Michelle Wolf: Doing It For The People Comedian Michelle Wolf chats about her work on Wall Street, her career in comedy, and her performance at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Then, she plays a game with Amber Ruffin.
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Michelle Wolf: Doing It For The People

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Michelle Wolf: Doing It For The People

Michelle Wolf: Doing It For The People

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JONATHAN COULTON: This is ASK ME ANOTHER, NPR's hour of puzzles, word games and trivia. I'm Jonathan Coulton. Now here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.

(APPLAUSE)

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Thank you, Jonathan. It's time to welcome our special guest. She's a comedian who performed at the White House Correspondents' Dinner earlier in 2018.

(CHEERING)

EISENBERG: She hosted the Netflix show "The Break." And her HBO special is called "Nice Lady." Please welcome Michelle Wolf.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Welcome to ASK ME ANOTHER.

MICHELLE WOLF: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: Nice to see you.

WOLF: It's nice to see you too (laughter).

EISENBERG: I joked earlier in the show that you are not just a marathoner. You're an ultramarathoner.

WOLF: Yeah, I don't do marathons because I think they're too short (laughter).

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Yeah, what is that?

WOLF: I'm just an insufferable human.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: That's what it is. It's, like, people run marathons. And everyone's like, that's an accomplishment. And then I go, (laughter) no, it's not.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: And then I run these, like, stupid 50-mile races that are dumb. They're dumb. I mean, yeah, afterwards, you're like, I'm amazing.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: But you do want to die.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

WOLF: You want to die when it's happening.

EISENBERG: So I did not know about - this about you until I read up on you. You studied kinesiology in college.

WOLF: Yeah. Oh, is there kinesiology-head in there?

EISENBERG: Kinesiology?

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Come on. It's the study of human and nonhuman movements.

WOLF: Yeah. Yeah, the study of how the body moves. It's really like sports science, exercise science. You know, it's, like, a lot of biomechanics and exercise physiology. And I dissected a human.

EISENBERG: Nice.

WOLF: Yeah. Fun fact - this is the fun fact hour with Michelle Wolf.

EISENBERG: It's perfect.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: Dissected a human cadaver in anatomy class, and that was the first adult male penis I had ever seen.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: The first adult male penis I've ever seen, I cut in half.

(LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE)

WOLF: Yeah. Yeah.

EISENBERG: And then after college, you started working in finance. You worked at Bear Stearns and later J.P. Morgan. So why the switch to finance?

WOLF: Yeah, I took the really popular route of studying exercise science in college and then moving to New York and (laughter) getting a job on Wall Street.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: I was really burnt-out after college. I was such a nerd. I studied all the time. Like, I - not only did I want to get an A, I wanted to get the best grade in the class. I'm a terrible human (laughter).

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: I - just between that and the ultramarathons...

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

WOLF: ...I just - I can't emphasize how insufferable I am.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: The voice doesn't help.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: But a (laughter) fun fact about Wall Street is they love people that are just competitive and will do anything to win. So they love athletes. And I was an athlete in college, and I got good grades. So they were like, oh, yeah, she'll be great. Don't worry that she's never taken a business class.

EISENBERG: I was going to say.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Didn't matter.

WOLF: No, didn't matter at all - didn't matter that I had no training. So I got hired at Bear Stearns in the summer of 2007.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: Great time - it was a great time. It was a really - the energy of the company was palpable.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: And then how did you make the leap to go, you know what? I got to do this comedy thing.

WOLF: Well, I - in March of 2008, when Bear Stearns was collapsing...

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

WOLF: ...My friends had come to visit, and we went to a taping of "SNL." And I've always been such a big fan. And after that, I was like, how did these guys get into this? How do you do this? And I, like, googled all of them. And they all started in improv, so I just signed up for an improv class. And then after my first improv class, I was like, oh, I just want to do something like this. This is really fun.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

WOLF: Yeah. And then, like, you know, after like about three years, I kind of switched over to stand-up. But...

EISENBERG: Yeah, and then you - in 2014, you start working as a writer on "Late Night With Seth Meyers."

WOLF: Yes.

EISENBERG: And you said in an interview that from day one, you just made fun of him, like, every single day.

WOLF: Yeah. Yeah. No, one of my favorite things about Seth Meyers is, first of all, very easy to make fun of.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: But also, is fine with being made fun of.

EISENBERG: Right.

WOLF: And then he'll make fun of me, and it's a great relationship. And he - I mean, he's one of the nicest, smartest, funniest people I know who I can also just make fun of (laughter) him, the fact that he has a heart (laughter).

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: Like, he's a very nice person, and I like to make fun of the fact that he has a heart and cries.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) How would you describe your dynamic?

WOLF: I think he's a little scared of me and then, like, 98 percent's friends with me.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: Two percent scared, 98 friends (laughter).

EISENBERG: That sounds perfect.

WOLF: Yeah (laughter).

EISENBERG: That's a good - and then many of us know you from, of course, your brilliant performance at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

(CHEERING)

WOLF: Any - I will say that I think because of what I did, they're always going to have a comedian (laughter).

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: They will never stray from that tradition.

EISENBERG: When you - that - I mean, that's a big gig. It comes with a lot of weight. Just in general, when you were offered it, was there any moment that you were like, let me think about this? Or were you, I - just immediately, I want to do that?

WOLF: I actually - right when I got offered it, I texted Seth to be like - because he had done it before.

EISENBERG: Sure.

WOLF: I was like, should I do it? And he was like, do it. And (laughter) I was like, all right.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: I also - going in my approach to it was going to be different than most people that had done it. Everyone had told me how bad the room was. They're like, it's not a good room. You know, try to do, like, some inside baseball stuff. That'll keep them laughing. And I was like, I'm not going to do it for the room. I'm going to do it for the people (laughter).

EISENBERG: Yeah.

(CHEERING)

WOLF: You know, they got that historian, author guy this year, which I'm sure he's very - I mean, his books are acclaimed. He has a Pulitzer Prize, you know. Like, he's clearly a very smart, accomplished man. But I think their reasoning for getting him is a little off because they want to make a case for the First Amendment - which, first of all, if you have to make a case for the First Amendment, you're losing it.

EISENBERG: Yeah. It's not happening.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: Yeah, you're on the brink of it being taken away. I think that's what they call an opening argument.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: And, you know, like, everyone makes fun of Trump. You know, like, the point of that dinner is also kind of to hold the media accountable.

EISENBERG: Right.

WOLF: Because right now, I would say the media is doing...

(CHEERING)

WOLF: You know, I'm a very big proponent of the First Amendment. Believe me, if I said half the things I say in other countries, I would be murdered.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: But, you know, like, I think the press needs to really hold themselves accountable, to be like, yeah, maybe we don't need to show 12 straight hours of a tweet that Trump said with, like, seven different panels...

(CHEERING)

WOLF: ...Discussing why...

EISENBERG: I know.

WOLF: ...It was bad.

EISENBERG: I know.

WOLF: You know, and it's on us, too, to, like, not watch it constantly, you know? But yeah, my main point was what I said at the end of the dinner, which was, I think the media - they pretend to hate Trump, but they love him...

EISENBERG: They love him.

WOLF: ...Because they're selling everything that they're making. They're selling their books, their TV, their newspapers. He is selling it all for them, and they are all getting so rich while we suffer immensely.

(CHEERING)

WOLF: And I'm not sure a historian making a case for the First Amendment is going to go after them for that (laughter).

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: All right. Michelle, are you ready for your ASK ME ANOTHER challenge?

WOLF: Yes.

EISENBERG: OK. The good news is you actually don't have to face this challenge alone. Here to help you is our other guest tonight. You actually know her from working with her on "Late Night With Seth Meyers." It's Amber Ruffin.

(CHEERING)

AMBER RUFFIN: Hi.

EISENBERG: Amber, how are you?

RUFFIN: I'm yay.

EISENBERG: You're yay - fantastic. You two know each other, obviously.

RUFFIN: We've met.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: I mean, once or twice, but we don't want to talk about it.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Did you meet as writers on "Late Night With Seth Meyers?" That's where...

RUFFIN: We did.

WOLF: We did, yeah.

EISENBERG: ...For the very - that first time? And you gravitated to each other? I mean, how many writers are there, a dozen?

WOLF: There's about 12.

RUFFIN: Yeah. There was - yeah.

WOLF: But we all sit in the same room, so...

RUFFIN: It's one room - ain't but one room.

WOLF: Yeah. And, you know, there's a bunch of boys.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: And then there's me and Amber.

RUFFIN: And we're rowdier than all of them.

EISENBERG: Oh, yeah?

WOLF: The loudest people in the room.

(LAUGHTER)

RUFFIN: By a mile (laughter).

EISENBERG: All right. Well, here's the game. Michelle, you were a track and field star in high school and college. We know your high jump personal record is five foot, four inches. This is a game called Could Michelle Jump Over This?

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: I'm going to describe an object. You two will consult and figure out if Michelle could have jumped over this. If you do well enough, listener Shoshana Strom (ph) from Washington, D.C., a place you love...

WOLF: Yeah.

EISENBERG: ...Will win an ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's Cube.

WOLF: Ooh.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) I know. All right. Could Michelle jump over a MINI Cooper?

RUFFIN: Yeah.

WOLF: Yes. Wait, wait - do I have to jump as wide as a MINI Cooper or just the height of?

RUFFIN: The height of a MINI Cooper.

WOLF: The height and width of or just the height of?

EISENBERG: Just the height.

WOLF: Yes.

EISENBERG: You're right. Yes. A MINI Cooper is four foot five.

WOLF: Oh, yeah. I could still do that today.

EISENBERG: Yeah. Yeah.

(APPLAUSE)

WOLF: You remember when, like, Blake Griffin dunked over a Kia?

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Yeah.

WOLF: Kias aren't that tall.

EISENBERG: No.

(LAUGHTER)

RUFFIN: Yeah (laughter).

EISENBERG: Could Michelle jump over the Mona Lisa?

WOLF: Yes, that thing's tiny.

RUFFIN: Of course.

WOLF: That thing's the size of a piece of paper.

EISENBERG: No, no, no. I mean...

RUFFIN: Is it hanging on the wall?

EISENBERG: No, no, no, I mean the actual person.

WOLF: Oh.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: No, I'm just kidding. No, no, no. No, no.

WOLF: Mona? You mean Mona?

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: We call her Mona.

RUFFIN: She's our friend.

WOLF: Is her last name Lisa?

RUFFIN: Uh-huh.

WOLF: Her name is Mona Lisa (laughter)?

RUFFIN: Mona Sarah (ph) Lisa.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Sarah (ph) Lisa (laughter).

RUFFIN: Her name was Lisa, and she always went, ugh.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: I forgot how corny you are. I had not idea.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: Ugh, I'm Lisa.

RUFFIN: Ugh.

WOLF: Ugh, I'm Lisa.

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: That's a great character.

EISENBERG: That's a pretty good character.

WOLF: That's a - why am I smiling? Ugh. No. Oh, no.

(LAUGHTER)

RUFFIN: Come to my new one-woman show...

(LAUGHTER)

RUFFIN: ..."The Moans Of Lisa."

(LAUGHTER)

WOLF: Yeah, I could jump over her. It's a eight by 10 piece of paper, right?

EISENBERG: Yeah. Pretty much.

RUFFIN: Yeah, yeah.

EISENBERG: It's a photocopy. Jump over it. Yes. Yes, the Mona Lisa is two feet, six inches tall.

WOLF: Oh, all right.

EISENBERG: Yeah. You could totally jump over that.

WOLF: Yeah.

RUFFIN: Yeah.

EISENBERG: Could Michelle jump over the shortest NBA player of all time, Muggsy Bogues?

RUFFIN: Muggsy Bogues - he's five four.

WOLF: Look at - you know nothing about sports, and you knew that.

RUFFIN: Here is the thing - when Muggsy Bogues was a thing, I was the same size. And so I thought it was magical.

(LAUGHTER)

RUFFIN: So anytime I saw him, I was, like, that is me.

EISENBERG: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

RUFFIN: I think he was five four, and I think I was five four. And I think that that is true.

WOLF: Well, we're going to go with Amber.

RUFFIN: (Laughter).

WOLF: And we're going to say yes.

WOLF: It's actually five three, so yes.

(CHEERING)

EISENBERG: All right. Here's your last clue. Could Michelle jump over the legendary racehorse, Seabiscuit?

WOLF: Horses seem tall.

RUFFIN: No, he's too tall.

WOLF: He's too tall.

RUFFIN: No.

WOLF: They seem very tall.

RUFFIN: Yeah.

WOLF: I think no.

EISENBERG: All right. Actually, Seabiscuit is 5-foot-1. So yes, you could jump over Seabiscuit.

WOLF: Oh.

RUFFIN: What? Wait.

WOLF: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: Congratulations, Michelle and Amber.

RUFFIN: Yay.

EISENBERG: You and Shoshana Strom have won ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's Cubes.

AMBER RUFFIN AND MICHELLE WOLF: Yay.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Amber, I'll be talking to you a little later in the show.

RUFFIN: OK.

EISENBERG: Looking forward to it. Michelle - such a pleasure. Thank you so much for being part of it.

WOLF: Thank you so much for having me.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Michelle Wolf is doing stand-up on tour right now across the country. Check her out - Michelle Wolf, everybody.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EISENBERG: Want our next special guest to play for you? Follow ASK ME ANOTHER on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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