As late-night comedians ramp up their roles as political commentators in the age of President Donald Trump, CNN’s #GetPolitical series caught up with comedian Lizz Winstead — the co-creator and former head writer of “The Daily Show” — to talk politics, comedy and social activism.
Winstead, who backed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016, founded Lady Parts Justice League in 2012 — a non-profit organization that merges her passions for comedy and feminism.
“(Lady Parts Justice League) is a group of comics and musicians and writers and we make videos to try to shine a light on the hypocrisy around removing access to reproductive health care,” Winstead said.
This summer Winstead went on a comedy tour — “The Vagical Mystery Tour” — with a group of female comedians, visiting cities with strict birth control and abortion laws to raise awareness and educate women about their options and resources.
How do you assess the Trump presidency, so far?
Winstead: I kinda feel like it’s like if everyone let go of all the Macy’s balloons in the parade and they just started deflating and crashing into buildings — that’s like my larger scope of the Trump presidency. Um, but I feel like the unpredictability of it is what makes it so scary.
You have argued that Hillary Clinton faced sexism in 2016. How did sexism play out?
Winstead: I think a lot of people woke up from the election the day after in a crumpled pantsuit, with food in their bra, saying, what happened to me? What am I gonna do? … I think that when you look at how we even ignore the issues that face women — equal pay, reproductive rights and justice, gender justice — how it’s not centered is as much as a telling piece of sexism as the overt sexism.
What about first lady Melania Trump? She also experienced some sexist dialogue.
Winstead: I feel that every woman is a victim of sexism and I feel like you gotta call it out no matter what, no matter how you feel about them. if you’re not smart enough to call out people on their behavior and their policies and you immediately go to the looks well, it says more about you than it does about that person. I learn nothing from you if you make some crass comment about her modeling. Her advocacy is online bullying (laughs), there’s plenty of jokes, to be had at the expense of the Trump family as a whole. What the women look like? I don’t care.
Ivanka Trump has spoken out on women’s issues but was met with some criticism from the left. Why is her message not resonating with some?
Winstead: I think that her message comes from a super privileged space … Some people have jobs but they’re not in a career. Some people are working two jobs trying to raise their kids, some people are tradespeople, you know, so it’s like she doesn’t have a clue about how to talk about anything other than the life she lives. And if you’re not going to look at again, the full humanity of what women need in their daily lives, it’s not always these executive-level, lean-in type programs.
Has late-night comedy evolved over the years?
Winstead: I think so. I think now that you add the digital aspect and social media to how you satirized things, I mean, we have you know, the first troll-in-chief and that is like a new experience to look at how you you talk about politics. I think that with Sam Bee … the issues that affect women are centered, which is really cool. For the first time we’re actually looking at the political ramifications of walking the earth with a uterus, which is kind of astounding.
Late-night comedy often blurs the line between news and comedy. Does it have news value or is it fake news? Where is the line?
Winstead: I think the line is in the information. I mean, when I was at “The Daily Show” we, you could fact check our show and it would be correct. Is it all the news you need? No. But, is it accurate? Yeah.
When Tomi Lahren was on “The Daily Show” with Trevor Noah she described it as being in “the lion’s den.” Does late-night comedy alienate conservatives?
Winstead: I feel like if you are alienated by comedy, ask yourself, about your own personal assessment … ask yourself why you feel alienated. Are you willing to allow in all the information that surrounds you or are you desperately trying to cling to the set of facts you choose to believe even if they’ve been disproven as facts? And so, if late-night (comedy) alienates you, I would have to ask you, what is it about the truth that you feel alienated by?
Should comedians put in more effort to include more conservative guests?
Winstead: Well, I think conversation with people who don’t think like you is always a good idea. Conversation with people who are willfully promoting fake news and pseudo science is legitimizing a platform of things that aren’t true and I don’t think that is good at all.
If you could send President Trump a message or a tweet what would you say to him?
Winstead: If I could say anything to Donald Trump it would be talk to some women, I think you need to.