Lizz Winstead's career has taken several simultaneous paths: stand-up comedian, television and radio producer, social critic, political activist. Her latest role is that of author, having recently penned her first book, Lizz Free Or Die, a series of autobiographical essays about discovering her creative voice. The co-creator and former headwriter of The Daily Show, Winstead is no stranger to using comedy to shift the national conversation.
HP: What was your proudest moment working at The Daily Show?
LW: It’s not really a moment as much as it was learning that my instincts about talent and material and writing were pretty good. I also think that creating an environment that was fun, engaging and one that got people into a “Best idea wins” rather than, “my idea wins” head, I hope allowed all involved to feel a vested interest in the show. I love working as a team and continue to do so whenever I can.
HP: You say in the intro of your book that you hate the word appropriate. Why?
LW: The reason I have such a problem with that word is that is has come to mean something other than oh say, don’t burp at the dinner table, or don’t leave the toilet seat up after you have flushed the last of your victims down it. Now appropriate seems to mean live your life in a way that is comfortable for those in power and make no attempts to dethrone them. Women wanting access to birth control is an affront to those who live by some arcane moral imperative that sex is only for procreation; gay folks who want to get married, somehow threaten the marriage of two straight people who live nowhere near them. Instead of saying, “Cool, you know what you need, I hope you find it,” it’s demonized as inappropriate.
HP: Why are politicians so ripe for satire?
LW: Politicians are always my favorite target because they ask us to choose them to make decisions for us based on a set of promises they make. It’s a unique position of power and when you have been granted with it, you are asking to be scrutinized. If you use that power in a hypocritical or corrupt way, I derive great pleasure in pointing it out.
HP: You’re a staunch advocate of Planned Parenthood. Is political activism a necessary outgrowth of being a social critic?
LW: I see it as an outgrowth for me. Knowing that I was able to make a choice about how my life was going to go down thanks to the availability of family planning, led me to want to give back and hopefully inspire other women to say to themselves, “I was able to control how and when I wanted children thanks to Planned Parenthood and other women’s health clinics. I want to stand with them and say thanks.” I hope people understand that by vocalizing their support for these places and saying, “I am a healthy sexual women and proud of it,” that it makes those who are desperately trying to tamp that down look like the cave dwellers they are.
HP: Would you ever consider running for political office?
LW: Lord no. I am a reactor and a questioner. I like my role as bullshit caller.
HP: Why do you think comedy is such an important way of interacting with the world?
LW: I have found that if you can make people laugh, they cannot deny, even if it is for that moment, that they had a bond with you. It is a crack in the armor. I also feel that if people can laugh, it means that they have not given up hope. If I choose my targets wisely, and sometimes I do not, I can get someone to laugh with me at at least one thing. I like making people feel like they have a pal in the fight, and since I can’t cook for everyone, I try to make them laugh.
This interview originally appeared in our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, in the iTunes App store.