Lizz Winstead, Lady Parts Justice blend comedy and activism at Golden Probe Awards (Interview)

Lady Parts Justice League, founded by Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead, will unveil the second annual Golden Probe Awards this weekend from the historic Town Hall theater in New York City. The satirical award show seeks to raise awareness about legislators restricting women’s reproductive rights by nominating local politicians for tongue-in-cheek awards like Best Original Science or Best Adaptation of Reality. The event had all the trappings of a real award show: clip packages, celebrity presenters like Stormy Daniels and Sandra Bernhard, a red carpet, and a comedian host (the marvelous Margret Cho). The event is the group’s latest stunt to use comedy and digital media to sound the alarm on threats to women’s bodily autonomy. Earlier this year they hosted a State of the Union hate-watch party, providing ample cheezeballs for viewers to throw at the screen.

Laughspin’s Rosa Escandon spoke with LPJ’s founder Winstead about comedy, activism, and the Probes in the days leading up to the big show.

What inspired you to create Lady Parts Justice and this event?

So the thing is, I realized about five years ago a couple of touchstone things happened. I’m a pretty politically savvy person, and then I realized that I was not as aware as I needed to be about the power that state legislatures have and local politics have when it comes especially to reproductive rights. So five years ago was when Wendy Davis stood on the floor of the Texas State House and about 27 states enacted horrifying laws that between 2011 and now caused 200 clinics to close, I was like, wait: I’m pro-choice. I’m active on this issue. I know about Wendy Davis, but how come I don’t know about other states and my own state. And so when I started doing some digging, I realized I want to give people a really fun civics lesson about how much power states have and who are the people who are running for office in these states.

So with the Golden Probes, we have done all this extensive research on politicians who are running for state legislatures or governor and we find sound bites of them. We found out that a lot of them ran for office to get legislation passed that would destroy access to reproductive care in their state. So we have taken all these clips and created categories for 35 different people. And then we run the clips as though they are performances from movies. And so throughout the course of the night, people learn about all these people as they represent almost 30 different states in our country. And it really gets people motivated to know these people running in their state. And then we also will put on our website——a voter guide that shows you that people running against them who are really great.

Do you think an event like this is especially important now in the wake of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court?

This was not only happening before Kavanaugh, but it was happening before Trump. We formed our organization long before, so we didn’t panic about Trump. We had movement in place at that point because we saw what was going on. What’s important now, I think especially, is that the laws that get passed in the states, by these politicians, are the laws that are going to be challenged in federal courts and then up to the supreme court. Now that we have Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, he’s going to decide that these horrible [new] laws will trump Roe v. Wade. People need to know that getting people in place in your state government to not pass these laws in the first place is one of the big lines of defense we have against having to have our lives depend on a Supreme Court who’s going to agree with these complete lunatics who are running for office.

Do you think it’s important to meld comedy and politics?

I’ve always been a political person, but when I realized that the very act of just being a woman and taking the stage and saying, “Hey, I’m demanding you listen to what I have to say,” was a radical act for a lot of people that I wanted to say something with it. If you’re going to already be judging me because I did that, I might as well make it work. But, you know, [political] comedy is twofold. There’s the old adage that people say a lot, you know, you can catch more flies with honey. And I believe that’s true. When comics are good at doing political satire, it means that they are calling out hypocrisy wherever they see it. Not just calling a hypocrisy on the people who they don’t agree with. So if you’re constantly gauging who has power and who is using it stupidly or using it for evil, then you become a trusted narrator. If comics are good at it, they were a trusted narrator and then people will listen to you.

Secondly, sometimes if you just do a really cool, fun comedy show and you gather hundreds of people together to watch it, and then after the show or during the show you offer them up some really cool information, you get more people listening than just saying we’re going to have a potluck in my kitchen and we’re going to have somebody come and talk. You might get 12 people, right? But if you do a comedy show, that’s really fun! And then you add some calls to action and some activism, you can grow your movement and just get more ears to hear the story. And then you can activate them right there in the room. Give them a direct action right there. Have them sign a petition. Have them call them or email. Also, it’s just nice to gather and look around the room and see a whole bunch of people who think like you and say, wow, I’m not alone in this. Like, this is really cool. All these people are here. Can you imagine if all these people signed up to go lobby their congresspeople or to go talk to their state reps to say, this is my belief system and if you don’t vote on it the way that I would like, I’m gonna vote against you. You know, I think that’s really good. Good to just be with people who think like you so you can plan and strategize and get motivated.

You really encourage people to host their own watch parties for the webcast. Why was that an important piece of this night for you?

It’s not unlike an Oscar party that somebody would have. Why not get people together and watch it with friends? Have conversations about what you saw. The other thing that’s cool is the Lady Parts Justice website is a pull-down with scary facts about your state and there’s some information about how you can take action in your state. Watch with people you know and then join a national conversation with the hashtag as you’re watching it. There’s only so many people that can come to the live event. The show is going to give you a really good overview of what’s happening in state houses, who’s running to create the laws that affect your body, policing how you can vote, and who you can love. It’s important for you to know that. Being able to create this really fun two hours of a show that people can watch at home is better than sitting through a lecture.

What’s it like approaching celebrities to do a charity show like this?

A lot of these folks have worked with us before. Lady Parts Justice, itself, is an organization formed by comics and writers and editors and producers and people and activists—people who work in the entertainment field. A lot of people who are busy doing films or TV shows and they don’t have a lot of time to plan their own benefit, we are able to provide a space for them and say, “I know you’re a really busy person. Can you donate a finite amount of time? You’ll really make a difference.”

Lady Parts Justice will stream the Golden Probe Awards on October 28 at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Rosa Escandon

I am a stand up comic and writer living in Brooklyn, NY. When I'm not on stage, I am Comedy Editor for The Tusk, sit on the board of the Cinder Block Comedy Festival, and writing my next project. I am passionate about writing about feminism and comedy as well as how women, LBGTQ people, and minorities are changing the face of comedy and entertainment. You may have seen me on Buzzfeed Video, Seriously.TV, aplus, or maybe just on twitter.

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