Netflix released "Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife" on May 18. (Image via Vulture)

Ali Wong Hilariously Strips Away the Wonders of Motherhood in ‘Hard Knock Wife’

The NSFW special will have you in fits of laughter and then going to vote for comprehensive maternity leave.

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Netflix released "Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife" on May 18. (Image via Vulture)

The NSFW special will have you in fits of laughter and then going to vote for comprehensive maternity leave.

Netflix comedy specials have become increasingly common. In 2018, over 30 of them were released in English alone, and the Netflix library boasts more than 90 in total. In the midst of all the streaming service’s hour-long comedy specials, you should avoid losing sight of one particularly important comedian and influencer: Ali Wong.

Two years ago, on Mother’s Day, Wong released her first comedy special on Netflix, “Cobra Baby.” Wong is hard to miss, a petite yet extremely pregnant woman in a flashy striped dress and large candy apple red glasses.

“Cobra Baby” was shockingly honest and provided a raw look into the mind of a feminist woman unpacking the various injustices of being pregnant in modern American society. But most importantly, it was a hilarious success. The special launched Wong into comedic fame.

On May 13, Wong released another comedy special while pregnant — this time in her third trimester — titled “Hard Knock Wife.”

If “Cobra Baby” coyly tugged on the strings of motherhood and society, “Hard Knock Wife” rips down the curtain with the wild-eyed lack of abandon that Wong has perfected on stage. She pulls no punches in a way that will leave even the most unenthusiastic feminist clapping their hands in giddy excitement.

During her second comedy special, Wong once again discusses pregnancy, diving even deeper into the gritty truths behind overly glorified motherhood.

She hilariously addresses the brutality but cost-effectiveness of nursing, the horror of postpartum bodies and minds, men’s (lack of) involvement in baby care, why she will never hire a nanny younger than 60 and being the comedian sugar momma to her Harvard graduate husband. Ladies, pour a glass of wine and enjoy the increased squirming of the weaker men in the room.

One of the first and perhaps most important issues Wong discusses is maternity leave. The comedian opens by clarifying that being a stay-at-home mother is not for her: “You get no 401k, no coworkers, you’re just in solitary confinement all day long with this human Tamagotchi that don’t got no reset button so the stakes are extremely high.”

Wong further explains that despite not wanting the stay-at-home mom role, maternity leave is an absolute necessity for her to physically recover from being in labor for 24 hours and having her body ruined by the stressful experiences of breastfeeding and staying up all night.

The comedian then, as a war cry, shouts that other developed countries have up to three years of maternity leave, yet the U.S. does not guarantee any amount of paid time off to mothers, resulting in the crowd losing its mind.

In perspective, the U.S. guarantees zero paid days of maternity leave, whereas Russia and Spain offer 100 percent paid leave for 120 days, the UK offers 280 days at 80 percent pay and Sweden offers a whopping 480 paid days for each child. Aside from the U.S., only a select few countries do not offer guaranteed paid leave, including Papua New Guinea and Lesotho.

Much of the rest of Wong’s stand-up seems to further justify why paid maternity leave should be a guaranteed right, including her discussion about the difficulties of breastfeeding. “Giving birth ain’t nothing compared to breastfeeding … When my baby girl would get hungry she would yank my nipple back and forth like that bear f—— up Leonardo Dicaprio in ‘The Revenant.’”

Wong also talks about her newfound fame as a comedian and making more money than her husband. She explains that being the breadwinner in the relationship, in addition to the primary caretaker for their daughter, is another equally exhaustive task that society never sees her as juggling quite well enough.

If she makes too much money, she poses a threat to the male pride of her husband; if she works too hard, she is allegedly neglecting her motherly duty to her baby and if she stays at home with the baby, she loses the momentum in her career and her passion.

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Through her hilarious, tear-inducing jokes, Wong also pokes at the double standards of gender in society. If her female friends discover that her husband helps change the baby’s diapers, they are elated: “My husband occasionally changes diapers and when people hear that [explosion sound] omigod, confetti everywhere.

‘I cannot believe that your husband changes diapers. What a doting modern father. Lucky you!’ When my baby girl was first born I would do skin-on-skin contact every day to bond with her. She s— on my chest. Where’s my confetti at?”

“Hard Knock Wife” is explicit, hilarious, overtly empowering for women and — most importantly — a necessary commentary on mothers in modern society.

Wong’s comedy specials cannot be done justice through quotes and commentary alone; they are must-sees for women and men alike. But if you happen to be a current or soon-to-be mother, you will likely gain extra delight from Wong’s outrageous yet honest analysis of her second and most recent pregnancy.

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Jamie Lovley

University of Maine
Journalism and Psychology

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