We might not see each other very often during the year but my friend Barbara and I always make it a point to go in to the Boston Book Festival together. Our kids are in the same grade in high school and Barbara and I share a love of books so the train ride in and back is a chance for us to reconnect, complain about the kids, and talk books. This year, Hurricane Sandy was a blot on the horizon but the day of the festival was a crisp fall day in Boston.
The majestic Trinity Church in Boston seemed like an incongruous setting for comedians discussing satire but the beautiful setting hosted a panel who had to watch their language to much laughter from the audience. Two of the three panelists had associations with The Daily Show: Lizz Winstead, the co-creator of the show, had the audience in stitches with riffs about her Minnesota childhood, growing up one of five kids in a Catholic family. Promoting her book, Lizz Free or Die, she recounted rebelling against established norms about what girlhood should look like. "I just didn't get convention," Lizz said. When she got a doll which she was supposed to "feed" with a bottle, she was appalled that she then had to change its diaper. One day, for fun, she tried feeding the baby from the same side that leaked. Net effect? The baby threw up and Mom was horrified. Mom, Lizz said, was "Minnesota nice." "I love your hair," her mom would say to her, "it makes you look less muscular."
At a big-name event in Minnesota, Lizz was part of a panel whose other guests were Desmond Tutu, Hillary Clinton and Jonathan Alter. Mom called Lizz and complained, "Lizz, you're the only guest I have never heard of!" Lizz recounted the singular event that turned her on to news satire. She was on a date with a sports maniac and after dinner, the two went to a bar and watched the first Iraq war unfold on television. Her date noticed the coverage and said, "This is so awesome." He was fascinated and impressed. Lizz, not so much! She thought to herself, "Are they reporting on a war or selling me the war?" That event, she says, made her look at news in a new light, and formed some of the basis for the award-winning show.