“It might sound crazy, but I don’t have any other skills! That is what I do for a living,” says Lizz Winstead, political standup satirist. Winstead will make her third appearance on the stage of The Grey Eagle Thursday, Nov. 19, a stop on her Bang the Dumb Slowly tour.
“For me, the truth is as important as the humor,” says the Minnesota native. Her approach can be described as what her state’s U.S. Senator, Al Franken, calls “kidding on the square,” the concept of joking but really meaning it. Winstead’s humor targets political absurdity and hypocrisy. It’s the same approach she brought to her Air America morning radio show (with co-host Rachel Maddow) and to the concept she co-developed for “The Daily Show.”
Winstead doesn’t have a canned show: “I write up to the minute,” she says. “I’ll do some evergreen political stuff, but mostly my act will consist of [things] that have happened over the past three months. And I always leave space for day-of breaking news.” She points out that the North Carolina political landscape — populated by figures such as Thom Tills and political fixer Art Pope — provides her with plenty of material. “North Carolina — I say this over and over again — is the most important state where nobody knows what’s happening. It’s a microcosm, between your choice laws, your immigration laws, your voter suppression laws, your unemployment legislation.” But Winstead’s approach is nonpartisan. She takes aim on both sides of the aisle.
Winstead believes that taking sides makes for a poor and ineffective satirist. “If you believe in your philosophy, then you want to be sure that you keep accountable the people who are supposedly representing that philosophy,” she says. “That’s one of the great jobs of a satirist.” As a result, her comedy can make people on all points of the political spectrum a bit uncomfortable. “I know I’ve done something right when I see in my Twitter feed things like, ‘You’re in bed with Hillary!’ and ‘You’re a socialist who [expletive] Bernie!’ I think, okay, good. I’m winning. Which one am I? I can’t really be both of them. And I don’t really want to sleep with either of ’em!”
Winstead recently debuted a new mobile app called Hinder — the name is a riff on the dating app Tinder — a utility that provides commentary on men in positions of political power who actively oppose women’s reproductive rights. The app, created through Winstead’s nonprofit organization Lady Parts Justice, combines her skills at parody, satire and comedy with political advocacy, and the comic is up front about combining those efforts. “I’m not even pretending I’m not doing that,” she says. Hinder targets an audience for an existing framework (mobile dating apps), one that millennials and young people already use. “How people — especially young people — prioritize what they’re going to care about is directly related to the added value that it brings them,” she says. “So if we can bring information and some activism into a space that already feels like a social space to them, maybe we can lure them into, y’know, giving a shit a little bit more.