Ali Wong’s “Hard Knock Wife” feels no less viscerally honest and poignantly funny than her first stand-up special, “Baby Cobra.”
Back in 2016, the new mom-to-be was over seven months pregnant and cracking jokes about sex, racism, double standards and family pressure. “Baby Cobra” marked a new chapter of Wong’s life and career. Her daughter was born after it was recorded and her comedy special found an audience drawn to her energetic performance, raunchy jokes and wit.
A few years later, Wong returns to the spotlight with even more war stories about motherhood. She comes out swinging and spares no details about the bodily horror show motherhood can have on a woman’s body.
“Sex is not dirty. A C-section is dirty,” she said in an interview with the New York Times.
Fluid leaks from where they’re not supposed to, body parts are held in place with hospital mesh leggings and the appeal of being a stay-at-home mom has worn off its welcome.
Now a mother of two – she’s pregnant with her second child in “Hard Knock Wife” – Wong takes on a political edge, pausing the baby poop jokes to champion the need for federal maternity laws. It’s not to bond with the baby, she quips, but to give women time to heal from the toll pregnancy and childbirth has taken on their bodies.
Wong’s jokes feel as frank and honest as any male comedian who has talked about their kids onstage. Yet, there’s something almost taboo about what she says and the disgust and exhaustion with which she talks about motherhood. She prods at the burdensome expectations moms are saddled with almost every day. Yet it’s something no male comic has gone through.
Like the movie “Tully,” in which an exhausted mom of three is driven to her wit’s end until she gets a night nurse, the uncomfortable candidness about resentment, frustration, medical indignities and tearful bouts of anger are just a few of the many things they don’t tell you to expect when you’re expecting.
Wong’s frankness also exposes the subtle racist and sexist comments she’s experienced as a female comic. She can joke about her bad driving and bad parenting because she doesn’t use those generalizations to everyone – they’re just her faults. She told NPR in 2016, “Even now when I go out people are like, ‘What are you doing here? Didn’t you just have a baby?’ But people never ask a male comic when he’s out a week later, like, ‘Oh my god, you’re so irresponsible! What are you doing out? Who is taking care of the baby?’”
We really don’t hear those types of jokes often, if at all. Wong doesn’t need to explain how she balances career and life, because we see her – and many new moms like her. Many moms make it work because they have to.
Luckily, Wong didn’t lose her audience because of motherhood. If anything, she gained a larger one as a hardworking comic who overshares about having to sniff her baby’s diapers and performs in her third trimester.