The backlash to her act is reminiscent of what comedian Stephen Colbert received after he performed at the dinner in 2006 and never broke out of his then-Comedy Central “The Colbert Report” character — a parody of the Bush administration and cable news pundits.
The audience at that dinner are remembered for not providing much laughter or grumbling in response to Colbert’s jokes.
“I stand by this man,” Colbert said about President George W. Bush at the time. “I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message, that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound — with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world.”
Comedy Central received nearly 2,000 email messages — with mixed responses — on the Monday following the dinner, all reacting to Colbert’s performance. But, according to the New York Post in 2006, Colbert received a large response from viewers with a 37 percent increase in his audience the week after his appearance at the event.
A day after his performance, Colbert appeared on CBS’s “60 Minutes” on which he said that he rarely allows his kids to see him in character.
“Kids can’t understand irony or sarcasm, and I don’t want them to perceive me as insincere,” Colbert explained. “Because one night, I’ll be putting them to bed and I’ll say … ‘I love you, honey.’ And they’ll say, ‘I get it. Very dry, Dad. That’s good stuff.'”
A dozen years later, however, reactions to the most recent comic to appear at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner remain ambivalent.
As Wolf said at the beginning of her performance, “Just a reminder to everyone: I’m here to make jokes. I have no agenda. I’m not trying to get anything accomplished. So everyone who is here from Congress, you should feel right at home.”
NBC News news analyst Howard Fineman disagreed with the criticism of Wolf. He pointed out on Twitter that Wolf’s “blunt, crude, pitiless” act “torched EVERYONE,” including Democrats, Stormy Daniels and the media. He added that Wolf was invited by the White House Correspondents’ Association and didn’t aim to be popular with all viewers.
“It’s not her job to behave,” he said, noting that she likely hoped to promote her Netflix show.
Others were also unconvinced by the backlash that occurred on social media after the event.
Actor and comedian Kumail Nanjiani responded to Haberman’s initial tweet. “They call you liars,” he said, referring to the Trump administration’s belittling of some journalists. “They call Muslims murderers. They support white supremacists. But someone calls them out on what they do, [and] suddenly they’re heroes for not walking out.” He appeared to be referring to the plaudits Sanders received for sitting through the jokes directed at her.
The actor said Haberman unfollowed the comedian on Twitter when he pushed her to explain her criticism.
Jon Favreau, a former speechwriter for President Barack Obama and co-host of “Pod Save America” highlighted that Wolf closed her performance by attempting to point out the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan — which has been ongoing for more than four years. Those remarks, he noted, were totally ignored.
Comedian ends comedy dinner by saying that Flint still doesn’t have clean water, an attempt to point out Washington’s continued neglect of people who need help.
Washington responds with a rigorous debate about the tone and civility of the comedian’s jokes.
— Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) April 29, 2018
Though President Donald Trump skipped the event for the second year in a row to attend a rally in Washington, Michigan, he also weighed in on Twitter.
While Washington, Michigan, was a big success, Washington, D.C., just didn’t work. Everyone is talking about the fact that the White House Correspondents Dinner was a very big, boring bust…the so-called comedian really “bombed.” @greggutfeld should host next year! @PeteHegseth
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 29, 2018