Lady Parts Justice League banded together to tackle reproductive rights through comedy and digital media. The group's often NSFW jokes aim to "laugh politicians out of office." Not all politicians, though—just the Pat McCrory kind. Lizz Winstead, the co-creator of The Daily Show and Air America radio, is leading an uproarious team of feminists—also including Helen Hong, Joyelle Johnson, and Buzz Off, Lucille—in a North Carolina mini-tour called You Should Smile More and Other Man-spirational Observations.
The Cat's Cradle stop on Thursday will take on one of the big villains in today's politics, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws. They require doctors to gain admitting privileges to hospitals, upgrade already suitable equipment, and create waiting periods for abortions. While these laws often pass as protections for women, they actually create superfluous barriers to reproductive rights and force women's health clinics to shut down. Winstead knows how powerful comedy is in exposing legislative failures and changing people's minds, which is what she hopes to do with this tour.
INDY: How did this show come about?
LIZZ WINSTEAD: Broadly, we were doing The Daily Show, Air America radio, and other network stuff. It was fun getting people riled up and getting them information about what was happening around them. But working in corporate environments, it wasn't my job to say, "Here's what you can do about it" or give a call to action. It was my job to be funny, tell stories, and expose people with humor.
So while that was fun, I always felt like I wanted to do more. I wrote a book, and during that time is when the Tea Party took over Congress in 2011. There were home foreclosures and an economy that was insane. Mike Pence, at that time, was in Congress. He proposed to defund Planned Parenthood, and the national parks, and public broadcasting. When I watched that fail, I wondered what was going to happen next. What happened next was dozens of legislatures around the country dropping model legislation that involved TRAP laws, turning your clinic into an ambulatory surgical center. Women had to wait a long time to get care.
I did fundraisers. I was pro-choice, but didn't really take an active role in making sure these clinics could continue on for generations to follow. So I got a bunch of comics together—writers, editors, and anyone that works in my field. I said we should make videos exposing all this creepiness. We need to take our talents, go on the road, and do comedy shows that bring a whole bunch of people together. Be funny, but explain to them the need. Then go out to help the clinics.
You could have worked on a lot of different projects. Why this one?
Because no one else is doing it. People will talk about the environment. They'll talk about fracking. They'll talk about the banking system. No one is bringing up the fact that it's fifty-one percent, if you just count women, of the population with uteruses that are being controlled. If you count trans men, it's even more. To have the government decide how you will be living your life, what kind of family you will have, and to be forcing that upon people is something that everyone should care about. If you care about human rights in any way, reproductive rights are human rights.
What's your mission in North Carolina?
I have watched North Carolina take this incredible turn, redistricting and gerrymandering and voter ID laws, and all this stuff just takes this incredible state and has the politicians turning it into something that does not reflect the people who live there at all. Part of the show is just to be like, we're here because we want to just give you guys some motivation, get you laughing, and understand that we are your allies and supporters. We just want to be there to energize you guys to keep fighting your fight.
Why is comedy a good platform for advancing this mission?
Exposing hypocrisy, in all forms, is oftentimes when comedy is at its richest. Through my work on The Daily Show and Air America, and my stand-up, I have watched people think about things in a different way when I present the hypocrisy and irony of somebody who's got really bad intentions with what they plan. When you present it with humor, you're not lecturing someone. You're making them laugh, and that means that on some level you have had a connection. Then you can get them to listen a little longer, think about changing their minds. It is really nice to gather people in an environment with other like-minded people and laugh at what you perceive as gigantic fuckery. It gives you a little bit more energy because you see you have people alongside of you who are also fighting the same fight.
What else should we know about the show?
If you need catharsis, this is going to be a fun place for you to come. It's fun to have a whole team of feminists who are doing some of the best comedy out there stand onstage and make you laugh for ninety minutes. Just disproving to all the assholes that say women aren't funny that, in fact, women are.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Clinical Attachment"