Lizz Winstead, comedian and co-creator of "The Daily Show," has been selling out comedy shows across the country for the past few years. With her sharp satirical eye and a roster of illustrious performers she's met throughout her wide-ranging career, her shows are always whip-smart, unabashed, and direct. Entertainment Weekly once named her one of America's 100 most creative people, and her performances have been seen on HBO and Comedy Central numerous times over the years.
Recently, however, Lizz had sequestered herself in Minneapolis, where she grew up. Her mother had recently passed away and she was spending time with family and old friends, working on a new book. She knew she had to drive back to her home in Brooklyn in early July, and she wanted to do something a little different -- something that inspired her.
"I thought: they need money, I've got to get back home; I might as well do another tour," said Lizz, speaking to the Huffington Post by phone from Minneapolis. "I want to make this drive meaningful."
The "They," in this situation, is Planned Parenthood, the women's health organization she has supported for years. Lizz decided that, for this tour, all her proceeds would go directly to the organization. To seek donations for the rest of the tour's expenses, she took to the fundraising site Crowdrise and she has already raised almost $15,000.
Her message is clear and succinct:
"I have this crazy notion that in this life I wanna be part of the solution. And when it comes to reproductive rights, throughout my life, I have had to turn to Planned Parenthood for many of my healthcare needs. They were the only affordable solution. And they were always there for me. My life could have been very different without them. I am grateful. Very grateful."
While her comedy has always been inherently political--and she's not backing down from her own personal affiliations--this tour is not aimed at those on the right or left. It's merely to raise awareness and support for an organization that has been an essential part of her life.
"This stems from my own personal experiences, yes, but also watching decades of depletion of resources to reproductive health care organizations from politicians and the media," she said. "It just seems OK these days to throw women under the bus. Like we're a bargaining chip."
Lizz grew up with very "GOP, super conservative" parents. Her mother was a housewife and her father sold carpet. And, while they often fought about the political issues of the day, they were always supportive of her and the way she wanted to live her life.
Even when people were calling her parents in the middle of the night at their home in Minnesota and screaming "baby-killer" into the phone -- something that actually happened ten years ago -- her parents defended Lizz's right to her own beliefs.
"When my parents got that phone call, I remember my dad said, 'Who is this?' and the person on the other end just kept screaming at him," she remembered. "And my dad said to him, 'At least my daughter puts her name to what she believes in. You're just a coward.'"
Her parents, she said, raised her to be a free thinker and to have her own opinions -- and that definitely comes with it's own set of side effects.
"The more I've spoken on this, the more outspoken and hateful people have gotten," she said. "I've had a tough summer -- my mom recently passed away, and a good friend of mine and his two kids were killed in a car accident. It's been tough."
When she chronicled her friend and his childrens' death on Twitter, somebody actually wrote back to her: "Just think of them as fetuses and it won't matter to you."
"I really have zero regard for that," Lizz said. "It's just awful."
Lizz expects that some of her tour stops will draw protests, but she's not worried. Her hope is to give a face to Planned Parenthood, and do what she can to shed light on an American insitution that, as she says, "has done so much good for so many people," despite dividing the country politically.
She wants to voice support for this movement as much as she can, while also delivering a great night out. "I think this show will be really funny, and make people feel motivated," she said. "Everyone knows someone who's been helped by Planned Parenthood - a daughter, a wife, a friend. Someone."
As of today, there are at least eight stops planned on the tour, though ever since Lizz announced her intentions, many other affiliates have expressed interest in hosting a show in the future. She anticipates drawing many of the friends and performers she's made along the way, and hopes to close out each show with a personal story about how Planned Parenthood has impacted her life.
"If this organization hadn't been in my life in certain phases," she said. "I wouldn't be where I am, or who I am, today."
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more