Considering Michelle Wolf has less than a decade in the game, she’s one of comedy’s brightest – and fastest – growing stars. After Wolf endured working on Wall Street at the height of the market crash in 2008, she took that anxiety into an improv class and never looked back. She was quickly hired as a performer and writing supervisor for “Late Night with Seth Myers” where she worked for two years. Now she’s a writer and regular onscreen contributor on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.”
Wolf makes her Buffalo debut with a weekend of shows at Helium Comedy Club. Her latest hour of material is nearly ready for the new special she’s recording later this summer. She talked about her early influences, working on Wall Street and comedy in the age of Trump during a recent phone interview.
Question: What kind of comedy were you exposed to as a kid that influenced your sense of humor today?
Answer: What first inspired me was “SNL,” and I must have watched “Ace Ventura” and “Dumb and Dumber” a million times. As I got older, I got more into Carol Burnett, and Jim Gaffigan might have been my first comedy album.
Q: It must have been an effort to watch Carol Burnett before streaming sites like Netflix made almost everything available. Were you watching reruns?
A: Yeah, I watched them all offline or on TV. It was so good and so funny. I always look at it like, “Oh, that’s how you write a sketch.” There’s this one called “No Frill Airlines” and it’s great. It’s eight minutes long, but it’s fantastic. I also loved how everybody kept breaking on that show.
Q: What was it like to work on Wall Street during the collapse?
A: I started at Bear Sterns in the summer of 2007, and about three weeks after, two of their hedge funds collapsed. And then the whole thing collapsed in 2008. I got into comedy around the same time in March 2008. After I started doing that, I just wanted to do that (for a living). I had never really planned to go into business anyway, it just sort of happened. A couple of my friends got a job (in the industry) and said, "Get a job, we’ll all live together in New York City for a couple of years." I did, and after a couple of months, I didn’t really love it at all.
Q: Especially during that time. I can’t imagine walking in there and suddenly the entire system collapses.
A: Yeah. I know the collapse was hard financially on everyone, but it was also hard to watch people put their entire life into a job, and see them collapse, too. There were a lot of people who worked at Bear Sterns for 30 years and invested back into the company, and to see all of that go up in minutes literally was heart-wrenching. Plus when the banks are losing money, your bosses are never in a good mood, so it was a very “tread lightly” time.
Q: You’ve worked for Seth Myers and Trevor Noah, two of the more liberal late night hosts. Was that an intentional move for you philosophically or more of a good job opportunity?
A: I just leaned toward both of their personalities. I’m a liberal, but I also think there’s plenty on the left to make fun of. If I had my druthers, I would also be going after that. There’s a million things to make fun of Trump for, because he hands them to you every single day. He doesn’t even make you go look for it, but I get bored of that, too. Of course Trump did something silly today; he does something silly every day. While I think it’s great that it’s pointed out, I also think there’s other things worth talking about, too.
Q: There’s been a lot of huge breaking news stories lately that can blow up a planned front page or show. What’s it like at “The Daily Show” when you have the show planned, then something happens late afternoon?
A: There was a day (Trump) did a press conference at 2 p.m. We already have the script written by (then), but he did a press conference and all of a sudden, we’re like, “That’s good stuff. We have to write a new one now.” That was the entire show we had to scrap. But the timing of that happens almost every day now, because either he tweeted something, or somebody else tweeted something. We are in a very reactive time right now.
Michelle Wolf performs at 8 p.m. July 6 and 7:30 and 10 p.m. July 7-8 at Helium Comedy Club, 30 Mississippi St. Cost is $15-$31 (dinner packages also available). buffalo.heliumcomedy.com