For my first read of 2013, I chose the memoir-essay collection Lizz Free or Die by Lizz Winstead, comedian and co-founder/creator of The Daily Show and Air America Radio. Beyond those facts, I really didn’t know too much about her.
Well, Lizz Free or Die set quite a high standard for the rest of the year, because I absolutely loved it! 5/5 stars! Winstead’s sharp, irreverent humor cuts through each essay, and there are many notable moments of tenderness and vulnerability. I was completely hooked by the second chapter, and almost read the whole book in one evening.
From her religious upbringing in northern Minnesota, to her time in college, relocation to New York City, and burgeoning comedy career which transitioned into media writing and producing, Winstead takes her readers on an intimate, honest, and relatable journey through her life and career. Winstead gives specific examples of why she dives headfirst into situations, her inquisitive (and sometimes exhausting) nature, and her appreciation for the talented and loving people in her life. While the essays aren’t all perfectly linear chronologically, the events, people, and circumstances that lead Winstead to liberal progressivism, activism for women’s rights, and a career in political satire are clear.
All the essays are memorable, and I genuinely laughed out loud during many of Winstead’s exploits in the book, especially the stories of her inexplicably weird dogs, the cringe-worthy spa situation she found herself in on a Moroccan vacation, and Catholic childhood during which her imagination ran completely and often hilariously wild. The behind-the-scenes accounts of the birth of The Daily Show and Air America Radio are interesting and educational, especially for a fan. I had tears in my eyes while reading the essay about her father’s death, which was especially bittersweet and emotionally affective.
Read from January 2 to 4, 2013.