As a co-creator of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” Lizz Winstead’s politics changed the TV world. She tried to do it again in the radio world as co-founder of the short-lived Air America network.
Winstead recently co-founded the Lady Parts Justice League, which uses humor and information — both online and live in concert — to raise awareness about efforts to restrict safe and legal health care for women. She brings her stage show to Headliners on Thursday May 12.
A Minnesota native influenced early on by George Carlin, Winstead has learned how to target her appeal to a crowd during her three decades as a comedian, writer, producer and activist.
“We’re so psyched to come to Louisville, because I know from my travels — I have family from Mississippi — that there’s cool, progressive people fighting all these crummy laws,” Winstead tells Insider. “People in the North, we’re quick to write off these areas, but I’m, like, ‘Nooo! We have to support these people. They’re excellent, and they make excellent music and there’s bourbon!’”
The LPJL live show merges stand-up comedy and pre-taped videos, including ones targeting Gov. Matt Bevin and Sen. Mitch McConnell. Politics is an obsession for Winstead, and she delights in tailoring material based on local laws, lawmakers and customs, like our occasional cockfights.
“Every state now, there’s a Matt Bevin or a Michelle Bachmann or a Sarah Palin,” she says. “You give me a state, and I’ll give you their nutbag.”
The LPJL website features videos about every state and includes five “scary” facts about each. One thing they hope you know about Kentucky, for example, is: “If a woman is impregnated by rape, Kentucky allows the rapist to sue for custody and/or visitation.”
“It’s not the people of Kentucky” who are the problem, Winstead clarifies, “it’s the people who get elected because lazy people don’t vote in midterm elections almost all the time — and that is almost universally true.”
She doesn’t think this year’s national election will create a more cooperative environment.
“If a Democrat becomes president, I don’t see the rabid Congress being overtly warm … they’re just going to remain as obstructionist as ever,” says Winstead. “When you look at these discriminatory laws, any LGBTQ stuff or any reproductive rights-related stuff, all that stuff is coming out of the states … I’m hoping we can raise awareness to get people to the polls.”
The LPJL runs an event each fall called “V to Shining V,” where supporters nationwide are encouraged to get together and throw parties. Winstead says it’s a way to “have fun, remind people of what’s at stake, and to vote every single time.”
Winstead learned about choice as a 16-year-old, when her first sexual experience led to an unwanted pregnancy. She will tell anyone who asks that she is glad she was free to do what she thought was best, adding, “I don’t believe a pregnancy is a baby. I think we need to be talking about what terminating a pregnancy means, why it means what it means … if we lose the science battle, then we lose all the battles.”
Check out the LPJL’s latest video titled: “If Pizza Was Inaccessible Like Abortion”
The current biggest hope for Winstead, whose work has helped Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Rachel Maddow become mainstream voices, is that the next Supreme Court justices will be “a little bit more … umm, humane?” she says while laughing.
Her mission is to use comedy to inspire people to become more active in their communities — and to teach some “to trust women when they tell you what they need.”
“I will fight like hell for whoever the nominee is, on the side of whoever supports equality for women, reproductive health, people who are undocumented, people of color,” says Winstead. “People woke up surprised Matt Bevin won, but people aren’t voting in these crucial races. If we just put that much more oomph in, maybe we can find better outcomes.
“If you laugh, you still have hope,” she continues. “If you can’t laugh anymore, you’ve lost it, and I never want to be in that space.”
The Lady Parts Justice League appears live at 8 p.m. at Headliners on Thursday, May 12. Tickets are $25. Joining Winstead on stage are Helen Hong (“Inside Amy Schumer”), Leah Bonnema (“Comedy Drop”), Joyelle Johnson (opened for Dave Chapelle), and comedian Rae Sanni.