I first heard of Lizz Winstead when she joined forces with Al Franken on Air America, a radio station harder to find than the Fountain of Youth. Those were the days Franken was duking it out with Bill O'Reilly and writing books with titles like RUSH LIMBAUGH IS A BIG FAT IDIOT, so I would have listened if I could've found it.
Then I heard she was the co-creator of "The Daily Show". Yes, that's the Jon Stewart "Daily Show." I've never actually seen Lizz Winstead on television, which is strange since I watch her protégé Rachel Maddow from time to time.
Anyway, LIZZ FREE OR DIE is a book of essays, held together by her progressive personality. We Minnesotans get a good look at the music scene as it first began to explode as Lizz and her friends go dancing at The First Edition frequented by Prince and Soul Asylum. It was there a friend recommended that she try stand-up comedy. This was when Minneapolis was one of the havens for new comedians, led by Scott Hansen and including Louie Anderson. Even Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold get a mention. Lizz eventually gets a job as the MC at First Edition.
There are times when the book skips over some possibly absorbing information. Lizz's hockey boyfriend gets her pregnant and she sees a sign offering help to wayward girls. The place sounded like the Texas House of Representatives; they put heavy pressure on her to have the baby, but Lizz never mentions the name of the place. It sounds a whole lot like Birthright. Considering the hammering Planned Parenthood is taking lately, one would think she would have jumped at the chance. Then the essay just stops; we can guess that she had an abortion but she never says where, tells us how she felt about it or anything. She just leaves it out. She also doesn't say anything about her relationship with Al Franken, something I was kind of looking forward to.
She does this again when she spends two years as the producer of "The Daily Show." After two years she just leaves. There's no explanation whatsoever as to why she left. Two months later Jon Stewart takes over the show.
Perhaps the best essay in my mind was the one about the death of her father. He literally died laughing. That's the way I want to go if I can't die in my sleep. The family spends his dying days talking about all the goofy stunts the guy pulled like buying a quarter of beef off the back of some guys truck for forty dollars. He and Lizz's mother were also stars on "The Daily Show". Maybe that's where David Letterman got the idea to feature his mother. They were also dyed-in-the-wool conservative Catholics; I could relate to that as well.
The Air America sequence is also rather interesting. It was the only Liberal radio response, outside of Garrison Keillor, to Limbaugh and the other conservative haters, and that's where Lizz discovered Rachel Maddow who was her partner during her three hour segment. They even interviewed Tim LaHaye, author of the LEFT BEHIND series and contributor to dozens of conservative "think" tanks. LaHaye could not stop talking about the coming Rapture, and Maddow who is usually nice to everybody said, "Can I have your stuff?" Talk about precognition; that's exactly what happened to Harold Camping and his followers.
Lizz would have been better served to find a co-author. It's not that she can't write, she did it for a living after all, but she too often sounds like she's bragging, and that's just not likable, no matter who you are.