For comedians, the best rule of thumb is to write what you know. For Lizz Winstead, her work is shaped by her perceptions, her experiences, and her role as a woman. She established Lady Parts Justice League to give women a louder voice and create a community for change.
Laugh Lounge presents Lady Parts Justice League’s “You Should Smile More! And Other Man-Spirational Things” February 10th at The 5 & Dime A Theatre Company, starring Winstead, co-creator of “The Daily Show” and featuring both Joyelle Johnson, of “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” and Jaye McBride, known for her work at the New York Comedy Festival. A talk back with Women’s Show of Jacksonville follows the show.
“Joyelle and Jaye and myself, we all come from different life perspectives. Joyelle, living in the world of a black woman, she’s just so funny about bringing her relationship stories living in the world now. And Jaye McBride is a trans woman, so she has a lot to say these days, especially around what’s happening with the military ban and just her life, living as a trans woman,” says Winstead.
“And I‘m just, like, a woman that’s lived longer than all of them. So, the perspective of what it’s like to walk the earth while female is going to be highly represented. You just don’t hear it enough in comedy, so to be able to talk about #MeToo and how all that affects us, and be able to talk about, through our perspective and our lens, and be able to bring humor and levity to a world that has been increasingly hostile, and then set on warped speed with the election of this president, it’s nice to be able to be in a group of people who feel like they need to laugh. It’s like a party with a purpose.”
As co-creator and former head writer of “The Daily Show” and Air America Radio co-founder, Winstead helped shape the way people get their news. She brought her political wit to “The Daily Show” as a correspondent and later co-hosted “Unfiltered,” Air America Radio’s mid-morning show alongside hip-hop legend Chuck D and Rachel Maddow. Winstead is acknowledged as one of the top political satirists in America. Outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Entertainment Weekly laud her skills as a comedian and media visionary. She can also be seen regularly offering hilarious and insightful commentary on MSNBC.
“You Should Smile More and Other Man-spirational Things” will confront current topics affecting women’s issues, as well the universal and political topics that impact the country. The event will also offer a platform for the community-conscious audience to get involved in reproductive health. “The cool part of the night is, after the comedy show, you’re going to meet some really amazing activists and an abortion provider in Jacksonville who’s going to talk about the state of reproductive rights in Florida, sort of what bills are coming down the pipe, but also what the folks who are attending this show can do to be supportive of the clinic. Because it’s an incredible clinic that does really amazing work and provides really amazing services to your community, and [they get a chance to] say here’s what they could use your help with,” says Winsted.
“When you’re a provider in a state that has shown its politicians to be hostile–Florida for sure being one of them–You guys have so many garbage laws; they can’t get someone to do their lawn or paint their lobby because they provide abortions. And so that ostracizes them as a small business, because of what they do. What we do with Lady Parts Justice is we travel around the country and do shows like this in a concentrated way. We bring our audiences together to meet the clinics in the communities. Those people sign up and work with the activists, and give them a larger support system which is really cool. When you get all riled up, here’s an outlet that you yourself can use to make change, and help somebody else, and further a world that we all want to see ourselves living in.”
Winstead understands the value of laughter when the scales are tipped unfairly. Comedy is a male-dominated sport, and, despite having such a high-profile career, Winstead says she was expected to exist in a limited space, where while female-sensitive topics can be written and delivered by women, moving to affect change is strictly prohibited.
“The message was, ‘Don’t talk too much about being a woman because it’s alienating. You need to be more broad’–no pun intended– ‘in what you talk about.’ My entire life experience and lens with which I walk the earth comes from being a woman. And what they were saying is [that] men don’t appreciate or want to hear what that experience is, when we all have to sit here and listen to dick-wagging comedy constantly. And some of it’s funny. But to say that the lens of a woman is going to alienate part of the audience is disgusting,” she says.
“There’s so much work to do around combining all the things I’ve done in my career with activism. People are like ‘You’re still doing comedy?’ and I’m like ‘Yes, never more [so].’ I’m doing all the things you’ve seen me do, but in a corporate world, like being on a network that relies on advertising, the powers that be say your job is to be funny. Your job is not to give a call to action or be overtly political. That’s their prerogative to say, but, for me as a person, if I’m getting people all riled up with information and using humor, and they’re like, ‘Oh my god, that’s an outrage! What can I do? And I’m like, ‘I don’t know,’ that just seems to me that I’m being a bad actor. Since I knew what people could do, I thought I’m going to spend the second part of my career on that component. So it’s, ‘You’re mad; here’s something you can do about it.’”
Unwilling to be silenced, Winstead established Lady Parts Justice League to support women’s reproductive rights. The name speaks to women, but Winstead insists it’s not about man-bashing. Reproductive freedom is a human rights issue, and sharing topical information that affects half of the population opens the other half up to new experiences. The concept is simple; it’s effective and empowering. Humor makes the information more palatable.
“Women have funny experiences, and they have to come from a place that’s specifically based on the fact that they’re a woman, and you’re saying don’t bring that part up? I don’t think so. I think there’s a real backlash against that right now. I don’t need to be a generic comic. I don’t need to sit here and think about how men are going to like my jokes. [What] I have to think about [is], is the story that I went through as Lizz Winstead funny enough for me to tell, and, if that experience happened to me because I’m a woman, all the better,” says Winstead.
“When you travel some place that you’ve never been before, you’re going to have experiences based on that culture, that you enjoy. So why is it that you wouldn’t enjoy hearing stories from somebody who has a different lived experience? It’s just such a joy to gather in a room with people who are all like-minded and to have really positive energy. So, after we spend our time at work where we have to be silent, or going to family gatherings where we don’t want to upset the apple cart, to be able to look around the room and know you’re not alone in thinking that the way things are going and the way things are being run is a mess–all these people are here too. Maybe if we listen to what people can do, we can all be a part of it, and then we’re a community of people and not just one person sitting alone with their feelings and being pretty overwhelmed. Everybody wins.”