I’m coming late to the party on the hottest name in American comedy. Amy Schumer is a household name in the States and with Comedy Central UK advertising her stuff every two minutes she’ll soon be well-known here.
And she totally deserves it.
She’s a one-woman masterclass in outrageous, revolting and shocking comedy. She tackles women’s stuff head on, fully feminist, very thought-provoking and somehow gets away with it. It’s clear she’s had to put up people wondering out loud whether a woman (and a hot blonde woman at that!) can possibly be funny. That old stereotype still refuses to go away and die. In fact, the first sketch of Series 2 is a focus group of dumb male viewers where each question is answered by whether they’d fuck her or not. Instead of being repelled by this, Amy turns to the camera and smiles a sexy and slightly demented smile. Comedy might be a man’s world, but she understands the rules. She’s going to break them right in front of you, and you’re going to love it.
Her jokes about sex and relationships are liberating – she doesn’t hate men, far from it – she’s a big fan. And it’s the same with sex – she’s doesn’t hate sex, she loves it and she’s very honest about it. She’s not shameless; she’s shame-free and it’s wonderful to watch. She’s very self-aware and happy to play with pushing boundaries – you’re laughing along with her as she lulls you into what seems a fairly tame joke when suddenly it turns on a dime. The punchline is absolutely revolting and totally unexpected, like when the lights go on in a nightclub and you’re face to face with the horror-show you’ve been sucking face with all night.
Everyone, including herself, is fair game in her jokes. She laughs at extreme reactions and outrageous characters, but her jumping off point is always firmly based in the grubby, mucky and slightly warped reality we all inhabit – the tennis commentators are the butt of the joke as well as the hyper-sexual tennis player (getting much more attention than the frumpy sweaty athlete who actually won the match), and the guys who fall for an outrageous tomboy in the bar who take their argument about hot manly looking girls to its logical conclusion (“Guys, should we just fuck each other?”). She makes us laugh about being a woman but not in an exclusive way – it’s not about the burden of ovaries or how awful men are. There’s a Vanity Fair article from 2008 entitled ‘Who Says Women Aren’t Funny’ which helps define this past five or so years saying:
“There has been an epochal change even from 20 years ago, when female stand-up comics mostly complained about the female condition—cellulite and cellophane—and Joan Rivers and Roseanne Barr perfectly represented the two poles of acceptable female humor: feline self-derision or macho-feminist ferocity…. The repertoire of women isn’t limited to self-loathing or man-hating anymore; the humor is more eclectic, serene, and organic.“
This is certainly true in America and I hope it’s increasingly the case here. Jo Brand’s aggressive man-hating cake-loving character is on the wane and more intelligent nuanced stuff is taking over. Good comedians want to see the whole audience laugh, not just the 50% who feel like they got the upper hand.
Schumer does a great line in grizzly characters doing revolting things, which when used judiciously is hilarious. Shout out to the hideous women talking about how bad (“I’m SO BAD!” “You’re an angel! I’m SO BAD!”) they are at sticking to their diets in a restaurant and the price the waiter pays for turning up with the dessert tray (it’s not what you think). A lovingly parodied Aaron Sorkin drama set in a fast food restaurant was also a highlight. It really was beautifully done. I wish it was a series by itself. I’d watch it.
I feel pretty confident her stand-up show ‘Mostly Sex Stuff’ will be repeated and hopefully Series 1 will get a showing on Comedy Central UK too.
I leave you with the wise words of Tina Fey (from the same VF article above) – “there are people who continue to insist that women are not funny. “You still hear it,” she says. “It’s just a lot easier to ignore.”’