Happy birthday Lizz Winstead.
She’s best known as a political commentator and co-creator of The Daily Show, but she started in standup comedy and theater, and her book of personal essays Lizz Free or Die provides some hilarious and poignant insight into her background. She explains a lot about who she is and how she moved so far from the conservative Catholic family she was brought up in.
She discusses her decision to take up babysitting even though she didn’t really like babies, and how babies knew she didn’t like her and would “scowl” at her. “Every photo of me as a kid holding a baby looks like a poster promoting a heavyweight championship fight.” And her young obsession with a praying hands statue mounted on the wall—wondering whose hands they were and why they’d been amputated—cracks me up every time I reread it.
Winstead also takes more serious turns, such as when, almost completely ignorant about sex other than how to do it, she got pregnant and her first boyfriend left her to deal with it on her own. Then there’s, among other things, the time she put in paying her standup dues. Winstead started at a time when comedy was notoriously unfriendly to women comics and she faced plenty of unfriendly audiences, including once disastrously opening for Frankie Valli.
The book seems to cut off too soon—she briefly covers her time creating and working on The Daily Show, but ends there—but that’s okay. Yes, I would like more, but she does some pretty serious soul baring in her essays, and it would be unfair to expect anything more.