Ali Wong isn’t the type of comedian to simply walk onto a stage. She’s the kind who strides toward the mic, carrying herself like a WWE wrestler whose anger fuels her strength—hips forward, shoulders back, chin down, one eyebrow cocked. And in Don Wong, her third Netflix special, which is now streaming, she wastes no time in flexing her resentment. “You know, I’m very jealous and bitter,” she says in her set’s opening line, enunciating the words with enough ire that even those seated in the nosebleeds can see the steam rising from her head.
Wong is a master at indignant comedy. In her previous specials for the streamer, Baby Cobra and Hard Knock Wife, the comedian’s observations about marriage and motherhood came wrapped in a precise fury that felt resonant. Through gritted teeth, she voiced an identifiable frustration toward modern feminism’s ethos of trying to “lean in” when, as she put it in one of her all-time-best punch lines, she’d much rather “lie down.” Don Wong covers similar ground, but Wong’s confessions are more audacious than before. Instead of trying to keep the audience on her side, she dares them to look at her differently—and not only because she’s not visibly pregnant this time. As she tells the crowd early in the special, all she wants to do, now that she’s well known and successful and capable of supporting herself, is cheat on her husband.
Such an admission marks potentially alienating territory for a comic whose jokes tend to draw heavily from her marriage and her relatable desire for rest in a world that encourages endless hustling. And yet, Wong’s hunger for an affair still comes off as accessible, because she directs her signature irritation at herself. She’d spent years railing against the need to “have it all” as a woman, which means achieving a career, a marriage, and a family. How did she end up with all three? And more important, how could she have been naive enough to believe that fulfilling that definition of “having it all” would leave her completely satisfied?
Over the course of the hour, Wong interrogates this epiphany with some of her punchiest and dirtiest material yet. She doesn’t shy away from her celebrity, instead embracing it to emphasize the difference, for women, between being successful and feeling successful. She co-wrote and starred in the romantic comedy Always Be My Maybe, but that experience left her so stressed that she didn’t relieve herself properly for weeks, resulting in some gross (and hilarious) colon-related travails. She’s more popular than ever, but unlike her male colleagues who attract “models, actresses, and pop singers,” she gets only creepy DMs. She challenges men to feel more honored to be with women who have achieved mainstream influence so women feel more gratified by their achievements, underlining her annoyance with cheeky wordplay. “Sure, you’ve gotten head, but have you ejaculated onto a great American mind?” Wong teases. “Has your sperm swam in the eyes of an icon? Have you been deep-throated by a voice of a generation? I don’t think so!”
Those are harsh words for her audience, but she saves the most critical ones for herself. While riffing about how cheating is supposed to be easy for the famous, Wong professes a particularly lewd and vivid fantasy involving the entire cast of The Avengers. Immediately afterward, she stops pacing, closes her eyes, and rubs her forehead in evident exasperation. “I think I’m going through a midlife crisis,” she says, chuckling. “Having two C-sections and being the breadwinner of my family has turned me into a 50-year-old man.”
Don Wong, in other words, isn’t a total victory lap. It’s partly an elegy for Wong’s younger self, the self in her first two specials who thought that by wanting less, she could avoid ever feeling like she wanted more. It’s also partly a plea for women to have their midlife crises, because, to Wong, being expected to constantly celebrate “having it all” is exhausting. Venting should be considered as necessary as expressing gratitude, she explains, and equal pleasure should be as important as equal pay. Though her fame has made her experiences less universal, Wong’s honesty buoys the relevance of these sentiments. Her confessions—including one about how she almost cheated on her husband with the food consultant on Always Be My Maybe—tumble out cathartically, as if they’re secrets she’s been holding back until this moment, on this stage, so her audience can understand the power of acknowledging and perhaps even indulging such inclinations.
Toward the end of the special, Wong assures her viewers that she’s in a healthy marriage in a moment that feels a tad hasty, like an afterthought intended to draw them back onto her side. But for the most part, Don Wong provides her space to air her naughtiest thoughts—and to encourage more women to do the same. Midway through her set, Wong deepens her voice and speaks in a somber tone, as if on the verge of launching into a TED talk. “For women, no matter how much money, power, or respect you earn, you are never allowed to behave badly and get away with it,” she says. And then she pauses and widens her eyes. “But that’s all I want to do.” If she can admit it, so can you.