Lizz Winstead is a prolific comedian. First off, she's the co-creator and former head writer of The Daily Show. She left months before Jon Stewart became the host (but not before discovering Stephen Colbert) and went on to co-found Air America Radio and hosted the show Unfiltered with Chuck D and Rachel Maddow. In May 2012, she published a book of biographical essays, Lizz Free or Die, that chronicle her life growing up in a Catholic family in Minnesota, getting an abortion at age 17, becoming a stand-up comedian, and moving to New York to revolutionize the way Americans see the news.
Winstead is coming to Portland, Oregon this Saturday to speak at NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon’s Annual Choice Gala. She took time to talk with me over the phone on Monday about her history, Twitter fights, and how comedians have become the watchdogs of media.
As long as there have been jokes, there have been people saying that women can't tell them.
It can be tempting to dismiss recent "women aren't funny" firestorms as yet another by-product of our internet era, where we are instantly alerted the second that anyone—from Adam Carolla to some yahoo with a Reddit account—makes an inflammatory statement about anything.
But the claim that women aren't funny isn't just new to our times. Here I've compiled a brief, totally incomplete history of people publicly peddling this line bull. Though the idea that women aren't funny hasn't changed much, public reactions to it have steadily changed.
Rachel Maddow is calmly comfortable with her intellect and her journalistic instincts, and she's not really going to apologize if her competence threatens a viewer. In terms of female talking heads, she is sui generis.