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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Speakeasy with Lizz Winstead

As co-creator of "The Daily Show," writer, visionary and political aficionado, Lizz Winstead, is responsible for one of the most iconic and relevant comedic voices of a generation. Now she is returning to the stage where it all started for her own politically-driven stand-up show, "A Lizz Winstead Experience." She will be in town at the Punchline for one night only on Sunday, April 17.

Congratulations on all the success, but did you ever have any idea "The Daily Show" would reach this level of popularity?
Thank you so much. You never know for sure what will resonate with people, but it’s sort of nice to know as a writer that your instinct works. You can put so much out there, and the only guarantee you have is that you're devoted to it. "The Daily Show" rose to trajectory because of the way the media was responding to issues, and I never thought we were going to have a media go so out of control. It's success doesn’t surprise me because the basis for it’s creation has gotten so crazy. The show works because it never forgets that humor is a very important tool when exposing hypocrasy. You have to be willing to call out any and every person that uses their power for evil.

Were you a comedienne or a politically active citizen first?
My initial plans were to always be a history professor, but I was always kind of a wise-ass... like that class cynic rather than the class clown. But my stand-up wasn’t always political, it wasn’t until the Gulf War started and I began paying attention to how I was getting the news. Once I questioned the media, I wanted to know where they were getting their information from. So, as I became more observant about the world, my comedy followed suit. We wanted the news itself to be a character when we created the Daily Show.

When craziness breaks out, do you think first as a concerned global citizen, or as a political comedy writer?
I think of it as both. I think of it as 'how can I make this funny?' and point out why it mattered. I don’t think any topic is off limits, it’s all about how you talk about a topic. And I usually don’t talk about things that I don’t know about. You also have to be in tune to the zeitgeist, and tap into what people are thinking and how they’re feeling.

How do you feel about the current state of the world?
I think things are bad. I used to be able to sit down and talk to conservatives, and we could sit down and debate and actually discuss their logic and have those conversations. Now it’s really polarized, and when people bring issues up, it can be racist and it’s creepier than ever. Right now is creepier than ever. The conversations about Egypt were really smart, because when people are given correct information they really do get smarter. But look at who we have running for the next election- Donald Trump, Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin on the GOP ticket. It’s embarassing. There aren’t a lot of people with knowledge actually controlling the dialogue. You very rarely hear two sides of an argument that are both presented in a fair and honest way.

Is your comedy show politically charged, or is the stage your one break away from politics?
It's a little bit of both, but it is mostly political. What’s fun about the show that I do is, I write up to the minute... If it happened that day I’ll talk about it that night. So I like to respond to what happens THAT day, and I like to do localised topics as well, so I’ve got a lot of information about Georgia. You never hear jokes about that stuff, it’s always such a broad national level, so it’s fun to make it personal.

If there was one thing you could change about politics, the country, or even the world, what would it be?
One of the things I always hold up as a flaw is that we over-analyze everything, and lose the base of hearts and minds. Literally, worldwide, if we just fed everybody, let people get full, and take a nap, they wouldn’t fight. Seriously, just fucking feed people! I know when my blood-sugar gets low, I turn into a raging bitch. Think about the human body and its make up and its most basic needs. I honestly think if we just fed everybody, the world would be a completely different place.

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