Lizz Winstead | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Lizz Winstead

“The Daily Show” co-creator Lizz Winstead is one of several comedians performing for the “Vagical Mystery Tour” on June 7 at Duling Hall. Photo courtesy Mindy Tucker

“The Daily Show” co-creator Lizz Winstead is one of several comedians performing for the “Vagical Mystery Tour” on June 7 at Duling Hall. Photo courtesy Mindy Tucker

When writer, producer and comedian Lizz Winstead visited Jackson in 2015, she wasn't in town for a stand-up show or filming a segment for "The Daily Show," which she co-created, or working on any of the other media projects that she's been involved with over the years.

Instead, she spent most of her time visiting with people at the Jackson Women's Health Organization, escorting patients, having potlucks and meeting with local clinic workers, before heading to Alabama, North Carolina and many other states where reproductive rights are in jeopardy.

Winstead says that she has always been pro-choice but decided to put a greater focus on her stance around 2012, when now-Vice President Mike Pence proposed defunding Planned Parenthood, among other significant public programs.

"When all that failed, I watched as all these state legislatures started passing this model legislation," she says. "I was like, 'Oh my gosh, this is happening everywhere, and it just keeps happening.'"

During that time, Winstead had returned to Minnesota, where she grew up, to work on her book, "Lizz Free or Die" (Riverhead, 2012, $16). She had the idea to do a comedy tour on her drive home to Brooklyn, raising funds for abortion clinics along the way. Although some clinics had benefit events in their honor in the past, she learned that few people hosting those events actually went to the clinics.

"Apparently, when people do fundraisers, they go to the chicken dinner, and then they leave," she says. "... Every clinic was like, 'Thank you for coming here. No one ever comes here. People run away from us.' I was like, 'Well, that's bullsh*t.'"

When she got back to New York, Winstead hosted a chili dinner for about 20 friends who were comics and writers.

"I said, 'We have to do something. Statistically, 70 percent of us here have had abortions, and we're on our path and our agency because we got to have that. So I want to remove some shame and stigma by showing people that no one's going to define you by your abortion, ... and I want to celebrate the doctors.'"

That idea became the basis of the Lady Parts Justice League, a nonprofit group that advocates for reproductive rights through creating humorous and educational online content, visiting clinics around the country and organizing fundraising comedy tours.

Winstead, who serves as the organization's chief creative officer, will perform in Jackson with comics such as Helen Hong ("Blunt Talk"), Greg Proops ("Whose Line Is It Anyway?"), Ian Harvie ("Transparent") and Joyelle Johnson on June 7 as part of LPJL's "Vagical Mystery Tour."

While the performers will cover a variety of topics outside of political observations, they'll also discuss issues such as reproductive rights, LGBT freedom, racism and sexism. There's a lot of fun to be had in poking holes in hypocrisy, Winstead says, such as the fact that legislators want to reduce the number of abortions but also want to reduce access to birth control.

However, the point of LPJL isn't to make people laugh and then go back to business as usual. The tour is designed to connect local clinics and reproductive-rights organizations with supporters in their community and to facilitate a conversation that leads to growth, Winstead says.

"(It's) getting people together who want to have a good time and have fun and tell some jokes, and then saying, 'You know what? We're really lucky to be here and to have this good time. I want you to meet some cool people who you can work to strengthen who they are with these fun people you're with. Let's take the party to a place with a purpose.'"

The Vagical Mystery Tour" is at Duling Hall (622 Duling Ave.) on Wednesday, June 7, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. For more information, visit vagicalmysterytour.com.

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