Hollywood's Newest Funny Girl
By Caroline Overington
The Australian Women's Weekly, July 2015
HANDS UP WHO has ever had a lousy sexual experience? How many readers – honestly, now – can say that they
have endured at least one night with somebody who probably didn’t deserve the time of day?
Some of you? Most of you? Maybe even all of you?
Okay, well, you’re not alone. The caustic New York comedian Amy Schumer has also had some pretty lousy sex in her time and – happily for everyone – she’s more than willing to share.
But wait, some of you may be saying, Amy who? And, fair enough, because she is not all that well known in Australia. Yet make no mistake: Amy’s star is on the rise, not only in Hollywood, but in the brutal world of gender politics.
So, first, some background. Amy was raised rich in New York City. Her great- grandmother, Estelle, was a bootlegger. Schumer’s Wine & Liquors, the shop opened by Estelle after she was granted a post-Prohibition liquor licence, still stands on Manhattan’s 54th Street). Her parents divorced when she was 12, mainly because of her dad’s adultery, or that’s what Amy says. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis some years ago, father Gordon now lives in a nursing home and the two are incredibly close.
Amy’s folks, who had been wealthy, went broke after their marriage dissolved and she went from living in a posh house to a hovel. In the fine tradition of girls from broken homes everywhere, Amy put a laser-like focus on the future. She started doing stand-up in June 2004, at age 23, and was soon winning prizes previously won only by blokes.
Much of Amy’s comedy deals with sex from the female perspective. Don’t read on if you don’t like smutty because she absolutely goes there. Of sexual pleasure, Amy once said, “To orgasm, I have to have the focus of an Olympic gymnast on a balance beam.” Of the delicate matter of introducing condoms to a one-night stand, she said, “I’ll usually say, ‘You’re going to want to wear this. I’ve had a busy month’.” Of the male practice of skywriting to gain female attention, she said, “It’s annoying and it fades and you can never read it. If somebody proposed to me that way, I’d be like, f**k you.”
Amy launched her own show, Inside Amy Schumer, on the Comedy Channel in April 2013. Now in its third season, it’s about the hottest thing on Foxtel (and YouTube, where her skits can get as many as four million views). Now she’s made a feature film, called Trainwreck (it’s an apt title, because the lead character – called Amy, written by
Amy and based on Amy) is one.
The Weekly caught up with Amy ahead of a publicity tour to Australia to promote Trainwreck. It was 3pm and she had already had some champagne, which perhaps explains why she had also kicked her shoes off and was sitting with bare feet and fake-tan legs curled up beneath a snow-white, $2000 Victoria Beckham shift dress in a posh Santa Monica hotel.
First impressions are important and Amy makes a good one: she has all- American girl good looks and a great smile. She was feeling proud of her movie. She wrote it with fellow comedian Bill Hader and it’s directed by Judd Apatow, who made Bridesmaids. Amy’s co-stars include Tilda Swinton, whose turn as a deranged magazine editor is brilliant, and LeBron James, who is one of the world’s highest paid basketballers and, as it turns out, a shockingly good comedian.
The opening scene shows the character, Amy, as a little girl sitting on the bonnet of a car while her dad explains why Mummy and Daddy are getting a divorce. It’s because monogamy is impossible, he says, like only being able to play with one of your dolls for the rest of your life.
Amy tells The Weekly that scene comes from her own experience of being told that her parents were splitting up. Her dad didn’t confess to adultery at the time, “but, through his behaviour, I figured it out”. She remembers her mum “taking me out to pizza to tell me and I remember wanting to be really strong for her because she left him. I felt more like a friend than her daughter.”
Amy was 12, “so a little older than the girl in the film, but, yes, I definitely remember it.”
Amy’s character grows up to be a magazine feature writer based in Manhattan and, not to put too fine
a point on it, she is a jerk. She has a boyfriend, but she cheats on him. She takes guys home for one-night stands, has sex with them, then falls asleep, leaving them hanging.
“We didn’t make a conscious decision to flip the gender roles,” Amy says of the idea that, in this movie, it’s the woman who is the badly behaved, drunken jackass. “The character is based on me. It’s true to my experience. Not now at 34 because I think I’m softer now, but me in my twenties. I can be the more insensitive one when it comes to sex and relationships. I haven’t had a lot of one-night stands. Maybe one. And it was great! So great. But dating in general, in my experience, sucks. “People play games. There is heartbreak. Nobody wants to let on how they are really feeling. I mean, I have friends who got married young and they wonder sometimes did they miss out on something? I tell them, no, you’re good. Dating is hard.”
Amy’s character soon meets a nice man who treats her well and satisfies her sexually, but she is awful to him. He eventually leaves her and she has to have a good hard look at herself. You can probably guess what happens in the end, but it’s nicely done and funny.
Amy says the key message is that Amy in the film “doesn’t think she deserves love. She doesn’t want to
let go in case she gets hurt. But, when it comes to relationships, you have to decide how you are going to let people treat you.”
Today, Amy is much more confident, including in her own skin, and she’s proud to be making a name for herself as somebody prepared to stand up to the patriarchy and against the ridiculous standards set for women. One of her best-known skits is called Last F**kable Day. It co-stars comedians Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Patricia Arquette, and is about Hollywood’s obsession with casting anyone over 40 as an asexual Mom-type that nobody could seriously contemplate having sex with.
Last June, Amy was invited by Glamour magazine to accept a Trailblazer Of The Year award in London,
primarily for her work on her comedy show. No question, they expected a raunchy speech and, boy, did they get one.
Taking to the podium, Amy said that her idea of glamour was being able to take off her underwear and have it not look like she’d blown her nose in it.
Next, she satirised women’s magazines for the ludicrous advice in their beauty pages, such as, “Give your pussy a new-car smell”, or “Hang a pine cone from your clitoris.”
Finally, she took direct aim at those in the magazine world who carry on like only skinny girls can be sexy.
“I’m about 160 pounds [about 73kg] right now and I can catch a dick whenever I want,” said Amy. “It’s not a problem.”
Catch a dick.
It is such a great phrase. No wonder the clip went viral.
“And, you know, I didn’t even know they were filming it,” Amy tells The Weekly. “I saw the camera, but I thought that was just for them. I wasn’t trying to send a message. I was only talking to the people in the room, but it went off.”
Asked if she identifies as feminist, Amy says, “Of course! Because life is just ridiculously harder for women. People want you to be nice and sweet to be around and, if you’re not, you’re a bitch. We don’t get paid the same. We are supposed to have the children, run the household and work a full-time job.
“You have to look a certain way and if you don’t, you’re unlovable. The expectations are ludicrous and impossible. I feel good in my skin and I want all women to feel what I feel – happy and confident in their own body.”
The more successful a woman gets, the more scrutiny she can expect, especially of her body. Amy had good reason to be feeling good this year, having just written and starred in her own Hollywood feature film, but then along came blogger Jeffrey Wells and his Hollywood Elsewhere website.
In a particularly nasty review of Trainwreck, Jeffrey said that Amy was “not conventionally attractive” and indeed looked like Jennifer Aniston’s “somewhat heavier, not-as-lucky sister
who watches a lot of TV”.
“She’s obviously sharp and clever, and funny,” he wrote, “but there is no way she’d be an object of heated romantic interest in the real world.”
The next day, Amy posted a photograph of herself in heels and knickers, looking hot as hell.
“I am a size 6 [Australian 10],” she said, “and have no plans of changing. This is it. Stay on or get off.”
She’s it, alright. It and a bit, and red-hot, right now.