Statistically, no group is as opposed to abortion as white men who are middle-aged or older.
So when comedian and activist Lizz Winstead and the nonprofit Abortion Access Front were looking to build a lineup of comics for a fundraiser, what better way to establish a “counter narrative” than to fill the bill with middle-aged (or nearly there) white men?
“Bro v. Wade,” a nod to the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide, was first held in Brooklyn last year. Later this month, the fundraiser is coming to Southern California.
On Feb. 23, comedians Tim Heidecker, Doug Benson, Dana Gould, Brian Posehn, Kurt Braunohler and Ian Karmel will take the stage at the Lodge Room in Highland Park. Comic, actor and regular “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” panelist Helen Hong will host.
The comics will also appear on an episode of AAF’s podcast “Feminist Buzzkills Live!,” which combines humor with news on abortion and related topics, as well as information on how to take action.
The Southern California show was born out of the New York City event, as entertainers based on the West Coast wanted to pitch in as well.
“L.A. guys wanted something to do, and when you can tell some jokes and bring a crowd into a room, it’s actually a super powerful thing to do with your activism,” Winstead said.
Winstead, co-creator of “The Daily Show,” has often toured with comedians for Abortion Access Front, which was previously known as the Lady Parts Justice League. The nonprofit describes itself as a “coven of hilarious badass feminists who use humor and pop culture to expose the haters fighting against reproductive rights.”
“Exposing hypocrisy with humor sort of levels the playing field” on hot-button issues like abortion, Winstead noted.
“If I can make you laugh, it’s an undeniable feeling that you like me, even if it’s just in that moment,” Winstead said. “If I have that connection with you, it’s hard to demonize me, it’s hard to ‘other’ me in some other monstrous way. It’s cathartic, and it’s also a good tool for our humanity.”
As someone who has experience broaching this topic in a comedic setting, she would know. She talked about her own abortion in 1992 on Comedy Central’s “Women Aloud.”
“I might have been one of the first people to talk about their abortion on Comedy Central. In fact, I’m pretty sure I can say I was the first one,” she said.
Winstead became pregnant after the first time she had sex, and the experience galvanized her to help other women in similar situations. Despite protesters and even threats of violence, she remains committed to the cause, so much so that she has a uterus and the phrase “literally no one asked you” tattooed on her arm.
“The protesters show up at our shows, they show up at the clinics, so I would throw my arm out to say, ‘Literally no one asked you. We’re done. We’re not having a conversation,'” she explained.
Despite the pushback, Winstead and the AAF have toured the country helping independent abortion providers however they can.
“When I was doing some visiting of clinics, what I learned was that clinics oftentimes can’t get the support they need from the community – like if you need a plumber or you need your roof fixed – because they provide abortion,” Winstead explained. “So we set out on these massive tours to do comedy shows and then have them incorporate the conversations into the show. They tell the community what they need, and then the community is like, ‘Wait, I’ll be your plumber.”
The AAF also isn’t afraid to pitch in themselves when stopgap measures are needed, including painting buildings, fixing fences and replanting gardens.
“We’re sort of like Habitat for Humanity and a USO tour for independent providers of abortion,” Winstead added.
One of those entertainers who have joined AAF on the road to help drum up support is Hong, who was excited to join the “legend” Winstead in assisting providers and removing the stigma around abortions.
“So many men would be shocked to know that their mothers had abortions, or their aunts, or their grandmas, or their wives, girlfriends, cousins, sisters,” Hong noted. “Believe me, it’s everybody. Everybody who lives in America is close to someone who had an abortion. Guaranteed.”
And after Roe v. Wade was overturned last year in the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Hong said many will soon realize that “it’s 100% not a women’s issue; it’s a societal issue, society at large.” She referenced a popular “Freakonomics” finding that linked a reduced crime rate to the nationwide legalization of abortion.
“A lot of people think they’re anti-abortion. You want to live in a society where every child who’s not wanted is born? Ooh, buckle up. You think a lot of things suck now? Things are about to suck way, way harder,” she said.
While a lack of abortion access will likely be felt nationwide, Hong noted it is women who will be impacted most, a sentiment echoed by Gould and Braunohler.
“I’ve never been involved in terminating a pregnancy, and honestly, I don’t know if I ever would,” Gould said. “But as a guy who doesn’t get pregnant, it’s none of my business.”
Gould, known for his standup and work on “The Simpsons” among many other credits, also referenced legendary comedian George Carlin, who famously attacked conservatives and abortion on stage (warning: this material contains strong language).
“I believe in the rights of a woman, and once a child is born, I would like to do everything I can to ensure that child’s health and welfare. And I do that with the greatest job of all time, being a clown,” Gould said.
Braunohler, a standup who regularly appeared on “Chelsea Lately,” lent his voice to “Bob’s Burgers” and has appeared in myriad other roles, added that it’s “insane” that without Roe v. Wade, women can be forced into having children they don’t want.
“I have kids, and I wanted my kids, and I love my kids, and on the best day, I cannot deal with them,” he joked. “The idea that the state would force you into a situation where you would have children is crazy.”
While the passion for protecting abortion rights for everyone involved is evident, each of them also stressed that the show features some of the top comedic performers active today.
“It’s not a night of browbeating you about abortion or proselytizing about abortion, no, it’s a night of comedy,” Hong said. “It’s a night of great laughs and jokes about anything under the sun.”
Braunohler added that if someone is interested in learning more about standup comedy, this will be a great opportunity.
“The lineup is packed. There’s not going to be a single person that the audience does not go insane for,” he said. “Also, coming to a benefit show, there’s a certain energy to a benefit, fundraiser, this type of show, that is not present at other comedy shows. So if you’re unfamiliar with comedy, this is a great way to step your foot in. Every one of these guys is very, very good at what they do.”
Winstead, Hong, Gould and Braunohler noted that if you’re unable to attend the event, they encourage you to support the AAF, independent abortion providers — especially if they’re the only one remaining in their state — and organizations that work to provide transportation, lodging and other necessities for woman who must travel across state lines for an abortion.
After the fall of Roe v. Wade, 13 states have banned abortion outright and a 14th, Georgia, has a ban after six weeks, which is before many women know they’re pregnant.
Winstead dryly noted that the numerous challenges to protecting abortion rights can be “a lot.”
“So thank God these white guys are helping us raise some money to do it,” she said.