Moontower Review: Ali Wong

Has motherhood made the Baby Cobra star a cleaner comic? No.

Ali Wong (Photo by Bells & Whistles Productions)

Moontower Comedy Festival headliner Ali Wong no longer has what she called “the luxury of anonymity.” As she noted in her set Friday night, sure, you’re rich, but it means you can’t be “shitty to people in public.” She went on to explore her struggle with this newfound fame and the literal shit she deals with as a new mom.

When Wong’s comedy special Baby Cobra blew up on Netflix, it set her on a trajectory that she says “no one could have anticipated.” She said that she went from selling extra tickets to her shows on Groupon to out-earning her Harvard Business School-educated husband – seemingly overnight. But the explosive success of her special also seems so fitting. For one, it’s brilliant. But more than that, its overnight sensation matches her amazing onstage presence – an awesome energy that Friday night’s show at the Paramount Theatre had from start to finish. In many ways it felt like the next chapter to Baby Cobra, which she, of course, recorded while still pregnant. Friday’s show focused heavily on her life as a new mom. While weaving in underlying feminist messages about the double standards placed on working mothers vs. fathers, the perception of motherhood vs. its reality, and the absolute necessity for paid maternity leave, she joked about the real-life horrors of breastfeeding, afterbirth, and being left with a “Ghost in the Shell of a pussy.” (Like, physically it’s there, but emotionally and spiritually it’s gone. Or, to put it another way: “It’s an Asian character played by Scarlett Johansson.”) She really homed in (with unapologetic honesty) on the aspects of birth and early motherhood that no one talks about. And yet, by the grace of a foul-mouthed, diminutive woman (in a sparkly suit), there it was: an entire theatre of people completely enthralled by and laughing along with an anecdote about a prolapsed vagina. At the risk of sounding too grandiose, it was the positive normalization of women’s health issues we need right now and, equally important, standing-ovation hilarious.

Wong peppered the set with a collection of shorter jokes on topics ranging from the tribulations of dating white guys to her issues with her newfound fame. Something she says she never wanted. “All I ever wanted was more money for less work,” she joked. Like many comedians, she also couldn’t ignore the sign language interpreter, and we all left the theatre knowing how to sign “butthole buffet” in ASL. Suffice it to say, for those wondering if motherhood would make her a cleaner comic, the answer is no.

Michelle Wolf (writer/performer on The Daily Show) opened for Wong – teeing up Wong’s set with her own take on the challenges the sexes face. Taking the tongue-in-cheek position that men have it especially hard these days, she joked that while women have so many firsts to look forward to, men are out of accomplishments. “It’s almost like you have nothing to live for,” she joked. Topically, it was the perfect opening, and Wolf’s slightly cleaner, calmer demeanor provided the perfect foil for Wong’s high-energy performance. It was a great set, and would be a tough act for most to follow. Of course, following up Baby Cobra may have felt like a daunting task, too. But Wong’s new act had groups of festivalgoers outside the Paramount debating their favorite set: Friday’s performance or her last Netflix special. Honestly, it’s a tough call.

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Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival, Moontower Comedy 2017, Ali Wong, Michelle Wolf, Paramount Theatre, BabyCobra

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