Michelle Wolf’s New Special It’s Great to Be Here Is Funny But FlawedPhoto courtesy of Michelle Wolf Comedy Reviews Michelle Wolf
Michelle Wolf’s stand-up tends not to be an easy ride, and that fearless boundary-testing is what’s historically made her comedy so stellar. She brings her straight-talking, daring tendencies to her new three-part Netflix special, It’s Great to Be Here, as she discusses nude beaches, Karens, the Me Too movement, femicide, trans women, and beauty standards, with varying success. This isn’t quite the home run that her 2019 special Joke Show was, but there are plenty of laughs to be had.
It’s Great to Be Here departs from the relatively stripped-back Joke Show in format, splitting the set into approximately 20 to 35 minute thematically-linked chunks with a nice little intro montage of Wolf greeting audiences and enjoying greasy fries. It’s a welcome change (especially for assistant comedy editors with ravaged attention spans) and not distractingly elaborate.
The first part, entitled “New Neighborhood,” is the best of the three. She spends 20-odd minutes describing life in Barcelona with her significant other and why she’s jealous of lesbians. This is classic Wolf, with some excellent physical comedy demonstrating the difference between the various nude beaches in Spain and well-crafted jokes full of razor-sharp cultural observations. Early on in the set, Wolf engages in some crowd work that she flips on its head at the very last minute to discomfit the audience. You’re always on your toes with Wolf.
The middle third, “All Struggles Matter + Me Too,” lags in comparison. The best moments come from her dissection of white womanhood and the way we’re complicit in the oppression of minorities. It’s a subject she’s explored before in Joke Show, but as Karens keep Karening, there’s always going to be more hypocrisy and humor to be found in the murky waters of white feminism. Wolf’s creative turns of phrase and faux-inspirational quotes (“Be your own Ted Kaczynski!”) are put to good use here.
Wolf has some insightful comments about the Me Too movement in this section, but then ends up missing the point entirely. She rightfully draws attention to how everyone’s “line” of what they’re comfortable with differs, and asserts that we should be having conversations around this instead of being coy. And yes, those conversations need to be happening—the whole point of Me Too was that many people, primarily men, weren’t asking about people’s boundaries, just making assumptions. Instead, Wolf makes it seem like women are the ones stymying these discussions. She also argues that women are attracted to big, tough men who are more likely to hurt us, which ignores the fact that a) people of any size can be predators and b) the reason many women are attracted macho, aggro types is because our (patriarchal) society has told us that’s the ideal. Over-intellectualizing this stuff (it’s jokes!) makes me resent myself, but it’s frustrating when watching a comedian as smart as Wolf make elaborate arguments based on flawed logic.
Wolf finishes on a relatively high note with “News to Me + All Beautiful.” Her exploration of the falsehoods surrounding her (namely about beastiality and Jeffrey Epstein’s island) allows Wolf to test the audience once more, and she really pulls off these tension-filled jokes. Wolf also criticizes the contemporary movement to deem every body beautiful, because in doing so we maintain beauty as the primary metric of women’s value. She concludes the special with signature incisiveness, reminding us why Wolf will always have a reputation as a vulgar, vibrant truth teller.
Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast and Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.