The life of Lizz Winstead

The Daily Show creator returns home to Minnesota

After leaving the Daily Show, Winstead moved to L.A. and created a show for the Oxygen network called O2Be. Though critically acclaimed, Winstead's harder-edged brand of comedy was a tough sell in the post-9/11 media landscape, and the show was cancelled after its first season.

She tried her hand producing a reality dating show for MTV, but after realizing that it was a personal hell, Winstead left for an exciting new project: co-founding a national progressive radio network with Al Franken. In seven months, she put together Air America Radio, including her own show with Public Enemy's Chuck D and the then-unknown Rachel Maddow, whom Winstead had plucked from a small local radio show in Massachusetts. For two years, the three bantered "to the left of the dial."

By 2005, Winstead's show was losing steam. She returned to working for herself and put together projects including "Shoot the Messenger," a live show she performed with a comedy troupe on Monday nights.

Winstead has missed the state fair only three times
Mindy Tucker
Winstead has missed the state fair only three times
Winstead's first headshot after she moved to New York City, in 1990
Winstead's first headshot after she moved to New York City, in 1990

Details

Lizz Free or Die: The Book, The Career, The Life
with Brian Unger, Frank Conniff, and Winsteads
Saturday, May 11. VIP Reception 6:30 p.m., Doors at 7, show at 7:30.
$30 regular, $60 VIP at Etix
The Woman's Club of Minneapolis
410 Oak Grove Street, Minneapolis

Don't miss our behind the scenes photos of Lizz Winstead...

Related Stories

More About

Then, in 2010, Winstead's mother got sick. At the same time, the national political scene was taking a sharp right turn, smack into her sweet spot.

This time though, Tea Party politics did more than just make Winstead angry. They made her want to tell her own story. By the end of 2010, she returned to Minnesota to be with her family and to craft the "messays" that would become Lizz Free or Die.

SIX MONTHS INTO her Minneapolis writing retreat, Winstead needed to get back to New York. She had a truckload of stuff and two dogs with her, and planned to drive back east over the course of a day or two. But one morning, her friend Maggie Macpherson, whom she was staying with, came downstairs.

It was mid-2011, right around the time when "all hell was breaking loose with women's reproductive rights," Macpherson remembers. "Lizz was sitting on the couch, and she's going, 'I've got the greatest idea.'"

Winstead had decided to host fundraisers for Planned Parenthood all along the drive from Minneapolis to New York.

"Lizz was always trying to shine a spotlight on stuff she thought was incredibly wrong, and find the funny in it," says Macpherson. The right-wing attacks on women's health care were a perfect foil.

On her way back to New York City, Winstead stopped in six cities over ten days for a Planned Parenthood standup tour. As she read early chapters of Lizz Free — including one, "All Knocked Up," about her experience with abortion in high school — she was amazed by the response. She had found her next project.

Since then, Winstead has created about 30 fundraisers for Planned Parenthood, along with a handful for other women's health care organizations. All told, they have raised over $2 million. They've also provided the inspiration for a documentary Winstead is putting together about the state of women's health care around the country, which will be her focus for 2013 and 2014. She plans to start filming this summer.

"I'm the person who can drive around and talk to people, and through storytelling and outrage I can make one piece of art that can go in movie theaters and show people what's happening," Winstead says. "I feel like what Michael Moore has done for guns and labor, I kind of want to do for reproductive rights." In some ways, she continues, this situation is exactly what her radar for absurdity has been tuned for.

Unger agrees. "What she's doing now, as a feminist, as a comedian, and as an advocate, is a perfect blend of what her talents are," he says. As Winstead prepares to celebrate 30 years of comedic truth-telling, he continues, "We're just beginning to see where her talents go."

Don't miss our behind the scenes photos of Lizz Winstead...

Lizz Free or Die: The Book, The Career, The Life
with Brian Unger, Frank Conniff, and Winsteads
Saturday, May 11. VIP Reception 6:30 p.m., Doors at 7, show at 7:30.
$30 regular, $60 VIP at Etix
The Woman's Club of Minneapolis
410 Oak Grove Street, Minneapolis

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
All
 
My Voice Nation Help
3 comments
leftardssuck
leftardssuck

If Lizzy contorted herself to match leftard political reasoning, her head would be so far up her ass she'd never get it out. 

Onan
Onan

@leftardssuck Your comments are very insightful. Feel free to expand on this train of thought.

Alirox
Alirox

I caught a Lizz show at the Mandarin Yen in Bloomington back in the late 80s.

She did a funny bald-guy shtick where she'd hold her hand up to block the hairline of her forehead and with an added deadpan expression on her face. Everyone howled with laffter (even the balding guys).

 
Loading...