Lizz Winstead, the co-creator and original head writer of The Daily Show, is well known for her blunt political satire mainly centering around women’s health issues and calling out the media. In 2012 she co-founded a non-profit organization called Lady Parts Justice which raises awareness about women’s health and reproductive rights. In 2015 Winstead and her partners expanded it to a production company called Lady Parts Justice League that uses comedy, music and videos to raise awareness through multi-media platforms. If it wasn’t already clear, Lizz Winstead and Lady Parts Justice League are total bad asses.
This summer they will embark on an eight week, 16 city comedy tour titled Vagical Mystery Tour, a delightful name with an even more delightful pun. It will feature comedians such as Aparna Nancherla (Conan), Gina Yashere (The Daily Show), Helen Hong (Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me), Alonzo Bodden (winner of Last Comic Standing), Joyelle Johnson (Night Train with Wyatt Cenac), and more.
Each show on the tour will feature video sketches that will expose different abortion laws being passed around America. Winstead is confident each of these sketches will be “thought provoking.” The purpose of this is to give audiences an opportunity to see how you can use comedy to make a change in society. “I think the best part is after people have had a really good time, laughing and hearing about all that’s happening and all the fuckery, they get to sit down and hear from the people who are providing the care in their communities and from people who run volunteer programs and of course for abortion funds too,” Winstead says. “They will be able to hear firsthand from their community about how they can expand their own activism and be helpful to raise awareness about the clinics.”
When Lady Parts Justice League isn’t doing shows they are also volunteering at clinics in the area. Just recently, after a show in Dallas-Fort Worth, the League assisted in landscaping an abortion clinic so it could be surrounded by bushes that are, as Winstead puts it, “Double grown and can block protesters’ views.” They are not only passionate about bringing awareness to women’s reproductive rights but they are also passionate about supporting independent clinics and the providers that work there. “While we love Planned Parenthood and work with them a ton,” Winstead says, “we also want people to learn about independent providers because they provide about 70% of the abortions in our country and they are more community based. But people often don’t know them which means that people don’t know how to be a support system for those clinics.”
The eclectic group of artists that make up Lady Parts Justice League have a passion for and a need to use their art to raise awareness. To create these collaborations, the Lady Parts Justice League held various gatherings and salons at each other’s homes to meet performers interested in the cause. They shared ideas and discussed how their own individual vision worked with the mission of LPJ.
“We ask people to participate in varying ways that they can and that makes it really great,” Winstead says, “because then people can say ‘Oh good, I can commit the amount of time I have and feel rewarded.’”
Lady Parts Justice League’s mission grows out of one of Winstead’s deeply held convictions: that in this current political climate we need comedians more than ever to call out the bullshit.
“I think comics who are social critics have always been the class clown and the teacher all at the same time,” she says. “Even before this administration, people have been using satire and comedy to expose hypocrisy. It’s an American tradition. Humor is the sugar in the medicine. For me, if I’m most inspired in my belly by what’s happening in the world around me, I want to use humor to alleviate that. It’s not for everybody but I think if you are going to say something you should make jokes that are not just ‘Trump is orange’”.
Lady Parts Justice League performs all over the country and sometimes in conservative cities with stricter laws on abortion. This alone is an act of bravery. Winstead speaks honestly about how the attendance has been for these kind of shows. “Sometimes the conservatives come and protest outside but we really don’t get a lot of conservatives wanting to spend the money. They’ll just, like, shout from the cheap seats. Sometimes those cheap seats are outside of the building and across the street. Apparently, Twitter is actually the platform where brave conservative LPJ haters decide to come forward and voice their opinions. They offer very thought provoking tweets like, ‘Why should I have to pay for your birth control?’” Winstead mocks. “They think they are gonna play some ‘gotcha game,’ with like ‘how many abortions have you had?’ and I’m like I don’t know, I don’t save receipts. They are completely taken aback when you respond to their hostility with the value it deserves.”
Lizz Winstead lives her life by the philosophy that if you can make somebody laugh it proves that they don’t hate you. “It’s either you do or you don’t and I think that bringing someone joy is a very disarming thing for people who don’t expect it.”
There is something very Jedi like about Winstead’s ability to connect with an audience. She is unapologetic but at the same time completely empathetic. She plays a Jedi mind trick to make you believe she’s on your side at all times even in the middle of a diss.
When told that it sounds like she’s leading a comedy rebellion, Winstead takes a moment before responding, eventually exclaiming, “Oh, I like that! I like that concept! Leading the comedy rebellion, let’s do this!” She pauses. “I’m gonna need better shoes. Rebellion leading shoes.”
We are living in a time where the phrase “take action” is used more often than none. We are scared and uninformed. Instead of reading news articles we will first read Facebook to get our information. We get trapped in the whirlpool of fake news and clickbait and don’t even know how we arrived there in the first place. Protests are held almost every single day and we feel compelled to make a change but in most cases don’t know how. If we listen closely enough, Winstead and LPJ are teaching us how. “Look at the landscape of the thing that brings you passion, and figure out where you can be helpful,” she says. “For people who say, I don’t know what to do, it’s a pretty easy way to say ‘I’m too lazy to dig a little deeper to find out what I can do.’”
Vagical Mystery Tour starts on June 2th in Atlanta.
Becca Beberaggi is a NYC based freelance writer and comedian who has written for online publications like Elite Daily and XOJane. She is an active napper. You can follow her on twitter at @beberagg.