Warning: videos contain strong language and sexual references
If you've never heard of Amy Schumer, the comedian who will be taking arenas around the UK by storm this month, then you're in for a treat – or a shock. Schumer, who started her career as a stand-up a decade ago, is one of the funniest, dirtiest comics currently working.
Schumer has fingers in a lot of pies
At the age of 35, Schumer is at the height of her powers: she reportedly signed an advance of $9 million for her memoir, Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo and is filling enormous venues around the world with her stand-up act.. Trainwreck, her first film and one she wrote and starred in, was released to acclaim last summer. She’s since signed on to a fifth series of her Comedy Central TV show, Inside Amy Schumer.
You’ve probably seen her on TV before and not even realised it
Schumer’s been doing stand-up for the past 12 years, but it was in 2007 that she got her big break after competing in a TV stand-up competition called Last Comic Standing. She came fifth (ahead of, among others, the British comedian Gina Yashere), but caught the attention of TV producers.
From there she started to appear on television, getting an early role as a runner up on Comedy Central’s spoof reality TV show Reality Bites Back in 2008. She’s since taken small parts on US sitcoms 30 Rock, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Louie and Girls. She partly found fame with her appearances at the roasts of Charlie Sheen and Roseanne, where she controversially made every other comedian look tame ("Charlie, there's no denying how famous you are. It was international news when you ruined the lives of those two girls living with you, your daughters.")
Her own sketch show, Inside Amy Schumer, started in 2013.
She doesn’t just tell jokes about sex
The creator of the stand-up special Mostly Sex Stuff likes to be pigeonholed. "I think that I get labelled a sex comic just because I'm a woman," she said in a routine at the Night of Too Many Stars in 2015. "I feel like a guy could get up here and literally pull his d--- out and people would be like, 'he's a thinker'."
But most of Schumer’s jokes are too rude to print
Rape, abortion, every kind of sex, race, 9/11: nothing is out of bounds for Schumer. "People see a picture of me," she told Lauren Bans, in an interview with American GQ, "and they think, 'Oh, she looks so sweet! Kind of Amish! We should bring the family!' Then they get here, and I'm like, 'So, my p----...' "
In her comedy, Schumer makes the most of saying the unsayable. Sometimes this has landed her with accusations of racism, which she's defended. In 2015, she wrote a response to an essay criticising her material:
"I am not going to start joking about safe material. And don’t ask that of me. I love what I do and won’t let anyone take that away. I ask you to resist the urge to pick me apart. Trust me. I'm not a racist. I am a devout feminist and lover of all people."
Her background makes up a lot of her material
Schumer is a New Yorker who grew up rich on Manhattan's Upper East Side. When she was a teenager, her father developed multiple sclerosis, and his company went bankrupt; her parents then divorced. The family dynamic in Trainwreck is based on her father’s illness, and she writes poignantly about her upbringing in The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo.
"I just grew up in a house where things weren't that taboo to talk about," she has said. "And my mom, when she was teaching us to say our different body parts, taught me how to say 'vagina' the same that she taught me how to say 'ear.' I think she wanted us to be able to tell her if we were ever molested without being embarrassed — and so there wasn't this sense of shame."
Although much of Schumer's material is dark and hyper-explicit, she's also a brilliant observational comedian:
And she’s much nicer in real life
Her comic persona is self-absorbed, insensitive and deluded, and it seems to bear little relation to her off-stage character. In the above sketch Schumer uses the cancer of her friend Tig Notaro to behave like a monster, which is a sort of mirror image of reality.
Notaro really was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo a double mastectomy. "Tig is my good friend and I had asked her to write for the show and then she got cancer," Schumer told an interviewer. "She was like, 'I don’t know what to do.' I said, 'After your mastectomy, move to New York. We’ll get an apartment together and I’ll take care of you.'
Notaro moved in with Schumer and her writing partner Kyle [Dunnigan]. 'We’ll all live together. We’ll write jokes, we’ll make a show, and when you can come to work, come to work.' So that’s what we did, and she wound up being very healthy after, thankfully."
She doesn’t really know how to deal with fame
Newly famous, Schumer remains neurotic in the classic comedian's way. "I’ll be in the same room as [celebrities], but you’ll never see me and J-Law at a Pinkberry... I just feel very uncomfortable around people that famous. I feel like [with] comics, I’m like, ‘I know you guys are garbage just like me.’
This makes up a chunk of her live show, according to Telegraph critic Charlotte Runcie, who wrote: “The show is most interesting when Schumer talks about how uncomfortable she feels about her sudden fame, convinced that it will imminently slip away because she behaves badly, dresses sloppily and fails to speak to other famous people.”
However, there's plenty of evidence to suggest that Schumer is capable of keeping famous company and does so regularly.
Schumer’s no stranger to scandal
Schumer made the headlines for less amusing reasons lately when one of the writers on Inside Amy Schumer was caught up in a rape controversy. Inside Amy Schumer is known for tackling issues such as rape and sexism, so when writer Kurt Metzger posted in defence of a fellow comedian who had been accused of sexual assault, she was targeted by fans.
On Facebook, Metzger posted an essay which included the statement "I just want you to know how proud I am to be both a 'cuck' and a 'rape apologist!'"
Schumer responded on Twitter, writing that she was “disappointed” in Metzger.
The scandal got more intriguing when Schumer posted on Twitter that Metzger wouldn’t be writing for her because her Comedy Central show was not being made. However, she subsequently clarified that season five was going ahead, but her touring requirements meant she didn’t know when.
She’s got new projects on the go
Schumer could rest on her laurels by now, but she’s not. There’s a new project in the works - and it’s big enough to convince Goldie Hawn out of a 14-year-long career hiatus.
Schumer convinced Hawn to play her mother in an as-yet-untitled 2017 film. She told The Los Angeles Times in August: “[Goldie Hawn] plays my mom. My character is supposed to go on this trip South America with a boyfriend. But he breaks up with her. And it’s a nonrefundable ticket and she doesn’t want to drink alone. It’s a Goldie Hawn movie and she’s gorgeous. Goldie … Hawn! I don’t remember the first time I didn't love her!”
She's also collaborating with Jennifer Lawrence on a female-focussed comedy in which they play sisters. Schumer's character is "very together" and trying to become a flight attendant, while Lawrence will play a "hot mess".