Lizzbian Power

Comic, pundit and progressive, Lizz Winstead talks about her politics, her Catholic roots and Michele Bachmann's Minnesotan congeniality

Interview by Will O'Bryan
Published on May 31, 2012, 5:55am | Comments

(Page 4 of 4)

MW: Beyond sexual orientation, gender identity is such an important issue. I want your take on Iran being the No. 2 country for number of gender-reassignment surgeries.

WINSTEAD: Is that right?

MW: According to BBC. With sexual segregation, it's like you've got to be clearly female or clearly male.

WINSTEAD: I guess I just don't understand why, in the most simplistic of ways, why anyone cares or wouldn't support somebody trying to really be fulfilled in their lives, in who they are as a person, whether they're trans or whatever that means. It just makes people happy and better members of society.

If I can have sex with a thing I put batteries in, why would people care if I picked a woman or a man or a thing with batteries? If you had to lay it out in the scheme of things, that is the weirder of the three things to me.

Let's just be honest; doesn't everyone just want to get laid? Movies, novels, art and literature and entertainment, it all revolves around it. Whether it's romantic prose or porn, whatever it is, how much of that indulges in finding a partner so that you can have sex?

That's where it gets incredibly warped and lost for me. Focusing on what other people are trying to do instead of focusing on [yourself]? Are you so miserable that you can't even identify with joy? It couldn't be that your life is so joyful that you must go out and make sure other people aren't. [Laughs.] I am so happy that I'm going to make sure you're not! I don't know…. It just feels like if you're so miserable, you just need to make sure other people are miserable too? You want to create that tension in the world? Go fuck yourself.

MW: How do you actually define yourself? Left wing? Liberal? Progressive?

WINSTEAD: I'm a Lizzbian.

MW: Meaning?

WINSTEAD: I sum myself up as a Wellstone Democrat. [Minnesota's late Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party U.S. Sen.] Paul Wellstone was a man I may have admired more than any other politician who ever lived. I'm from Minnesota, volunteered on his first campaign. I'm a progressive. I don't know where that falls in line with any part of the Democratic Party now. I don't know who I would even say shares my full ideals. Probably [Rep.] Donna Edwards (D-Md.). I love her. She's awesome.

MW: And Sen. Al Franken (DFL-Minn.)?

WINSTEAD: Al is pretty close, although he and I disagreed on SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), I think. But Al Franken is really carrying on in the Wellstone tradition in a way that makes me really, really happy. It's really kind of cool to actually be friends with him. He's in the Senate! People in Minnesota are really happy with him, too. They're really proud. He knew the challenges he faced, just being somebody who was always this brilliant mind but went into comedy. He knew that he needed to prove to people that he was a really interesting, serious person, and he did it in a really smart way. People love him in Minnesota. They're super-psyched about him.

MW: I've only passed through Minnesota, but it seems like there's a sort of political identity disorder. You've also got [Rep.] Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.).

WINSTEAD: Every state has Bachmann these days. You name me a state, and I'll tell ya who their Bachmann is. But Minnesota has always had an independent streak. There is a big, wide swath of rural communities and farmers and people who don't feel like either party connects with them. In Minnesota, the Independence Party is pretty strong. Jesse Ventura was governor; he was Independence Party. People like it in Minnesota when you buck up against the power structure. They really like it. I don't know if that's just cold winters, or what.

They also have politics that are pretty astounding. It's the kind of place where when you grow up and somebody has a couple hours free, they usually spend that time helping somebody do something. When you ask them why, they say, ''Well, because I can.'' I really love that. Those Garrison Keillor moments, he really captures that. That's real. There are lawn signs that say, ''I'll pay more taxes for a better Minnesota.'' They get it. And they see it. If you go there, the lakes are beautiful. There are hundreds of miles of bike trails within an urban environment. It's an astounding place to be from and the people are pretty incredible. Even Michele Bachmann, as volatile as her politics are, she's a nice person. Al will tell you, she's a very pleasant person. She's not mean to you. She's not brutal. She's very affable, as opposed to some other people who are scathing reprobates with the same voting record. I think she's completely wrong and unqualified to lead, but I don't think she's evil. I think she really believes she was called by God. I believe that if God has called Michele Bachmann, then her number must be one digit off from someone really interesting. Maybe Elizabeth Warren.

MW: Maybe Bachmann's right. Maybe there's some crazy hell waiting for those who don't believe what she believes.

WINSTEAD: I don't think so. All the candidates who said God called them to run – there were more than Michele Bachmann; there was Rick Perry and also Rick Santorum – they all lost to Mitt Romney, which leads me to believe that Mitt Romney's underwear may really be magical.

MW: In Minnesota politics, your brother, Republican mayor of Bloomington, opposes a state constitutional amendment banning marriage equality, right?

WINSTEAD: Yes, he's a no. He is a no vote. He's gone to house parties. He's gone on record saying no, no, no.

MW: Had you two spoken much about that?

WINSTEAD: Unbeknownst to me, when [Minnesotans United for All Families] had their first round of house parties, [campaign manager] Richard Carlbom was at a party that my brother was at. He didn't make the last name connection with my brother until they got to talking. Then he tweeted, ''Just met Mayor Winstead's brother at a Marriage for All Families house party.'' I was like, ''Right on, brother! I'm so happy you went out and were putting your face on that. That's awesome.'' It was sort of a fun way to find out. He's just somebody who thinks that people should be able to live their lives. He is that person. For him to just put it out there made me incredibly happy.

MW: Is that how you got involved with the house parties?

WINSTEAD: That's a really good question. I knew there was an amendment and I figured I would do something, but I just didn't know what. I was like, ''Let me know what I can do.'' Then Richard and I started talking. We did an event in New York with [Freedom to Marry founder and President] Evan Wolfson and a lovely woman from Minnesota who hosted kind of an expat event at her house to raise some money for Minnesotans back home. It was a whole bunch of Minnesotans living in New York.

And I was going to Minnesota for my book tour and for a Planned Parenthood fundraiser and it coincidentally dovetailed right into the massive house party. ''Somebody drag me around and we'll do as many as we can!'' It was really fun.

MW: What's next for your career? Do you have some bureaucratic Soviet-style five-year plan?

WINSTEAD: No clue. I've never had a plan. The reason I even started this whole crazy comedy racket was I just simply wanted to be heard on some level. It didn't even need to be profound. It could just literally be, ''Would somebody shut the fuck up so I can make a suggestion about a restaurant?'' I had no idea that it would lead to standup comedy, that my sort of observations of life would lead to something more political. I kind of feel, so far, going into my 51st year, if I stay as open as possible to everything that comes into my purview, something new and interesting comes my way just by virtue of me responding and participating in the greater world. So I'm just going to assume that's going to happen.

Right now, it's just talking about the book and doing my standup. Wherever that takes me is where I'll go. And it's fun. Maybe I'll do another TV show this year. Maybe I won't. Maybe I'll do a theater piece. Maybe I'll write another book. I don't know. But I'm excited to see where my passions will have me put my focus next.

Lizz Winstead appears Thursday, June 14, at 6:30 p.m., at the National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor. Tickets are $5 for nonmembers. Winstead has 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. shows Friday, June 15, and Saturday, June 16, at The Forum at Sydney Harman Hall, 610 F St. NW. Tickets are $20, available at Lizz Free or Die, $25.95, is available widely.

[Editor's note: In the initial posting of this interview, Rep. Ron Paul, a Republican, was erroneoulsy listed as a Democrat.

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