Comedian Lizz Winstead is bummed, really bummed about the impending cancellation of The Jon Stewart Show, for which she has been talent coordinator since February.
For one thing, the Twin Cities native said, Stewart is a riot to work with. "He's so much fun, and he really cares about his staff," she said.
For another, she has had to nix an appearance by the seed-art lady from the Minnesota State Fair: The seed portrait of Stewart couldn't be completed in time for his final telecast June 23. But Winstead has been able to give Minnesota more than its share of exposure on the show, which airs weekdays at 12:30 a.m. on KMSP, Channel 9. Bock Anderson and Craig Olson, the Twin Cities decorators who are hosts of The Bock and Craig Show on cable's Home and Garden channel (HGTV), made an appearance. So did Ruth Adams' polka band, an institution at Nye's Polonaise in Minneapolis.
And tonight Stewart will welcome Viva and Jerry Beck, stars of Viva and Jerry's Country Videos, a Twin Cities cable-access series devoted to the latest Nashville videos, Jerry's live renditions of country oldies and Viva's loopy "spoofs" of home-shopping hucksters.
Winstead said she looked for "eccentric" performers to fill the show's third guest spot about three times a week, and cable-access shows were a good source. But she screened them carefully. Aside from concern that a guest may clam up on national TV, she said, "Some people are just crazy. You can't have them on because they're certifiable. There's this woman who thinks she's Underdog's girlfriend."
She had no qualms about the Becks. "When you see their [taped] stuff is not scripted, and they're going to be able to tell stories no matter what, you know it will be a breeze."
She accepted the job offer from Stewart, a longtime friend and sometime collaborator, because she was sick of doing standup, and she isn't eager to go back on the club circuit. "The only comics who are working the road consistently are really blue and pretty low common denominator," said Winstead, who's known for socially aware comedy of an unabashedly liberal bent. "Standup has become a giant nightmare."
With only a week to go with Stewart, Winstead is wondering where she will be appearing next. She said that she has had feelers from Late Show with David Letterman, but that she hears that the working environment is "really, really stressful."
Another possibility is Saturday Night Live, which is undergoing a major overhaul. "I may throw my hat in the ring there," she said. "On the one hand, it's really exciting. They're completely cleaning house, bringing in a whole new staff. If you could revive the show, you could write your own ticket. But you could just be one more person on a sinking ship. I don't want to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic."
Most likely, she'll head out to Los Angeles, where she shares rent on a house with some friends, try to sell a Seinfeld script she's working on and "see what's cooking out there."
She doesn't want to stay, however. She's a confirmed New Yorker and hates Los Angeles. "It's like I almost want to go to L.A. so I can get a project to ensure I never have to go back there again."
[Note from Manda: Lizz went on to co-create The Daily Show with Madeline Smithberg]