One wonders if comedian Lizz Winstead ever feels like Ice Cube, who once rapped, "I started this gangsta shit / And this the motherfuckin' thanks I get?" But in Winstead's case, replace "gangsta" with "fake news."
Nearly 20 years ago, the Minneapolis-born comedian co-created The Daily Show with executive producer Madeleine Smithberg. After serving as head writer for a year and a half (she left after original anchor Craig Kilborn made some unflattering, sexually explicit remarks about her in an Esquire article), she conceived of the news-satire formula that, under Jon Stewart and, more recently, Trevor Noah, has made the show a household name and paved the way for the likes of Stephen Colbert, John Oliver and Seth Meyers.
Winstead, who performs stand-up at Cat's Cradle this week, says she's always been too busy to fret about when she'll get props for basically coming up with the genre of anchor-desk mockery. Over the years, she has bounced from one high-profile project to another, from being a co-founder and an on-air personality at the now-defunct liberal talk station Air America Radio to serving as executive producer for Maury Povich and Connie Chung's short-lived MSNBC weekend show.
She continues to thrive on hot-button satire. As founder of the nonprofit organization Lady Parts Justice, Winstead has recently been mocking politicians hostile to reproductive rights by launching Hinder, an app that is (of course!) a parody of Tinder. She assembled writers and comedians to round up the guiltiest culprits and their most ridiculous quotes.
"There was so much material coming out of the States about these people who have zero idea how the human body works, and all this weird legislation, that I wanted to be able to combine my humor and my advocacy around reproductive rights," Winstead says.
With more than 30 years' experience, Winstead still finds time to do stand-up across the country, gathering instances of local officials behaving badly to give her a constant stream of fresh topical material. Expect her to go off on some Tar Heel villains when she comes here.
"I often say that North Carolina is the most unsung story in how America is going," she says. "I will not only be talking about the rogues gallery we all know on a national level, but I also have some fun material about North Carolina politics as a whole."
Winstead may have started this fake-news shit, but its longevity and contribution to American satire are thanks enough for her.
"The greatest gift I can get is when I watch The Daily Show and the format stays basically the same, to watch it carry on while different hosts put their spin on it, and I built the foundation," she says. "It makes me feel great about my instincts about what people want to see."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Break the news"