Amy Schumer, Edinburgh Playhouse, review: 'outrageously funny and unprintably rude'

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Amy Schumer performing in New York
Amy Schumer performing in New York Credit:  Getty Images 

Amy Schumer is the superstar comedian of the moment. As well a stratospheric rise to international fame through her sketch show, Inside Amy Schumer, and her 2015 film, Trainwreck, the 35-year-old New Yorker has a strong background in stand-up, having honed her skills on the road since 2004. She was on the cover of Vogue in July, and this year became the first female comedian to sell out Madison Square Garden.

Schumer’s gig at the Edinburgh Playhouse kicked off the UK leg of her first European tour, supporting the publication of her memoir, The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo (commissioned with a rumoured $9 million advance). Perhaps as an indication of the extent of Schumer's appeal, JK Rowling was sitting next to me at this packed-out gig. 

The show itself bears the sheen of glossy American TV comedy celebrity. But it’s given substance by beautifully constructed material that reveals a joyously funny and highly experienced live comic.

She’s best known for frank, feminist, sexually explicit comedy about her body, drinking and sex life, and the show is filled with virtuoso sequences that are, invariably, both outrageously funny and unprintably rude.

Amy Schumer performing in New York Credit:  Getty Images for Baby Buggy

But she also has plenty of fun with tamer topics such as women’s magazines (home to less-than-empowering journalistic gems, Schumer claims, that may as well say “How not to wake him up when you’re sobbing in bed”), the Kardashians, and long-term-relationships.

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. I don’t believe this for a second, but she’s an even better actor than she is a joke-writer, and a story of making awkward small talk with Hillary Clinton at Clinton’s birthday party is told with relatable subtlety.

Amy Schumer on stage in New York in March Credit:  Bryan Bedder

If the show occasionally feels loosely drawn together, with Schumer sometimes relying on written notes, it all adds to the chaotic persona. And the wise comments on contemporary America come as thick and fast as the sex jokes. Most courageously and poignantly, she touches on gun violence, a cause close to Schumer's heart since two women were shot dead by a man at a screening of Trainwreck in 2015. 

This darkness feels part and parcel of a routine that has the destructive strangeness of contemporary American culture as its core motif. Schumer may say that her celebrity is waning, but on the strength of this blissful performance, her star still seems firmly on the rise.

Touring worldwide until December 31. Tickets: amyschumer.com/tour