The US comedian says that it’s time we treated abortion like the everyday occurrence that, for many women, it is and should be. And yes, that includes making jokes about it.
When Michelle Wolf walks onto the stage at the Latitude Festival in July, this is what you can expect.
She will just have eaten a Pret cheddar cheese and chutney sandwich. (“I love Pret. I think for some reason it tastes better than it does in the US.”) And she’s going to make a joke about the abortion ban.
The comedian has already been talking about the Heartbeat Bill on her social media accounts, encouraging her followers to donate to the Yellow Hammer Fund, which helps make abortion accessible to all. (“Donating is as easy as flicking an embryo out of a uterus should be,” she said on Twitter.) And there’s plenty more where that came from in store for her London comedy tour.
Nothing is off the table for Wolf, as long as you can make a joke out of it. “If you can’t make it funny, then it shouldn’t be in your comedy show,” Wolf explains. For her, that means treating abortion like the accessible thing that it should be for all women. “Everyone puts such a heavy weight on abortion, when in reality we should be talking about it like it occurs every day because it is something that occurs every day… I want to take away the shame that surrounds it all.”
At first, Wolf wasn’t sure that she would be able to joke about the abortion ban. “If I’m really angry about something, it’s hard to make it funny,” she explains.
But when she found the humour, she realised she was onto something important. “I think everybody should go to a comedy show with the mindset that these are clowns trying to make us laugh, not the mindset that these are politicians trying to get our joke, which I think for some reason is how people watch comedy now.”
The only thing Wolf won’t joke about is Donald Trump. “I’m so sick of it,” Wolf says. “He’s not funny or interesting to me, and I think all he wants is for people to talk about him… All those jokes seem like such easy laughs and I think as a comedian it’s too easy… It’s hacky.”
Besides, Wolf has been there, done that, got the T-shirt and torn it to shreds. As the host of the 2018 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Wolf turned in a blistering 20-minute set that called out everyone from Trump himself to his press secretary Sarah Sanders, his former lawyer Michael Cohen and the media, for being complicit in Trump’s rise. Wolf’s jokes drew gasps from the audience and ire on social media from such unimpeachable moral authorities as Trump’s former press secretary Sean Spicer. But her jokes were also really, really funny.
Wolf has a theory about why she received such an enormous backlash for her set. “I’m a woman,” she says, simply. “I don’t think they expected that from me. I think they expected to hire a woman to do this and to take light jabs here and there.” She pauses. “They evidently didn’t know anything about because I am not one to take a light jab in any situation.”
For Wolf, the funniest woman right now is Phoebe Waller-Bridge. She recently devoured the second seasons of Fleabag and Killing Eve, alongside the final episodes of Veep. “The thing I love so much about Fleabag is that the main character isn’t necessarily good,” she explains. “I like seeing women be shitty. You know, in the second season you see Phoebe make choices where you’re like ‘That’s not the choice a lady should make’. Yeah! Good!”
The same is true of Killing Eve. “You see Jodie Comer be this amazing psychopath in way that makes you think, ‘I wanna be friends with a psychopath… Can we go shopping together?’ I like that,” Wolf says. “I like seeing women show that we’re not just a romantic interest or a mum being a mum.”
When Wolf isn’t writing or performing stand-up for one of her Netflix or HBO comedy specials, she’s either marathoning the Marvel movies or catching up on her reading list. (She just finished reading Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and Circe by Madeline Miller.)
In preparation for the release of Avengers: Endgame, Wolf watched every single movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The funniest, she says, is Thor: Ragnarok. Unsurprisingly, then, her favourite Hollywood Chris is Hemsworth. “You’ll see Chris Evans as Captain America in the movie and you’ll be like, wow, he’s really hot. And then Chris Hemsworth comes on and you’re like, oh my god I forgot about everyone else. He makes you forget. Jeez louise!”
When she comes to London, she’ll read for the whole flight from a new set of books. And then it’s straight into the spotlight of her standalone shows and a week of eating those Pret cheese sandwiches for lunch. Maybe she’ll have time to squeeze in a few runs through Hyde Park. She can’t wait.
“English audiences are good audiences,” Wolf says. “They know comedy, they listen. They’re like: ‘I paid for this. I want to hear.’”