Comedian Lizz Winstead, co-creator of “The Daily Show” is with us, on the truth in humor.
Comedian Lizz Winstead grew up in Minnesota asking awkward questions about life and why things are the way things are. When the answers came back laughable and infuriating, she turned to humor. Humor, she says, to speak truth to power.
In her own stand-up comedy and political satire, and with some big names and megaphones. She was co-creator of The Daily Show. Worked early on with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Brought Rachel Maddow to the national stage.
This hour, On Point: Comedian Lizz Winstead on humor, political satire, and speaking truth to power – with a kick.
Lizz Winstead, writer, political satirist, and stand-up comedian. She is the co-creator and former head writer for Comedy Central's “The Daily Show.” She was also a founding member of Air America Radio, where she co-hosted the show “Unfiltered” with Chuck D and Rachel Maddow. Her new book is Lizz Free or Die: Essays.
From Tom's Reading List
Mother Jones "There will be information, but the hosts will feel free to be witty, and there will be a few 90-second comedy pieces each hour. So you come for the news and stay to hear the satirical response to it."
The Guardian "Our meeting was in the rectory study. Wood paneling, leather chairs, even more Jesus pictures than we had, as I recall. It looked like one of those libraries that rich old vampires had on Dark Shadows."
New York Post "The youngest of five kids in a Catholic family, she was inspired by George Carlin’s early routines about the church. She began performing stand-up, eventually hosting shows by, and befriending, the likes of Jay Leno and Roseanne."
Excerpted from LIZZ FREE OR DIE by Lizz Winstead by arrangement with Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc., Copyright © 2012 by Lizz Winstead.
This Is Not A Game
I am the youngest of five children, four girls and a boy, and was raised in a Catholic family in Minnesota. The sister who’s the closest in age to me is six years older, and the eldest is thirteen years older.
And that is just my immediate family. If I count just my mom’s side of our extended family, I am the twenty-sixth of twenty-seven grandkids. The age gap was even greater with my cousins: The older ones were having babies before I was born. Some of my cousins at¬tended my parents’ wedding. There were always babies around—sometimes there were so many, it seemed they came in bulk, like our family was the Costco of procreation.
As far back as I can remember, it seemed like every weekend my mom pulled the copper dessert mold off the kitchen wall, mixed up some lime Jell-O, shredded some carrots and threw in some pret¬zels, let it set in the refrigerator, then dragged this inedible blob and my sisters and me to another celebration of some relative’s new baby.
The parties were made up of about fifteen women and were a combination of my sisters, aunts, grandma, and cousins. They sat in a big circle on flimsy folding chairs, most of them trying to bal¬ance a baby or toddler of their own on their laps while simulta-neously gobbling up plates full of “the egg dish,” a bready/eggy casserole lathered in cream of mushroom soup. This was the food of choice at every family gathering that started before noon. Cream of mushroom soup, however, was the ingredient of choice for every recipe ever created in the 1960s and ’70s, no matter what time the gathering or what the main dish was. I like to think of it as America’s binder. And it’s a fitting metaphor for baby shower conversations: thick and bland.
I have never been into babies—I didn’t and still don’t have the mommy gene—yet these women talked of nothing else.
My mother insisted I sit with my cousins and aunts and “visited.” I knew that if I defied her I would be denied cake later—there was always cake—so I held up my end of the bargain, traveled from woman to woman, and stood with an awkward anonymity and lis¬tened as they talked endlessly to one another about all things infant. Having them, feeding them, changing them. And I really didn’t care how they were made or where they came from. Why would I? I was eight. That would be like my wanting to know where vegetables came from. (By the way, until I was nineteen, I thought the answer to that one was “a can.”)
And I never bought that stork story. If the stork brought them, surely I would have seen at least one flying around with a baby in its bill at some point in my life. The fact that grown-ups made up that lame story told me that however making babies really happened, it must be too gruesome for a child to be exposed to. Like those crea¬ture feature movies on channel 9, that played every Saturday at mid¬night. I just assumed babies hatched inside huge floral dresses, since every woman in my family seemed to wear one when they were pregnant. I imagined they grew in a way that was so gory and awful that it had to be hidden in a lump under a big Midwestern muumuu. I guess my conclusion came because after me, my mom was done having kids. When I was very small she had a “histo rectum tummy,” as I thought it was called, so I never saw her pregnant except in pic¬tures, wearing one of these floral dresses.
To be fair, these ladies occasionally changed the subject to hus¬bands, but that’s when they leaned in close to one another and lowered their voices, so I could only catch bits of those conversa¬tions. From what I gathered, husbands were always late, very forget¬ful about where they were, and slept on the couch a lot.
I gathered husbands got in trouble all the time.
I was glad I didn’t have one.
When the secret husband talk started, the women didn’t want me around anyway. “Why don’t you go play outside, Lizzy?” one would say as she patted me on the head. It was the out I was waiting for. I smiled obediently and raced to freedom, staking out a piece of grass to perfect my cartwheels for hours on end, until my mom angrily came and found me. “I told you to visit.”
“I tried, but they started whispering about Uncle Bud sleeping in the den again, and I—”
That was when Mom cut me off. She realized where the Uncle Bud conversation probably went, and if I kept talking I might ask for details about Uncle Bud, and that’s not something anybody wanted. So she created a necessary diversion, plopped me onto an uncom¬fortable dining room chair behind this hootenanny of hormones, and rewarded me with a piece of that delicious white sheet cake, the only thing that made these parties bearable for me. I think she fig¬ured if she gave me the biggest pink frosting rose, I would forget anything I had heard about Uncle Bud and his boozy love affair. Or was it a love affair with booze? I can’t quite remember. But that was okay—I had cake!
See how it worked? I already forgot.
This program aired on May 16, 2012.