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Arts & Culture

Lizz Winstead bites back

The political pundit and creator of The Daily Show discusses the feminist elite, slut-shaming, and the difference between essay and memoir



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“She’s not on to me! It’s crazy!”

Comedian, pundit, author and outspoken feminist Lizz Winstead is musing on her apparent relationship with wild-eyed Republican Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, with whom she has posted “selfies” on social media with alarming regularity. They share a home state (Minnesota), but they also share opposite sides of the political absurdity spectrum populating the evening news shows of late. “I’ve made lots of money making fun of her, and have been in the paper constantly, and I’m on TV making fun of her, and she doesn’t have a clue.”

A trailblazer in the relatively new world of political satire – Winstead is co-creator of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and co-founder of the now-defunct Air America radio network – Winstead documented her history in an essay collection, Lizz Free or Die, last year in hardback. Now that the obligatory paperback version is hitting the shelves (with added material), Winstead, it seems, has even more to say. And, no, she won’t shut up.

Orlando Weekly: It must have been hard to totally rewrite your book in paperback after having the luxury of trade cloth to leverage against the first time.
Lizz Winstead: Yes, you’re so right. Ding, ding, ding! OMG. You’re so honest. [Laughs] That is what one struggles with when one puts a paperback out. Have you ever tried to sign a check when it’s not on the table?

Seriously, was it easier for you to set out to write a “book of essays” rather than a memoir? Because honestly, Lizz, it’s a memoir.
It’s honestly sort of a memoir. But it’s only sort of a memoir, because I didn’t choose to focus in depth on one particular aspect of my life. … I decided to take a couple of different stories from certain parts of my life that had a specific purpose, for the most part, that just kind of showed something that got me going, propelled me, opened my eyes in some way, to get me there, to show me who the fuck I was and what I was doing.

Even when it’s not profoundly that, it’s more sort of cautionary tales of what happens when you take something on that you truly love, but you then have to learn how to do it, having already accepted the challenge. Which is kind of the way I seem to be living my life.

You also live your life as an outspoken woman. Where do you stand on Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, versus Anne-Marie Slaughter’s much-debated “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” – the new, nuanced feminism of the elite?
Feminism of the elite has always been the feminism that’s talked about the most. I haven’t read Sheryl Sandberg’s book, so I don’t want to totally comment on it, but I think that privilege with power and feminism with power is very different from feminism when you don’t have the power that she has. And I think when you are struggling, and feeling desperate for survival, tips like “Ask for what you really deserve!” aren’t really sometimes the tips that you need.

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