If you live in the UK, you might not have heard of Amy Schumer until recently. But in the last couple of months, as her growing status as one of America’s brightest, gutsiest and most unapologetic comics begins to spill over onto British shores, she’s become a serious buzz-name. It’s partly due to forthcoming film Trainwreck, released here on August 14, written by and starring the New Yorker as bed-hopping journalist Amy Townsend. It’s also partly down to her gloriously profane Glamour Awards acceptance speech that went viral in June, fast racking up more than 3.5 million views. “Some women’s magazines make you feel bad for just being born a women,” she told the crowd at one point. “‘Give your pussy that new car smell. Hang a pine cone from your clit!’”
Such hilarious skewering of the media objectification of women in that speech won’t have come as a surprise to fans of her Comedy Central sketch show Inside Amy Schumer, which has been confronting modern society’s most unappealing or downright ridiculous foibles since its first season in 2013. American baby pageants, twerking, extreme makeover shows: nothing is off limits for Schumer on the Emmy-nominated show, which has just finished airing its third season (a fourth is slated for 2016).
Take, for example, a much-shared Season Three sketch entitled ‘Girl, You Don’t Need Make-Up’. In it, a One Direction-esque boyband sing a ‘What Makes You Beautiful’-type ditty about the virtues of natural beauty until Schumer actually does get the facewipes out, at which point they change tack and quickly back-peddle. With lines like “Please listen girl, what we’re trying to say/ Just get up an hour earlier, and you can look much girlier” and a breathy, spoken word section from Boy band Member 3 (“Girl I wanna get real with you/ I’ve got a lot of regrets in my life/ I regret missing my father’s funeral to audition for The Voice/ I regret being high when my niece was born/ But most of all I regret telling you not to wear make-up – that’s on me, but hopefully what’s on you is more make-up”), it’s a hilariously on-point satire.
Then there’s ’12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer’ – in which 12 fusty old media types sit in a board room and debate whether Amy is “hot enough for TV” – and ‘Last Fuckable Day’, which sees her recruit Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as they all toast Louis-Dreyfus’ final day before Hollywood deems her too old to be “believably fuckable”, meaning she no longer has to conform to a ludicrous beauty regime. Men, of course, do not have a last fuckable day.
Maybe inevitably, having grafted and shocked her way to the top of the American comic ladder, Trainwreck has seen Schumer under greater scrutiny than ever before. Directed by Judd Apatow, the film is genuinely hilarious, propelled by a witty script jammed packed with one-liners, following Amy as she falls for a sports doctor (Bill Hader) she’s sent to interview. Not everyone agrees though. One recent article called out Schumer for portraying a journalist who sleeps with her interview subject – a movie cliché common in films featuring female reporters. Another review highlighted how Schumer’s character starts off strong, but grows weaker as the film progresses, falling again for that age old devil called love.
But to call out either of these things, or to accuse Schumer of not being a good feminist – essentially what underpins these criticisms – misses the point. What Schumer does is not just about gender. Her comedy doesn’t dwell despairingly on her place within a flawed society, unlike some of her peers – it exposes those flaws, then mercilessly takes the piss out of them, showing them up them as the lame, regressive and ludicrous things they are. Unlike in Lena Dunham’s Girls, in which Lena’s character is routinely worn down and made to battle everyday sexism, Schumer is no one’s victim. If there’s a problem, she’ll attack it with balls and bravado.
In Trainwreck and in her comedy in general, Schumer’s approach is brazen, uncensored and as smart as they come. At the moment it feels refreshing, but you hope that soon, a women doing whatever the hell she likes on screen will just be the norm.