Lizz Winstead is a hilarious political comedian who produced The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, co-founded Air America and executive produced Weekends with Maury and Connie, which proves that Winstead knows what good’s for America even if America’s sleeping at the wheel. Winstead’s stop at William Way Center Wednesday night was part of her “Planned Parenthood, I am here for you!” tour. It went like this: Winstead’s working on a book, which demanded strolls down memory lane that would have proved difficult to conduct from her current home in N.Y.C. So she traveled to Minnesota and worked on the book. Meanwhile, being a news junkie who digests more contradictory news and newslike substances than recommended for mental health, she grew increasingly irate at the current attack on women’s pink-parts health going on in this country. Specifically, the tidal wave of state-level laws restricting access to abortion services, the ongoing attacks on Planned Parenthood and the way anti-choice legislators like Arizona’s Republican Sen. Jon Kyl have been going around hospitals baptizing babies born to reluctant mothers who couldn’t afford abortion with urine blessed by the Pope and then eating them.* The show was great—it was a decent turnout too, though disappointingly few young people were there. When I went to catch a bite at the Cantina afterward, I couldn’t help looking around at all the 20-somethings there who decided to vote with their dollars on oversalted tacos instead of cutting-edge comedy and reproductive freedom. In any case, it was a great show that featured the best Anthony Weiner joke to date, hands down (See what I did there?). PW got a few minutes to sit down with Lizz before the show.
*Not intended to be a factual statement.
PW: Tell us how you decided to turn your road trip into a mini tour for Planned Parenthood.
Lizz Winstead: I went back to Minnesota to finish my book, ’cause I’m from there … I drove with my dogs to Minnesota then I thought, I have to get back. And then the assault on Planned Parenthood just kept escalating and escalating and escalating and thought on my way back, why don’t I see if I can do a benefit on the way? So I contacted the national office and they were like, that’s great, let’s see what we can do. The good news was we had like six affiliates jump on board for just the drive back, the bad news is, [some states] were so cash poor due to battling legislation that I couldn’t get to the [them]. So that part was the heartbreaker, so hopefully I can go back in 2012. But as the momentum of the tour has picked up, I’ve gotten about 10 new affiliates that [I’ll be performing in to raise money for Planned Parenthood], from Lincoln Nebraska to Anchorage. So what I thought was going to be my little tour has turned out to just the first leg, and as many-legged monster that this has to become, I’m all for it.
PW: I hear you. I don’t write exclusively “women’s issues” but have a sort of reputation for that now and I’m like, “No, I have other interests, I swear!” But I can’t write about a quirky team of grandma bowlers when there’s—
LW: When there’s this THING going on! I know! What’s funny to me, is people keep saying, “So you’re doing a whole show about Planned Parenthood?” And I say, “C’mon, who would go see a whole comedy show about Planned Parenthood?” Of course I’m not doing that. No. I do my show, that’s fun, and then people come to it.
PW: So wait. You’re saying it’s both funny AND feminist?
LW: I know, right? Wow, so weird!
PW: So I was listening to you on Radio Times, and you were talking about how noticing things like injustices toward women and media’s distortion of issues came really naturally to you since you were a kid. It made me wonder if you remember Roe V. Wade going down and if there was any conversation in your household about it. You would have been about 11 years old, right?
LW: 12, yeah. I was brought up really Catholic and so that conversation didn’t really come up, because when you’re Catholic, your daughter’s not having sex so there’s no need to talk about it. So that’s kind of how I was brought up: Just don’t talk about sex, and it won’t come up. For some reason, I don’t remember that. I’m the youngest of five, I remember other things like Watergate but I don’t remember Roe V. Wade at all. No. Now that you mention it, the interesting thing about that, I was 12. My next oldest sister was already out of the house … there weren’t any girls coming of age sexually in my house at the time so I wonder if my mom, our parents, almost dodged a bullet because there wasn’t any screaming like, ‘Oh my god I busted you with condoms’ or anything.
PW: Earlier today, I watched a disturbing YouTube video of a protest outside your show last week in Michigan. Did you encounter them?
LW: They were outside all day and then for two hours after my show they wouldn’t leave. They tried to wait me out, but I waited them out.
PW: To what, out-dance you?
LW: That was confusing to us also. The hypocrisy of being anti-choice and the part they probably don’t get is that if you want to reduce the number of abortions and your No. 1 goal to do that is to eliminate access completely to birth control, you’re done with me. I can’t talk to you. So when you ice that crazy cake with, “We think what Planned Parenthood is doing is murdering people so we’re going to dance at [their] events,]” I’m, I’m speechless! If I honestly thought there was an organization out there, sanctioned by the government, that was murdering people—maybe it’s the CIA, I guess we do have one—I would be attending a vigil. I would not be dancing. They say, “We’re celebrating life!” and it’s like, no you’re not. You’re calling out these people as murderers. You’re saying, “This event to promotes murder” and [yet] here you are dancing to Queen.
PW: In the video they’re dancing to Haddaway’s “What is Love?”—which is never celebrating life.
LW: Yeah. And they have those posters. It’s like, just stop.
PW: I think about the posters. If you believe that’s a murdered baby, why would you not be more respectful?
LW: It’s not celebrating life. And it’s that same baby, if you notice. It seems to be there’s one shot, that they all have.
PW: Like the Gerber baby of abortion.
LW: Yeah, I’m sure Gerber would love that.
PW: Did you encounter any other protests along the way?
LW: There was one guy talking to himself in Boston. But that was the major one and part of it I wonder is we got a lot of press in Michigan, so the people came out in force. But yeah, that was really the only one and the rest of the shows have been really fun and packed, and it’s been great. All different kinds of venues, anywhere from big old theaters that seat 400 people to cabarets that seat 150 to [here at William Way], which I don’t even know how many people they’re expecting tonight. So it’s fun, to see where people rally out and how they do it.
PW: Have you had security with you?
LW: There’s been a security person at all the events. And yeah, they weren’t let me do it by myself, which was my initial plan and they were like, no. Guess what? That’s not happening.
PW: There’s a whole threat-of-murder thing that comes along with doing this.
LW: Yeah, there’s the hate. And that first night in Pontiac [Michigan] the fact I had to enter the theater through the back alley because of those people was not lost on me. I thought, wow if they are this angry about a show, I don’t know what’s fueling that and where that leads them and that’s a scary thing. I had nightmares, recurring nightmares before the tour that somebody was going to throw battery acid in my face. I think part of it was that the glitter-bombing thing was going on, so I was doing my thing and there was the glitter-bombing thing and my psyche was processing all this stuff. People can come in to any public event, you just never know.
PW: I was surprised to not see any protesters here today, because Operation Rescue has targeted Pennsylvania as “ground zero” because of the “gift of God” that they ironically call alleged baby killer Kermit Gosnell. But we’re also in the force field of the Gayborhood.
LW: And if they’re protesting a gay center it looks even worse.
PW: You share a personal abortion story. I’m curious when was the first time you publicly shared that story and what were your thoughts about that.