliver. Having an HBO special is a big deal in my head. It’s the gold standard. Like what we were talking about earlier, I haven’t been doing this very long and I didn’t want people to look at it and be like, “Why did they give her a special?”

You’ve done plenty of stand-up but how do you go about pacing a stand-up special?

It’s interesting because I was learning all of this for the first time this time. The set you might do at a club when you’re preparing for the special is probably going to be in a different order than the set that you do when you tape the special. [At the club] you’re trying to get them on your side immediately. The special is more about you. You want to start with something that’s like, “Hey, this is who I am.” Then you want to bring people in … It’s going to sound like I’m hunting soon. You want to lure people in and then get them on your side and then be like, “I believe she’s funny, now I’m ready to hear some of the crazier, more extreme points of view.”

How low are you running on Trump food comparisons right now?

I think we ran out of them a long time ago. They need to invent new vegetables so that we can be like, “He’s a rotten …” whatever kind of new squash they invent or something like that. We need to get the farming community involved.

Is there anything you would like to cover right now that doesn’t have to do with Trump or politics or terrible things? Maybe like male rompers or something?

I’m against any romper. This, to me, is a non-sex issue. Babies wear rompers or romper-similar outfits but they have little snaps at the bottom so they can go to the bathroom. They can get changed or whatever. The idea of a romper [on an adult] is absolute insanity to me. They look good on one percent of the population and even then looking good is, I think, a stretch. Outlaw it. There’s no reason for it.

I’m getting the feeling that maybe this could be the next segment on The Daily Show.

I think we can really make a difference here.