RNC irreverence

Lizz Winstead is bringing her New York-based comedy troupe to Minneapolis for a satirical take on the morning news

When Lizz Winstead, a Southwest native, heard the Twin Cities would be the destination for the Republican National Convention (RNC), she decided she had to take action. She wanted to create a “liberal oasis” for her friends. So during three days of the RNC, Sept. 2–4, Winstead is bringing her New York-based “Shoot the Messenger” troupe to the Parkway Theater in South Minneapolis for some comic relief. Her show “Wake Up World” is a satirical morning show that entertains a live audience with on-air and off–air vignettes from the fictional television crew. The audience will be able to take in a live view and running commentary of the GOP convention after each show. Journal columnist Jim Walsh (aka The Mad Ripple) will also host a Hootenanny after each show. He will be joined by legendary rocker Billy Bragg for the Hoots on Sept. 2 and 3.

“With thousands of news media and GOP delegates streaming into the twin towns around Labor Day for that Festival of Failure and the State Fair, I’m not sure what’s going to be the more gawker event. But you know our show is going to be turbo-charged that week,” Winstead said in a statement promoting the event. “This is going to be a hallowed and harrowing homecoming for me and our Shoot the Messenger crew.”

Winstead, co-creator of “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central and founder of Air America, said a webcast of the Minneapolis “Wake Up World” shows will be available the morning following the live performances at www.shootthemessengernyc.com. The show will also be broadcast in the mornings on a large protest Jumbotron in St. Paul.

“We will be waking up the Republicans with our show every morning,” Winstead said.

She recently spoke with the Southwest Journal about the three-day event. Highlights of the interview follow.

SWJ: How did you get the idea for the Minneapolis show?

Winstead: It’s sort of mix … of commentary, music. It’s a lot of letting off steam. The second I heard the Republicans were coming to Minneapolis, I thought I need to provide an oasis. That is my plan for my friends.

SWJ: What should people expect?

Winstead: The format is a satire of all of those morning shows. When people walk in the theater, it’s going to look like the “Today Show” on the road. It’s multimedia, which is really fun. There is live on-air stuff and then we do a little bit of behind the scenes so you can see sort of the imaginations of how network executives try to shove products down your throat — how they try to manipulate programming. So it goes in and out of the reality of being live on the air and then seeing the inner workings of the behind-the-scenes as the show is going on. And then we have some wonderful taped pieces and we do roll-ins, and there are bumpers and graphics. There’s a news break girl … she is one of those lip-glossed Fox News pageant-contestant-looking women. News sort of pours out of her sweater and her mouth.

SWJ: There will be Hootenannies, too, right?

Winstead: After the satire, then Billy Bragg is going to, for the first two nights, play a set. Then we are going to watch the prime time of the convention to hear the keynote speaker. Then the hootenanny happens with Billy and Ike Riley … crazy. The third night Billy is going to be gone and right off the satire, I’m going to sit down and have a conversation with Paul Reikoff, who is this amazing Iraq War veteran, and Cliff Schecter who wrote the book, “The Real McCain.” And we’re going to do about a half-hour conversation just about McCain and what we can expect and the war. Paul is instrumental in getting the GI Bill passed. He’s really this awesome guy. And then there will be a big hootenanny after that. There will be a lot going on.

SWJ: What do you hope people get out of this?

Winstead: I always say when it comes to things that are bigger than you, if you can’t 100 percent change them, you can at least make people feel like they are not alone and they can have a good time. Everybody who shares the theory that these people are miserable failures and would like to see them held accountable through satire, that’s what they’ll get out of it. They’ll get a good laugh. They’ll get somebody speaking truth to power. They’ll get a community of people that are with them, laughing and cheering. And then they’ll get to hear some great music and feel a real sense of community.

SWJ: What was the genesis for ‘Wake Up World’?

Winstead: We have been doing it for just over a year. And the genesis was my career sort of developed into this sort of media-response squad. It started with ‘The Daily Show.’ I did a show on Oxygen called ‘Ode to Be.’ I developed and founded Air America Radio. I’ve always been trying to speak truth to power and especially holding up the media to a mirror. And for the past 10 years or so, I’ve been having these Sunday night dinners. I’m a big cook. I cook for a lot of political writers and comedians and performers. We’d sit around and talk about the news, watch the ‘Sopranos.’ It was kind of like this loose salon that was about culture and politics. I said, ‘You guys, we’re being kind of lazy. We’re saying all this really funny stuff and then it just goes into the ether. Let’s spend a little bit more time, maybe a couple more hours here and there in a week, and come up with a show that makes sense.’ I was trying to figure out the next wave of how to look at and respond to what the media is doing. I just sort of looked at the grid of what is going on. I was counting up how many hours were spent on these sort of chat-type shows, “The View” and all that stuff. Everyday there’s 23 hours of programming on, and I was like, ‘This is insanity.’ This is just ripe for satire — they way they prioritize the war and Cajun cooking and jewelry that doesn’t make your butt look fat. It was all like the same amount of weight. We’re doing the cult of personality of morning shows. It’s been growing by leaps and bounds.

“Wake up World”

Who: “Shoot the Messenger,” an off-Broadway comedy troupe led by Lizz Winstead
What: A three-day comedy show riffing on the RNC followed by Hootenannies hosted by Jim Walsh and live performances by Billy Bragg and Ike Reilly the first two nights.
When: Sept. 2–4 (Bragg and Reilly will play Sept. 2 and 3) — doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Parkway Theater, 4814 Chicago Ave. S.
Tickets: $25 (can be purchased online at brownpapertickets.com)