Most people are working for the weekend, and Michelle Wolf is no different ... except that she is working almost every weekend now as a stand-up comic. That being said, it’s still kind of a break from her weekly grind.
“I’m glad it’s Friday, because on the weekend, I only do one job,” Wolf said. “On the weekends, I feel like I have most of the day off.”
While her weekends are different from the rest of us, the week keeps her busy in what for Wolf has become the best and most unexpected ways possible. When Wolf is not writing and/or trying out material, she is a writer and regular comedian/correspondent on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” on Comedy Central. On that same network, she is both a writer and actor in two web series: “Used People,” about used car salesmen opposite comic Dan Soder, and “Now Hiring,” where she has many awkward encounters as a job recruiter at a tech company.
What is a pleasant surprise for Wolf is her recent success and how she gets to stay busy doing things she loves to do. What makes her success unexpected was her intent to never pursue comedy in the first place.
Growing up in Pennsylvania, Wolf was a big fan of “Saturday Night Live” during the Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri seasons, but she said she wasn’t even the funniest of her siblings. She went to college for kinesiology but, upon moving to New York, got a job working in the financial sector for firms like Bear Sterns and JPMorgan Chase. When the financial crisis hit in the late 2000s, Wolf kept her job because she was “young and cheap” and decided to sign up for an improvisational acting class.
It’s taken years of making people laugh to convince myself that I can make people laugh.
“It didn’t occur to me that it was a career,” she said. “After my first improv class, I was like, ‘Oh, I just want to do something like this.’”
Three years doing improv eventually led her to trying out her clever, silly and often feminist deadpan style of stand-up comedy, making a name for herself in the New York comedy scene and catching her big break when she was hired as a writer for “Late Night with Seth Meyers” in 2014. She eventually became a writing supervisor for that show and kept her performance chops fresh, whether she was playing a whacked-out version of Vanna White on the game show “Fake or Florida” or turning a young iconic character of Broadway and cinema into a train wreck as “Grown-Up Annie.”
Writing and performing five days a week on “Late Night” prepared her for the “Daily Show” job, and she enjoys being involved in both comedy that’s a team effort and entirely her own.
“It’s fun to be able to do both,” Wolf said of being a writer and a stand-up comic. “It’s a nice balance of giving and also being selfish.”
Wolf is about to have the spotlight to herself in a big way later this summer. While she will be coming to Lexington to perform at Comedy Off Broadway Thursday through Sunday, those will be a few of the 100 stand-up sets she hopes to perform before she tapes her first HBO comedy special in August.
Even though she will be performing on a network that she feels produces “the gold standard of comedy specials,” she still lacks some confidence in her comedic abilities.
“It’s taken years of making people laugh to convince myself that I can make people laugh,” she said. “Because you never know when you’re going to think of your next joke. You think, maybe I won’t think of another one. Maybe I’ve run out of funny things to say. And then you think of another one and think, yeah, you’re fine.”
In Wolf’s comedy, audiences may hear her take on topics big social and political issues to a mixed bag of feminist takes. As writer and performer, comedy has not only given Wolf an unexpected profession and confidence, it’s also given her a voice she is now never afraid to use.
“I probably didn’t even have solid opinions on a lot of things (before comedy). I would just kind of blow with the wind,” Wolf said. “I don’t think we would be having this conversation right now if I was like that. Honestly, that was one of my favorite things that stand-up has brought to my life, is really strong opinions.”