Brow Beat

Michelle Wolf Gets Patriotic for a Red, White, and Blue Salute to Abortion

Michelle Wolf, dressed in red, white, and blue, salutes abortion as a marching band plays behind her.
Michelle Wolf. Netflix

With the country more polarized than ever, it’s been hard for Americans to find common ground this Fourth of July. As columnist Megan McArdle recently argued in the Washington Post, to find our way back, we’ll need “a muscular patriotism that focuses on our commonalities instead of our differences.” On Sunday, Michelle Wolf released a video that’s jam-packed with exactly the kind of flag-waving, toe-tapping, muscularly patriotic symbolism McCardle writes about, but it doesn’t seem likely to heal the nation. Please enjoy The Break’s 10th Annual Salute to Abortion:

It’s not the first time Wolf addressed the topic: Although it was almost entirely drowned out by the cycle of outrage over her Sarah Huckabee Sanders jokes, Michelle Wolf’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner monologue also had an abortion joke in it:

Mike Pence is also very anti-choice. He thinks abortion is murder, which, first of all, don’t knock it till you try it! And when you do try it, really knock it. You know, you gotta get that baby out of there. And yeah, sure, you can groan all you want, I know a lot of you are very anti-abortion, you know, unless it’s the one you got for your secret mistress.

That abortion joke made a small wave at the time: CNN’s Chris Cillizza said it was “beyond the pale,” while the Cut interviewed sociologist Gretchen Sisson about Wolf’s set. Sisson offered a unique defense of Wolf’s abortion joke on the grounds that it wasn’t actually an abortion joke, but a critique of hypocrisy:

The “Don’t knock it till you try it, and if you try it, knock it” joke—that’s not a good joke. And I think that it is sort of in the territory of being a little too flippant. It’s one of those jokes that is offensive to people, particularly because it’s not that clever. But what people are missing about that joke is, that wasn’t really the joke. Michelle Wolf needed people to have that moment of groaning and cringing, which the audience did. Because then the follow-up, in my interpretation of her set, was the real joke, where she said, “Oh, you’re anti-abortion until you need to get one for your secret mistress,” going off of Tim Murphy, the Congressman that did that. And so the bad joke was a set up for this joke that’s not about abortion at all—it’s about this inherent anti-abortion hypocrisy. 

But this week on The Break with Michelle Wolf, the late-night host made it clear that she had no problem making jokes that were explicitly about abortion, instead of just some kind of complicated introduction to jokes about anti-abortion hypocrisy. Which is not to say she didn’t also make jokes about anti-abortion hypocrisy, like this no-frills version of the joke Sisson heard in the White House Correspondents’ Dinner routine:

It’s so ironic that Trump could be the guy that ends legal abortion. That dude has been responsible for more abortions than the invention of back alleys.

But this time, Wolf’s joke about anti-abortion hypocrisy is nothing but a convenient introduction to her real topic: jokes about abortion. And jokes about jokes about abortion, like her follow-up:

We were originally gonna use “coat hangers.” And before that, “stairs.” Just letting you in on the writing process.

By the time Wolf brings out a marching band and strews the audience with glitter while exhorting them to have abortions if they want them, you may be wondering why more late-night talk show hosts don’t produce segments defending abortion as a positive good. To learn more about this topic, check out the YouTube comments on this video!