It took three years after the debut of her half-hour comedy show, but suddenly Amy Schumer is everywhere — on TV talk shows, on the cover of magazines and in social media clips of her Comedy Central show.
Her cover on Entertainment Weekly magazine brilliantly parodies the film “American Beauty,” in which a nubile young girl is covered in rose petals. Instead, Schumer is depicted mostly nude surrounded by and partially covered with mini liquor bottles. The headline is “American Boozy: A Toast to Amy Schumer.” The subheading calls her “Comedy’s Funny, Fearless New Voice.”
How someone becomes an “overnight” success after three years of writing and appearing in an original comedy show is a mystery, but maybe it’s because Schumer recently hosted the MTV Awards and is starring in a summer movie called “Trainwreck,” directed by Judd Apatow. Whatever the reason, “Inside Amy Schumer” has gained traction as a brilliant, satirical take on life by a middle-aged woman who just doesn’t care what the world thinks of her, and whom Schumer describes as “sluttier than the average bear.”
One of Schumer’s breakout shows this year that critics love is a black and white spoof of “12 Angry Men.” It features a jury of male actors—including Paul Giamatti, Jeff Goldblum, John Hawkes, Nick DiPaolo and Dennis Quaid, as the judge. During “deliberations,” they argue over whether Schumer is “hot” enough to be on television.
In an earlier season, Schumer parodied the “Toddlers & Tiaras” reality TV show playing a Honey Boo Boo-like character with “Benjamin Button” syndrome, in which she is a child in a grown woman’s body. Since Schumer is cute, blonde and has a wide face reminiscent of a Cabbage Patch doll, the role is all too believable—and hilarious.
One reason for Schumer’s appeal is her self-deprecating adult humor, in which she parodies herself as a Hollywood anti-heroine who will never fit the image of celebrity Barbie perfection.
Schumer’s big break-through occurred in 2008 when her stand-up comedy performance recorded at Gotham Comedy Club aired on Comedy Central. That led to an audition for “Last Comic Standing.” She began to get noticed as a stand-up comedian when she placed fourth on the fifth season of the comedy competition. She also placed second on Comedy Central’s “Reality Bites Back.” In 2012 she played a regular role in the series “Dislocated” on Comedy Central. Later that year, the channel gave Schumer a show of her own.
A native of New York who grew up mostly in Rockville Centre on Long Island, Schumer attended Towson University in Baltimore and earned a degree in theater. She returned to New York, and in 1992 she was in the Broadway musical “Newsies,” dressed as a boy. She also acted Off-Broadway in a black comedy about a young woman diagnosed with breast cancer, called “Keeping Abreast.” In 2004, she began doing stand-up comedy and appearing regularly at the Gotham Comedy Club. In 2009, she appeared in an advertising campaign for Butterfinger candy bars.
Often crass, Schumer’s humor parallels that of sexist male comics like Adam Corolla, Daniel Tosh and Louis C.K., known for blue humor—but she flips the male paradigm with chick jokes instead of dick jokes.
Through her warped, real life humor, Schumer gains laughs at the absurd expectations of modern society toward women. Schumer also uses drinking humor as a central motif. A combination of the two joke themes goes like this in one Schumer joke:
“Nothing good ever happens in a blackout. I’ve never woken up and been like, ‘What is this Pilates mat doing out?’“ Another one just goes for the body shaming: “The way these girls keep themselves skinny is awful, isn’t it? By vomiting or using hard drugs—which I can’t afford.”
Schumer knows about body shaming—a male interviewer on a talk show asked her about her weight, insinuating that she was too heavy for TV—the inspiration for her incredibly funny “12 Angry Men”-themed parody show. A size 6, Schumer defended herself as being a regular woman in Hollywood where stick-thin models and actresses are the norm. (The true average for American women is size 14.) Some of the misogynistic lines in the show are likely to become classics: “Less Melissa McCarthy, more Jenny McCarthy” one juror says, “She’s the funny one!”
Schumer’s show recently featured actresses Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey and Patricia Arquette celebrating Louis-Dreyfus’s “Last F**kable Day.” Louis-Dreyfus explains it as, “In every actress’s life, the media decides when you’ve finally reached the point when you’re not believably f**kable anymore.” Schumer, confused, asks how they know, and Fey tells her there are “signs,” like how Sally Field was Tom Hanks’s love interest in “Punchline,” then in the next movie, “Forrest Gump,” she’s his dowdy mother. In the bit, Louis-Dreyfus is feted at an outdoor picnic with wine, then put in a boat on a lake for a symbolic Viking funeral. Funny stuff.
If Schumer’s July 2015 film “Trainwreck” is a hit, she may have to contend with the rising comedic star syndrome. It entails either flaking out like Dave Chappelle, or becoming so popular she’s ubiquitous on TV and in film—so much so that no one likes her anymore. But for this brief shining moment, the jury is in: she is hot and still f**kable—and very funny.