Laughter is the Best Medicine

Molly Ivins Memorial Plenary: Laughing Matters: How to Use Humor to Activate and Educate (4800)

– Hi, good afternoon, everyone. For those of you that
don’t know, this is the Molly Ivins Memorial
Plenary, Laughing Matters: How to Use Humor to Activate and Educate, this panel number 4800,
it is Thursday, April 13th at four pm here in Macky Auditorium, and as Betsy said, my
name is Ron Bostwick, and I’m the moderator for this session. Just a couple of business
items before we get going, if you would please, turn
off your cell phones, and any other noisemakers
that you may have, I don’t know what other
noisemakers you could have besides cell phones, anybody coming here with you know, pop things
with, probably not. Just a reminder that audio
and video recording and still photography is not
allowed here in Macky. We have enough chairs, so
probably nobody’s gonna be sitting in the aisles or
blocking any doors today. Our guest and I are gonna talk for a bit, and then we’ll look to you
guys for questions that you have for Liz. We encourage you to use
the new Conference on World Affairs app on your
smartphone, if you have it, you’ll be able to submit
questions that way. If you don’t have your phone with you, or if you want to write
down your question, you’re welcome to do so,
we do have note cards, and Margaret, our producer is here, you can just raise your hand,
she’ll give you a note card to fill out and take it back from you later to bring up to me. We will not be using
microphones in the house, so if you do want to ask a question, the app, or a note card
is the way to do it. And do please remember that
students and their questions do get preference, so if
you’re a student filling out a card or submitting via the app, just note that you’re a
CU student and let us know that you are if you would. Well Molly Ivins was a
longtime participant of the Conference on World
Affairs and she said it offered, “Whole new ways
of looking at old questions and information that can
transform the way that you look at things.” My hope is that after
today you’ll have a new way to laugh and be moved
to action, hopefully. Although the seeds of
who Liz was to become were planted many years ago,
back then she had no idea where it would take her,
to where she is today. Then in 1991, she was about
to find her new comedy voice from a frustration that came from the not-yet-teenage cable television. When you say your prayers
tonight, you can be thankful for Liz for three things
she’s done to advance comedy and activism one, she
co-created The Daily Show, (audience cheers loudly) two, she helped start Air America Radio, (audience applause) and three, she introduced
Tom Arnold to Roseanne Barr. (audience laughs) We still like her. (audience laughs) So with the title, Laughing
Matters: How to use Humor to Activate and
Educate, it’s an honor for me to introduce the
subject of this year’s Molly Ivins Memorial
Plenary, comedienne, writer, producer, and troublemaker, Liz Winstead. (audience cheers loudly) (audience applause) – [Liz] Hi, hi. – Take this one. Hey Liz, take this one. – Oh, okay. Do you have a good side? – Is that your good side,
are you okay with over there? – I don’t have a good
side, I just have a mouth. (audience laughs) – Close enough. This is your first conference. – It is. – You having a good time,
people treating you well? – Yeah, it’s been really good. I feel like there’s a
lot of really concerned white people, I feel
really good about that. (audience laughs) – Good on ya. (claps) – I want you to talk about
how, I mentioned here in your intro, how the Gulf
War in 1991 sort of led to– – Oh, shit, we’re opening with this? – No, I’m gonna open with
that, ’cause it sort of is the start, from what I know about you, it’s the start of how you
really became more active in activism, adding a certain
activism into your routine, your comedy routine, and how
that led to The Daily Show and you sitting here. – Okay, so. – Am I wrong? – No, no, it’s great, it’s
just we’re kicking off with like a whole dirty, I’m gonna swear, and talk about sex, is that all right? (audience reacts in unison) Okay, okay, so I was a
person who was part of the feminist club in college, and
when I started doing comedy, my comedy, didn’t really
reflect my politics. You know, I would do
activist-y things, I would talk about things that affected
women, but I didn’t talk about politics, really. And so I moved to New York
from Los Angeles in 1991 and I was home one night, and
a friend of mine called me and said, “Hey, I met a
guy that I really wanna set you up with, I think this is good,” and I was like, those
things are never good. For those of you that
don’t remember, there was a thing called blind dates,
where people who don’t like you very much wanna
set you up with somebody that you wouldn’t have
fun having sex with. (audience laughs) So I was like, “Okay,
okay, have him call me, I’m new to New York, this seems fine,” so he call me, and he’s
like, “So, you know, Nan thinks we’ll have
some things in common,” I’m like, okay. So I said, “One of the
things I really wanna do is, La Dolce Vita is playing at
the Film Forum,” which is this single screen second
run house in Manhattan, and he goes, “Oh, isn’t
that in black and white?” (audience laughs) But, I’m from Minnesota,
so I said I was gonna go on a date, so I’m going,
’cause I keep my word when I say I’m gonna. (audience laughs) So I meet the guy in front of the theater, and he shows up, and he’s
wearing a Yankees hat and a Yankees satin jacket. – [Woman in Audience] Wow. – And I have a theory, my theory is, when a guy shows up wearing
more than two pieces of sports clothing, they
probably won’t go down on you. (audience laughs) So, already this date
is just like, seriously. The story is going someplace, trust me. (audience laughs) So, I have bad thoughts,
I’m from Minnesota, I hate myself for having bad thoughts, we go into the movie theater,
I realize that I do not wanna be part of this
evening for very long, so I get the biggest bucket of
popcorn I can, for my dinner, with all that crazy Monsanto
yellow joy that you put on top of it. And I’m eating the popcorn
and watching the movie, and this guy keeps falling
asleep and rubbing, like, he keeps doing this, and
then his satin jacket is rubbing against me,
and I’m like, just annoyed for every reason, I
can’t focus on the movie, and there’s him, and there’s the jacket, and I was like, ugh,
and so I involuntarily, or voluntarily for a minute, then again, was mad at myself, I took my greasy hand, and I woke him up on his jacket. (audience laughs) And then I instantly
felt awful that I wrecked his jacket, so then I
prolonged the date by, “Why don’t we go have a
drink after, I’m so sorry,” and I’m like, why do I keep (squeaks). So he goes, “I know a sports bar down”, of course you do. (audience laughs) So we go the bar that he
frequents to watch something on one of his hats or shirts or something, but there wasn’t sports on that night, it was the night of the first Gulf War. And it was the night that
America watched a war unfold in our living
rooms, and in our bars, and it was a night that we sat at the bar, and I watched the TV, and
at that point CNN was the only cable news network,
and CNN had changed. And CNN had graphics and a theme song, and the people who were
normally giving the news were gone, replaced with sort
of like, attractive young people on roofs with green
lights, and it all felt like a spectacle. And as I took it all in, I
wasn’t trying to be smart or anything, I just thought to myself, are they reporting on a war,
or trying to sell me a war? And like, a couple of seconds later, my date goes, “You know,
this is really awesome.” And I was like, this is what this means, this is the world we’re
in, with 24 hour news, and it’s like, I don’t
really believe in epiphanies or whatever, but I did have
an epiphany that night, that if I notice this
weird profound thing that was happening, and that was
giving people information about basically, creating
a situation where we would buy into bombing people because
we wanted to imperialists, I just wanted to expose
that, any way I knew how. So I stopped writing jokes about, male great Danes should have
to wear underwear in public, that was a joke I told, (audience laughs) and then started like,
getting more news, and getting more information, and really feeling like I was gonna switch up what it
meant to tell those stories, and that really was the first incarnation where I knew that the
media was as much of a culpable factor in all of
the shit that was happening, as the politicians that were
involved in what was happening. And so I did one-woman
shows, and about three or four years later, I was working on, Jon Stewart had a syndicated
talk show that was just a pop culture talk show, and
I was a producer on that, and when that show got
canceled, he was swooped off, and my bosses got moved
over to Comedy Central, and they said, “We wanna
do a show that responds to the world, do you wanna do it?” And I was like, “I’ve never
done a show, but sure, why not, it’s like my
dream,” and it was that day that I was actually allowed
to create a television show with very little experience,
and then be the head writer, and then they gave us
a year to put the show on the air, to get the bugs
out, that’s never heard of, now. So we were able to just
watch, learn, grow, and follow the course of the news, and then satirize what that was. And so oftentimes when people will say, “Are you surprised at the
success of The Daily Show,” and I will say, “I’m more
surprised at how horrible our actual media became,”
because those two things had to go hand-in-hand. For The Daily Show to
succeed, the mainstream cable media had to become just a shitshow, and it did, and it was like, we were just the umbrellas, like boo, that
was a long story, I’m sorry. (audience laughs) No, you don’t have to clap, don’t clap. (audience applause) For people who might be
looking to make that change, that leap into being more active, you’re somebody who grew up in Minnesota, you talk about that
phrase, “Minnesota nice”. – Yeah, that’s not a thing. – Yeah, we’re all nice. – Yeah, we’re all nice, until we’re super passive-aggressive. (audience laughs) – Got real. – I can’t tell you, I
mean, here’s one of my favorite Minnesota
stories, so my parents were really conservative, my mom
was like, almost entirely Swedish, and do you guys
remember, I say you guys, I’m sorry, it’s like a Minnesota thing, do you remember about five years ago, when they found a Nazi in Minnesota? So they find a Nazi in
Minnesota, like hiding out. So the Nazi lived on my
aunt’s block, so the Nazi, I mean, my aunt calls my mom, she goes, “That Nazi lived down the street from me.” My mom was like, “No,” she’s like, “Yeah, and I gotta tell you, when his sister-in-law died,
I brought over a hot dish, and I never got the pan back.” (audience laughs) Then says, “I should have known then.” (audience laughs) That is like classic
Minnesota, you know what, you don’t return that hot dish pan. My mom has a lot of dead
food in the freezer. Did you guys have this
growing up, like you would prepare for people do to
die, so there was literally single-dish food in our
freezer, just stacked, and we weren’t allowed to eat it, it was for when somebody
died, you would have something prepared to bring to their house. (audience laughs) And if in their grief,
they didn’t think to return the pan back, well then,
all hell broke loose. (audience laughs) Crazy. – For those people that
may wanna make that leap, into being more active,
if they feel more nice. (audience laughs) – Hot dish. – You know, what type of
transition did you have to go through, to become
that person, that was not just talking about activism,
talking about politics in your routine, but putting it on a national television show,
which is a bigger stage. – Right, well I think
what was really cool was, when the network approached,
Madeleine Smithberg is the other co-creator, and
she had TV experience, and I just had like a
lot of experience being politically active, and I
worked for a brief time, on a TV show. The one I said to them
was, “It’s really important for me that the media
has a character in this, and so that to me was really important, and they were like, “Yeah, okay.” but there was a battle,
because they really wanted the show to be
pop culture, sort of like an Entertainment Tonight
satire, and I was like, “That doesn’t make any
sense to me,” because you also tell me you wanna
have celebrities in the guest segment, and so if you’re gonna do a show that shits on
celebrities, you’re not gonna get celebrities, why
not do a show that shits on people who are like,
profoundly doing damage to our democracy, and
then have celebrities on as the like, palate cleanser? That makes more sense. (audience laughs) I was literally got Union
Carbide jokes on the air you guys, I was really proud of myself. So in the course of it, it
was butting heads a lot, and it was trying to find
its way, but I think the frustration for me always
was, when you work in corporate media, the call to action piece, they don’t want that, and it’s
also not that role, right? They’re there to entertain
people, and if you can get a message in, you’re
kind of sneaking it in, even on a show that purports
to be kind of like a messengery-ish kind of a show. And so after awhile,
it became kind of hard, and I often say that I
felt like an anger fluffer, like get people riled
up, and they’d be like, “What are we doing?” I’d be like, “I don’t
know, gotta go do another show tomorrow, figure it out.” And so that was really frustrating for me, and so in the course of
my journey to where I am now, it was like, I
love that this show exists, I love that there’s information
that is giving people elevating things, I
think it’s hilarious that The Daily Show, when we would
call ourselves “fake news”, and now there’s actual
fake news, and the comedy show has more facts, it’s like. So I was trying to find
the space where you could pull all those pieces together. So you could bring
people in with the humor and the fun, give them a
message within the fun, and then when they’re ready
to go, you have a plan in place and so after I left there, I did some other shows
and off-Broadway stuff, and then I launched Air America Radio. And which I thought was
going to be kind of a place where I might be able to
do that, but it was still a for-profit radio station,
and I’ll never forget walking into the office
of one of our funders, who was also my boss,
’cause he was a funder. I mean, it was kind of like
a crazy thing over there, and he said, “We’re trying
to get John Kerry elected, here,” and I said, “I’m trying
to get to the truth, here,” and so hopefully that means
John Kerry will get elected, but I expose hypocrisy
for a living, that is why I’m here, that was why I was hired. And if that doesn’t make you
happy, I shouldn’t be here,” and so cut to a year and a half later, I was on the air, and I was interviewing, oh God, what’s his name? He’s the guy that wrote all
those left behind books. What’s his name? (audience murmurs) Yes, LaHaye, and his wife is
part of that Concerned Women, they’re not that fucking
concerned, let me be honest. (audience laughs) Yes, so he’s a bazillionaire,
writing these books. So he’s talking about the
Rapture, and he’s talking about there’s this strain
of Christianity that believes that in whatever
you’re given is who you’re, if you’re poor, you’re
supposed to be poor, and that’s just the way it
works, and no amount of anything is gonna take you out of that lot, that is your lot that God gave you. So Rachel Maddow was my
co-host in this radio show, and she said, “So I’m gay,
lets say I buy your thing, and I’m no longer gay, do
I still then go to hell?” He goes, “Yeah, you still go
to hell, ’cause you’re gay, you were destined for hell.” And she goes, “Okay, then
when the Rapture comes, can I have your stuff?” (audience laughs) And we walked out of the
radio and we were laughing, and I go into my office,
and the boss is there, and he’s like, “We’re letting you go,” and I said, “Because of that?” And he said, “No, we were
having internal changes, and we have a new CEO. And the new CEO doesn’t believe that humor plays a role in change.” (crowd groans) So they got rid of me,
they got rid of Mark Marin, they got rid of the whole
comedy writing staff, they relegated Rachel Maddow
to 5:30 in the morning, and they replace our
show with Jerry Springer. (audience reacts in shock) You know, there’s some shit
in your life where you go, for sure, one thing that
that’s never gonna happen to me in my career is that
Jerry Springer is gonna take my job. (audience laughs) Like that was the most
absurd thing that happened until Trump, really. (audience laughs) It’s like, (laughs) nuts. – Did you know that Air
America, did you have this idea that Air America was going to be, did you have long-term plans
for it, or was it something, because you know, it
sort of came to you and, you thought, well, I’ve
never done this before. – Well, it came to me in
the most hilarious of ways, so after I left The Daily
Show, one of the reasons I left was because I
really wanted to make more shows like that, in places
that might be a little bit more open to getting back to that point of a call to action, right? So I left, and then 9/11
happened, and media was like, there was no taking on the
government, there was no nothing, don’t even try. People were apologizing for
their humor, and I wrote a scathing op-ed that took
on many of my brethren in comedy and in late light,
who, I don’t know if you remember after 9/11, but
a lot of people were like, giving these testimonials,
apologizing for their humor, and apologizing for all
this shit, and saying, “I was sitting in the back of
the room shooting spitballs,” and it’s like, well why the
fuck were you doing that? So I wrote an article that
said, “If you’re ashamed of your comedy on September
13th, you should have been ashamed of your
comedy on September 10th, ’cause if you weren’t trying
to make a difference and you knew you were taking
money, and you were like, shaming women and being
sexist and being racist and being homophobic,
and you did that anyways, because it was just fun
and that was a joke? That’s on you, that’s not on patriotism, that’s not on America, and if by the way, if our country gets attacked,
and bullshit happens, and our government’s being
bullshit, it’s part of your job to call that out, not to cower. (audience applause) So it was just nuts, so I
had moved to LA to try to do sort of a Today Show
satire that was sort of a cross between Colbert and The Today Show, and we did a couple of
episodes of that, and they were like, “this is way too edgy,”
it was like, all right. And so I just came back
from doing the worst gig I ever did, I had to pay
my bills, so I was doing this gig where I literally
produced an MTV Spring Break show, where it was like,
I think I literally got a passport, and gave them
my soul as collateral to be in this. (audience laughs) And I got back, and I was panicking. I was literally like, “I
don’t know what to do,” and I get a call from this man
who says, “Hey, my name is John Sinton and I’m calling
’cause I wanna launch a new radio network, and Al
Franken gave me your number, ’cause he wanted to get a
Liz Winstead-type to run it.” (audience laughs) I was like, “Is there
a Liz Winstead type?” And it sounds like that
type is sort of awful, ’cause you don’t want
the actual Liz Winstead, (audience laughs) you’re looking for someone like me. So I was like, “Well, what
about me, ’cause I’d really like to do a political
talk show in the wake of this crazy thing,” and he was like, “Oh, would you want,” ’cause
I think they just thought I didn’t wanna leave TV. And I was like, “I will
leaven anything, I will leave LA, just get me back to New York, please get me doing something
that I can be proud of, and that I can try to make a difference,” so that’s how I ended up there, yeah, and then I left with Jerry Springer, so everybody’s really awesome. You know, speaking of
call to action, I’m gonna ask another question
and then start to take audience questions from
you guys, so again, you can use that that
app to submit questions, I’m gonna be checking your
questions on my phone, and if you wanna write a
question, just raise your hand and Margaret, if you’re
around, we’ll come around with a note card to write down. But I wanna get to
something that you’re doing now, which is the, I love the name, Ladyparts Justice League. (audience laughs) – Yes, that’s what I’m doing now. – Because it’s very,
it totally fits in with what we’re on stage about,
and I’d like to just have you sort of talk about,
what it is, how you got into it, and what you’re
looking for it to do. And we have a video, if you want. – Sure, okay, so I won’t
call for the video yet, ’cause the video won’t be
incongruous, until just for a second. So how many of you came
to this panel because maybe you wanted to hear a
little bit about politics, and humor and the daily show and all that? Well there wouldn’t be
a politics or humor or Daily Show is there wasn’t
legal access to abortion for me. (audience applause) And so in the course of
me fighting the fight, as you all know, in this
crazy world we live in, the biggest advice I give to everyone is, what is the thing that
gets you up every day and gives you passion,
fight for that thing, become an expert at it,
rally people around it, your joy and your
passion around that issue is gonna really be
intoxicating for other people. So for me, I was 16, I got
pregnant the first time I ever had sex. – [Woman in Audience] Oh! – I know, I was catholic,
and I was literally like, you know, you make deals with yourself. You’re like, well, if
I use birth control and have sex, that’s two
sins, so if I don’t use birth control, it’s one, I am in. (audience laughs) So shit happens, right? I was with a horribly-abusive
Minnesota hockey player who had all the compassion of
somebody with a mullet, and (audience laughs) and I also knew that having
kids wasn’t my thing, I just didn’t want that, I didn’t see that for myself, because I just,
my mom even pointed out to me, “Like when you play fantasy
world, you never play like, house, or you don’t eve
play with stove I gave you, or the ironing board I gave you.” I was like, “Those are all
the things you weep over about you your life, no,
they are not fun for me, that’s like a nightmare. (audience laughs) You might as well given
me the drunken husband that blows up, the little
miniature couch that goes with it, is that a toy?” (audience laughs) So I knew, I just knew
that that wasn’t for me, and so when I found out I was pregnant, I was freaked out, I was by
myself, it’s high school, you can’t tell anybody,
because it’s like that’s the worst, right? That’s like the best piece
of gossip you can lay on anybody, and so he was not supportive, I actually remember,
to pay for my abortion, I went into his dad’s
pants pocket, and I took the money out of his wallet. Yeah, ’cause where am I gonna
get that kind of money, right? And so, I didn’t know where to go even, because Catholics don’t
talk about abortion, except for renting buses to
have you go protest, it’s crazy. So I found myself at this
crisis pregnancy center, which were these fake
clinics, that are unregulated, and they spew bullshit at people. Somebody greets you at the
door wearing a lab coat, and you’re like, “Oh, do
you work at Lancome, also, because you’re wearing a lab coat that looks just like that,” (audience laughs) And then she shows you
those mangled fetuses and then a picture of a kid on a bike, and you’re 16 going, “Is
that bike inside of me, I don’t even know what the
hell is going on right now, but I know that I’m freaking out.” (audience laughs) And they give you a litany of bullshit, if you have an abortion,
because that’s not even a thing. ‘Cause this was 1978, and
get this, and this is a thing that I think is so crucial,
so the woman said to me, “Abortion’s against our law.” Not against the law, “against
our law”, but when you’re scared, and you’re 16,
you think you’re breaking the law, so it’s another
level of shame, right? So I was like, “Oh my God,
I don’t know what to do,” and I just knew I needed to leave because she was scaring me, and I just
needed to get out of there. And when I walked out
of there, the woman said to me, “Just remember, your
options are mommy or murder.” (audience reacts in shock) Yeah, and so I left there, I got on a bus, I got my abortion, I had my abortion, my abortion experience
was like, I was lucky, I was 16, I didn’t have
to have my parents call. Somebody gave me enough
agency to know that if I’m a sexual being, I can make that choice. You know, my experience was different. It was like, when you
talked to people who have abortions, there’s a lot
of emotions around like when you have the abortion,
and then cut to a year later, or two years later,
and that person’s life has changed forever,
and so in my activism, I believe that doctors
who perform abortions, I believe they’re heroes,
I believe they have dedicated their lives, (audience laughs) to putting people on a
path, you have hero here in Boulder in Doctor Hearn,
who every day, makes the lives of people better, internationally,
and around the world, and I’m really proud to be of
a community that can do that. So I wanted to take all of
my things that I care about, making sure that people who
need abortions can get them, using humor to raise
awareness around the issue, and so I formed this
Ladyparts Justice League based on, I wanted to do an
organization where comics and musicians got together,
and we would do comedy shows, and at the end of the show,
we have a talk back with people like this, with a
provider, and the provider can tell the community what they
need, what would make their life better, what would
make their clinic better, how they can fight for legislation, growing communities in
states that are really hard. So June 2nd, my
organization is leaving from Atlanta to do a 16 city
tour for eight weeks, starting in Atlanta, going
Jackson, Little Rock, Montgomery, Alabama, places
that are hit hardest, so that we can grow those
communities, so people can learn about independent
clinics, they can learn how they can be involved,
because is somebody can give you tools as to how you can be involved, it’s really incredibly helpful, and there’s really small ways. If you send postcards of
love to clinics, they really like that, they’re happy and
thrilled to know that you appreciate that they’re in the community. When there’s horrible
protestors out there, if talk to your clinic
and find out what their policies are, if you’re
somebody who can be a voice to counter that, to
say, “Actually, my vote matters on this,” show another
side, bring them cupcakes, fix their fence if they need it, or roof, like what can you do? And so I wanted to have an
organization that did that, so we make videos, we try
to break down the myths and the stigma around
abortion, and so I wanna show this video really quick, it’s really fun, there’s a lot of people
who are really stupid, who do not even understand
how reproduction really works, and they
somehow get elected, (audience laughs) and they say things that are ridiculous. So, sometimes they get
on the Supreme Court, like Neil Gorsuch, so
Neil Gorsuch ruled in the lower court of the Hobby
Lobby case, which was the case that said that
not only corporations are people, that happened, now
corporations are people that have religious beliefs,
and one of the religious beliefs with Hobby Lobby
is that they did not wanna provide birth control,
that they just made up a thing that’s not true in science, that certain birth
controls cause abortion, like Plan B or IUDs, and it’s like, turns out, you can’t have
an abortion if you’re not pregnant, please learn things. (claps) (audience laughs) So, when the Neil Gorsuch
hearings happened, we were working on this
video, and we released it to teach Neil Gorsuch A) what Plan B is, and B) how pregnancy works,
so I introduced this video. (audience cheers loudly) – [Ron] Audio. – [Liz] Do we not have audio? – [Ron] Audio. – [Liz] It’s muted. – [Ron] No, we’ll back
it up if we need to. – [Liz] Yeah, we’re gonna have to, ’cause. – [Ron] ‘Cause it’s great form the start. – [Liz] It’s also
important to learn facts, which are included. – [Ron] Real facts, you mean. – [Liz] There’s no fake
facts, there’s bullshit, and there’s facts. There’s no “alternative facts”, no. – [Ron] No, just to be
clear, just to make sure. – [Liz] Yeah, no, I am not
a fan of anybody saying, “alternative truth”, that’s weird. – [Ron] That’s an oxymoron. – [Liz] Right. – [Ron] While we wait, – [Liz] Yes? – [Ron] If you would,
just tell the story of how the group got its name,
Ladyparts Justice League. – Yeah, so okay, so I had started, what happened was, I
wrote a book, and I went back to Minnesota to finish my book, and I did not understand the profundity of the lack of support
for local clinics until when I finished my book
I had to get back to Brooklyn, so I decided I
would do some fundraisers, ’cause I had to drive
back to Brooklyn with my dogs in a van. So you can imagine, clinics
are really excited when you call up and say, “Hey,
I wanna come and visit you with my dogs in a
van,” and they’re like, “Yeah, no.” But I did these fundraisers
along the way home, and I would go visit each
clinic, and every clinic I went to, either the
receptionist or the nurse or the doctor would say, “You
know, thank you for coming, it’s rare that people come.” And it breaks my heart,
it just breaks my heart, because we have stopped
paying attention to the people who are making America
great, and the people who make America great are
people who give people their autonomy to live their dreams, and let’s not forget that and it’s like, super-important for me, so I just. (audience applause) You know, once I learned
that, I knew that I could do something, and so I
wanted to form this group, and I didn’t have a name,
and one of the clinics that I went to was in Michigan,
and I was in Michigan, and I met this really
wonderful state legislator, who it’s very rare that a
politician will actively promote expanding access to abortion care. They will often say they’re pro-choice and they’ll vote against
things, but this woman named Lisa Brown was on the floor,
and she was fighting against a trans vaginal ultrasound
bill, which is basically, ultrasounds when you need
them, are incredible, ultrasounds when you don’t
need them and they’re state-sanctioned are
basically a version of rape, in my opinion. So she was fighting against
this, you had to have a state-sanctioned
ultrasound before you could terminate your pregnancy. She was thrown off the floor
of the Michigan State House for using the word “vagina”. (audience reacts in shock) And when she asked the
Speaker of this house what she should say, he said
“Something more acceptable like, ‘lady parts'”. (audience laughs) So while I know the
name, and I’ve had people really like it, and I’ve had
trans people say it feels not inclusive, I’ve had trans people say, “Oh, I get it now that you
tell me that,” so we’re super-inclusive organization,
when it comes to reproductive health, we
talk about the reproductive health of all genders, we care, but to me, it’s an homage to
somebody doing some really hard work, and so the name
to me was, somebody is gonna take this extra mile, I
wanna pay tribute to them in a way that, ’cause it’s just so rare. So that’s how the name came to be. – Good. (audience laughs) – Yeah, I’m sorry I cried, that’s stupid. – It’s okay. As Marv Albert used to say,
let’s go to the video tape. – Yeah, let’s see what we have here. (soft rock music) – Sorry mam, have to get another cashier to sell you Plan B. – Why? – Because Plan B causes
abortion, and I don’t have to sell it to you,
because abortion goes against my religious beliefs. – Wait, it’s not an
abortion, and double wait, a cashier can deny me both control? – You are correct ma’am,
that is actually the law, and I don’t like it. Listen up, Mr. Cashier. ♫ I’m just a pill, a kind
of birth control pill, ♫ No matter what they say on Capitol Hill, ♫ Well, it’s a wrong wrong story, ♫ They keep telling about me ♫ A strong, strong, like
all I do is block pregnancy ♫ I wish they’d listen to scientists say, ♫ So at the end of the day, ♫ You can chill, drop some facts ♫ Tell the world, I’m a pill – Gosh, pill, preventing
an unwanted pregnancy seems so helpful. How’d you get so many enemies? – [Pill] Well, a lot of folks
like this fella got together and decided that I cause
abortions, but I don’t, I stop ovulation from
happening, preventing fertilization and pregnancy. – Wait, a fertilized
egg isn’t a pregnancy? (typewriter clicking) – Nope, after an egg
is fertilized, it takes 72 whole hours for the egg to make its way to the uterus and implant itself. That is the a pregnancy. My job is to stop the
egg from ever traveling to fallopian town,
preventing that pregnancy. – So life doesn’t begin at conception? (harp strumming) – When life begins is an opinion, when pregnancy begins
is a scientific fact, are you getting it yet? – Kinda. – Well, think of it like a football game. The quarterback drops
back and tosses to the receiver at the 20 yard
line, the fertilization happens, the second
receiver catches the ball. Now we all know the
rules, the fertilized egg still needs to make it into the end zone before it’s a touchdown. But if there is no ball to catch– – [Girl] There can never be a touchdown. (cheering) – [Pill] Now you’re getting it! Doctors say pregnancy doesn’t happen until the touchdown, so my job is to block that touchdown from ever happening, and I do. (cheering) – Wow, Plan B, you’re
like the Deion Sanders of preventing pregnancy. – Actually, Deion
Sanders wishes he was the Plan B of football. (laughing) Well, I hope that cleared things up. But just in case it didn’t, ♫ I’m just a pill, a
helpful birth control pill, ♫ No matter what they say on Capitol Hill ♫ So now you know my truth,
I’m all about prevention ♫ If your condom prevention,
I’m here for intervention ♫ Join me take a stand,
today I really hope ♫ And I pray that you will drop some facts ♫ Tell the world, I’m a pill – Wow, pill, science is fun. Turns out you prevent more
abortions than anyone I know. I’d be happy to sell you to customers. – That’s right, prevention’s my jam. Bye now. – Wait, pill, will I ever see you again? – Well let me put it to you this way, kid. I’m always here if you need
me, and I’m really safe, so you don’t even need a prescription. – Even if you’re a teenager? – Yup, even if you’re a teenager. Ooh, and just one more thing. I know I’m awesome, but
please, always use a condom. ♫ Join me, take a stand today,
I really hope and I pray ♫ That you will drop some
facts, tell the world, ♫ I’m a pill. (applause) (audience cheers loudly) – [Narrator] LPJ shuts down the fake facts around birth control and
abortion, every damn day. Join us, and help spread the truth– – So, how many of you sort of didn’t know that, right? I know, it’s okay, but it’s good to know. But what’s really cool
about this video is that we made this video to be snarky and edgy, but four different school
systems around the country are now using, we just released this like, literally two weeks ago,
and they’re using to teach their teen pregnancy
stuff, so it’s pretty, like, it’s good. (audience cheers loudly)
(audience applause) So pretty cool. – It’s like Schoolhouse Rock for adults. – Well, it was a ripoff
of Schoolhouse Rock, that’s right, yeah. – It looks it. – Put a little Schoolhouse
Rock in your sex life, why not? – Thank you for not using
Fraggle Rock, by the way. A question from the audience, come on. Come on, how can we elect someone who does not have a sense of humor? (audience laughs) How can that happen? – That’s a really good
question, I think that I don’t know. I mean, I actually don’t
know how you elect somebody who doesn’t have a,
Donald Trump never laughs, have you noticed that? – He does not smile. – He never smiles, he has no joy, and I think that’s really
weird, because making someone laugh, is the gateway to
everything else, right? Liking them, wanting to get to know more about them, caring
about them, and so the fact that this monster, I
honestly don’t know how you elect Donald Trump. I mean, I don’t know how
that happens, that somebody can just make up shit about themselves, and people go, “Life is
so bad, I hate Hillary so much, that I’m gonna go with that.” (audience laughs) I don’t know how that happens. – A student question,
what’s your best strategy to convince men to stop
messing with womens’ reproductive rights? – Talk about them more. Require men and everyone
to look at, if you say you care about human
rights, and if you say that you care about equality,
it you’re not taking reproductive rights and
abortion access and centering that in your life, your
decision when and if you wanna have a family is one of the
first things that you make that will set you on a
path forever, and I would demand it as a requirement
for your humanity. (audience applause) – I just want to read
a comment from someone, they say, I really hope that’s
not how a condom breaks. (audience laughs) – I usually have a mallet next to my bed. (audience laughs) – Very active. Another question from a student. I’ve experienced a lot of
sexist or masculine-dominated humor in college or social humor. How do we change this
social level of joking and humor for the better? – You know those kind of
things are really interesting, because changing humor means, I don’t know what that really means, but what I do know is, we
still live in a society where people write think
pieces about whether asking questions, are women funny? So what I say is, the humor
that you like and enjoy, amplify that and if you
hear something that’s sexist and awful, ridicule it. Sometimes calling culture, I’m not into, sometimes I think full-blown
ridicule that shit, because if it’s uncool, and
it’s not making society better, and you don’t like it,
that first amendment thing, it goes both ways. Somebody says something shitty, step up, why are you quiet? It was very frustrating
to me, after the election, when I hear these constant
narratives of people saying like, “Ugh, how
am I gonna go home and talk to my family, like
I don’t know what to do, I have people who voted
for Trump in my life,” and it’s like, you want to know what? If you’re gonna go home
when a fascist has been elected, and you think making the peace is not having a conversation,
and then that swallow, you’re not at peace, and
that person walks away, and if you have people
of color or trans people or anybody in your life
that is gonna be completely harmed by this administration,
it is your obligation as a person who invited
them into your life to represent them to
people who voted for Trump, I don’t get it. (audience applause) It’s a false peace, not
having a conversation about thins that are awful, is not peace, it’s usually you acquiescing. And I just wanna say one other thing too, because it drove me insane. I was always in like liberal press, like how will we deal with our family? It was all of us, or
people who are progressive or liberal asking that question. I didn’t read one thing
in conservative press, and I read all the press,
of conservatives saying, “Hey, we won, maybe we
should be nice, and not gloat to our liberal people
we love,” I never saw one article that was that, not one. (scattered applause) In kind of a related question,
when you were growing up, you’ve said that pretty
much Joan Rivers was the only female that you saw– – Yeah, Joan Rivers,
there was Phyllis Diller– – Moms Mabley. – Moms Mabley, yeah, sure. There was women who did not
have my life experience, as like standups, so when somebody said, you should try standup,
my first reaction was, it didn’t occur to me that
I could, because didn’t see myself, and that’s why
I think it’s so important, always, to having women
and having everybody, women, and of people of
color, I love this conference, but I really think this
conference could be off the charts great
if we had all of these different people being able to tell their stories to us, right? (audience applause) Because our futures are
depending on it, and our world is changing so much, and who we are, and you want to be able
to hear from people, so we can all be great
allies, which is just a gift that we have, and we should be sharing it, this cool place, and these amazing people, and I really want to
learn about the feminism of many people who don’t
look like me and learn about the journeys of
many people who don’t look like me, and I just think
it’s super-important. Like, you go a cool
thing going here, let’s really off the charts. – Kind of coming off of
some of the social changes we’ve been talking about, a question is, how do you think climate change should be talked about to get
people to take it seriously? I’m assuming that you believe– – You mean using humor? – Yeah, well again, to
activate and educate. – Well first of all, who
let “clean coal” be a thing? (audience laughs) Like that’s a thing, like
“Oh, we’re just gonna say ‘clean coal’ like that’
a real fuckin’ thing.” – Another oxymoron. – Right, so I mean,
that’s just like, ridi, and I also you know,
and you look at things, and I just feel like,
practically sometimes can be the best part of humor. You know, if you talk about fracking, and it’s just like, you
know, when you turn your faucet on and fire pours out? (audience laughs) Maybe we’re not quite ready to frack, not to mention, like, you
read articles with like cows that are wandering
off and drinking water that’s got fracking dispersants in it, and it’s like, you know,
cows when they fart, create methane, so if
fracking water lights on fire, and you have a cow farting, you’re gonna wind up with
like self-barbecuing cow. (audience laughs) Which is probably,
Monsanto is in the room, writing this down, running out, oh my god, that’s amazing. But sometimes just
pointing out the absurdity of, because so often, things
aren’t thought through, and we find ourselves in a shitshow. So pointing out the lack
of process is something I like to do in humor, because it’s like, if you leave out A to
F, and go, “We’re going A to G,” it’s like, but C, and D, and E, and that’s go, oh, (sighs) if you can point that
out, then I think you can get people to think. ‘Cause you don’t wanna
make people feel dumb, you want to make people
feel like they’re part of the getting screwed
part of all of this, right? So I often like to say, “Do
you know this thing happened?” and people are like, “No what,” and “Oh my God, okay, you’re
probably busy, so here’s what happened,” and that’s
a much better approach than, just harping on people
for not paying enough, and you didn’t watch
this, and blah blah blah. You know, I just want people
to care, and hopefully through enthusiasm, you can get people to. – So you know something you and I kinda briefly touched on is, like 50 years ago, Mort Sall, Lenny Bruce were
talking about edgy humor, but it seems to me, humor
now has taken on almost a call to action, in a
mass sense, like with Jon on the Daily Show. – Yeah, some people are doing that. – When you say some people,
what do you mean by some people? – Not everyone, I think
some people are a bummer, some people are great– – But is there a “right way
and wrong way” to do that, if you wanted to do humor
that has a call to action and just, you’re gonna laugh
and kind of walk out later and forget about it? – You know, I never am gonna
tell anyone to do their humor a way, like say there’s a wrong way. What I will say is,
sometimes just observing what someone looks like,
and whether that’s in a sexist way or just in
a lazy political way, that tells me more about
you than it does about that person, it tells
me that you’re lazy and sort of cruel and so, I
don’t learn anymore about the issue or the person, right? And so saying Donald Trump is orange is, tells me that he’s orange,
saying that Donald Trump, his entire administration
feels like a bunch of Macy’s balloons that got
loose, and they just start going into buildings,
gives you an emotional feeling about what that’s
like, sort of chaos, bloated airbags, just like
a lot of stuff, right? – Tell us how you really feel. – I know, so you know, I like to give people a lot of, some
stuff about my targets, it’s not really interesting to me that, you know, somebody is, I
don’t know, I just feel like it’s crazy that you
look at this cabinet, and just every single
person who holds a cabinet position is the last
person that any sane person would call to run most cabinets. (audience applause) Like, it’s a joke, so you’re
just like, “Oh my God,” yeah. – I have an opinion, he
never wanted this job, so he didn’t really prepare for it. He just wanted the attention. – He doesn’t want any
job, I think he thought Barack Obama was popular
because he was President. “Oh, Presidents are popular.” It’s like, no, that’s not really true. – Not the way you think. Question from a student,
what’s the greatest career advice that you’ve
received, whether as a comedienne or as an activist, I’ll add in. – You know, I don’t even
know if it’s career advice, but somebody said to me once,
“You matter, act like it.” (audience applause) So I think that we matter,
we should act like it, and that’s hard, that takes
a lot of work, but do it. – You kind of remind me of
the quote that your dad, that mentioned last night. – Oh, my poor dad. – If you would say that,
if you would tell the audience that quote that you had. – Oh yeah, so my dad was
like from Philadelphia, Mississippi, met my mom in World War II, and they moved to Minnesota,
and he was like furious he was in Minnesota, he called
it the People’s Republic of Minnesota and he would
literally go down to the local radio station and
bitch about Hubert Humphrey, every single day of my life. (audience laughs) I think he voted for Harold
Stassen, for those of you who know what I’m talking
about, please give me a laugh. (audience laughs) Let me see where am I
at, where my Stassens at, okay good. So but my dad raised five
really strong, fierce kids who didn’t agree with him on anything. (audience laughs) And he would always pick
fights with us because I think he knew we were
smart, and he saw himself in us, in the way we fought. And so he would say to us, constantly, whenever there would be a
fight, “He goes, damn it, I raised you kids to have
an opinion, and I forgot to tell you it was supposed to be mine.” (audience laughs) – Typical parent. Two student questions, and
they’re similar enough, I’ll read one of them. And kind of let me get to
the end, because it starts one way, and you’re gonna think one way, and it changes when we move on. Racial humor tends to be
a funnier type of humor, my thinking is because it
uses preconceived notions. Racism, however, is not okay. How do you create effective
humor that has a positive effect on society? – Well, I mean, racial
humor and racist humor, that’s a very fine line,
that what is the point of humor when you’re talking
about someone’s race, is it about the preconceived
notion, isn’t that racism? So I don’t really know
if I buy into all that, I don’t make jokes about
someone’s race, I make jokes about someone’s
character, so that’s what I look at when I talk about someone,
and I often think it’s a racist society that will not
let you tell a joke about someone’s character, because
I was saying yesterday, when Obama got elected,
I had all these reporters calling me up and they’re
like, “How are you going to tell jokes about Obama,
what are you going to do?” And I was like, “I’m going
to talk about the fact that the came up through
a really corrupt system, and when he screws up
I’m gonna talk about it,” like there’s a lot of things about Obama, you could take on, the
banks, Tim Geitner, drones, there’s a lot of stuff, so the
fact that you are basically saying to me, “He’s black,
what are you gonna do?” (audience laughs) It’s like, yeah, your subtext is jarring. But what was the second
part of that question, maybe I can speak to that,
something about how do I do something for good, or something? – How do you create
effective humor that has a positive effect on society? – I think you create what
you believe in, it’s like you can’t decide what kind
of effect your humor’s gonna have, you can only
do the humor that you believe will elevate a
conversation, elevate hypocrisy, that you believe and stand by and defend, and give people some
information about people they don’t know, there’s so much
shit that’s going on that people don’t know, that
the best way to elevate it is almost, if you’re
a good storyteller. I love to tell the story,
there’s a politician, state rep in Idaho, who
actually asked the question on the floor of the state
house, “Why can’t a woman just swallow a camera to
get her gynecological exam?” (audience laughs) And you’re like, a woman,
who was actually a colleague of his, had to stay on the
floor, and more eloquently than I said, “If that
was the case, then people would be pregnant from blow jobs.” (audience laughs) So I just elevated some
serious discourse right there, people, that was like a blowjob
joke and an informational joke, and nobody should vote for that guy, see what I did there, you’re welcome. (audience laughs) – It kind of leads me
to a point, using a term that we’ve heard a lot
of the in the past year and a half, can comedy
normalize issues that really shouldn’t be normalized? – What does that mean? (audience laughs) Like what’s an issue that
shouldn’t be normalized, like Donald Trump? – Racism. – Well, here’s where I
think comedy can normalize horrible things, is when people say this, and this is a phrase
that drives me insane, “I’m an equal opportunity
offender,” it’s like, people don’t have equal opportunities, so no you’re not. So that’s like a big way
of people saying they wanna take on stereotypes for humor that can really make lives horrible for people, so I feel like until we
become a society that understands, there’s no such thing as an “equal opportunity
offender” because people come from various different places. I mean, the fact of the
matter is, humor now that maybe would be considered
satire, is now proposed as policy, you know what I mean? Like the exaggerative nature
of what we used to do, and so if you’re not
smart enough to know when you’re going to take on
a topic, I have a joke in my act where we’re like,
I don’t even know how we’re gonna go to war
when half of our tanks are in Syria and half of ’em are in Ferguson. (audience laughs) You know, that’s just real, and sometimes things are just real to
set into something else, that’s a joke about a lot of stuff. So, it’s like I think that
you have to be cognizant that there is white
supremacy in our country, white people run it, that’s the way it is, and so equally punching
down on people aren’t in power doesn’t work, it
just doesn’t work for me. (audience applause) Thanks. – You in touch with Jon Stewart at all? – You know, he’s got some weird beard now, and he’s doing some
really cool thing on HBO, he’s awesome, he left and now he’s got this animal sanctuary, and he is just living life. He is exhausted, that show
is an exhausting show to do for a really long
time, and I think that he is like, doing it. I think he is keeping
his life really simple, I haven’t talked to him in a while. – No, do you see him
kind of coming back into something similar? I think there’s such a call
for people who want him back. – I don’t know, I know he’s
doing something for HBO, and I don’t know what it is,
it’s been very secretive. I mean, it’s been like a
thing that he’s keeping under wraps, and so my
guess is that knowing him, he has a fire in his belly. I was having today with
some other panelists, who I’ve met some really
great people here, I feel really excited about
that, but we were talking about when you hear somebody
who is taking on the role of a a social critic or comedian, the one thing that makes me drawn to them is when you can tell what
keeps them up at night, and then what wakes
them up in the morning. And so I know that what
keeps Jon up at night and what wakes him up in
the morning are things that is injustice, so I think
that he will do something. I can’t imagine he’s just
all of a sudden be like, “I don’t know dude, I’m just
have a show on Animal Planet,” I can’t imagine that’s gonna be a thing. – ‘Cause he can. – Home and garden show,
it’s weird, he’s gonna be setting tables, he
loves the china, Wedgwood, loves Wedgwood, collects it. – I knew that you– – I don’t know what I’m
saying at this point. (audience laughs) – Do you need a nap? – No, I’m good, I’m good, I just want to drink some more in a minute. – I knew that you were
interested in politics when I saw the name of your book. Okay, if you wanna tell
people what that is, and plug it, you’re welcome to do so. – I have a book, it’s
called Liz Free or Die, I think they ran out of copies here, but you can order it on the internet for like, two dollars. – There were some paperbacks
out there in the lobby, when I walked in. – You know what, actually, I would, I read my own book, so
it’s like this, but me like telling you about my fucked-up
life, so it’s kind of fun to hear it, if my
voice doesn’t grate on you, I would suggest maybe a
download of a book, hearing it. – I read that Forbes wrote
this about Molly Ivins, “Ivins’s pen pierces both the
brain and the funny bone,” and I thought when I read
that, that you’re a perfect person to sit on this stage
for the Molly Ivins Plenary ’cause I feel the same way about you. – Well. (audience applause) That’s incredibly kind,
I feel like Molly Ivins was one of the people who
every moment of her life, she gave zero fucks,
and she was brilliant, and she cared so deeply
about democracy, and she was so funny, and she was so great. And it’s like, it’s a
little intimidating to sit on a plenary knowing that
Molly Ivins was the person that many people got to enjoy before me, and I’m humbled, and
that’s a very nice thing to say, but if there wasn’t
a Moly, there probably wouldn’t have been a
Liz, so thank you Molly. – Thank you, Molly. (audience applause) Did you ever get at chance to meet Molly? – Never, I interviewed
her once on Air America, but I never go to meet her in person. But I do, I have become
really good friends with Ellen Sweets, the lovely
Ellen Sweets, so I have been lucky enough to read
Ellen’s relationship with Molly in Ellen’s fabulous
book, and so that’s a great comfort for me, actually. – Thank you. – Thank you for having me, thank you for having me. – Please help me say
thank you the Molly Ivins Memorial Plenary, thank you Liz. – Thank you, thank you.

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