Amy Schumer: ‘I don’t want to become a part of Hollywood’

In her rise to becoming one of the pre-eminent stand-ups in the country, Amy Schumer has emerged as one of the sharpest, wittiest commentators on gender in America.

Amy Schumer and LeBron James in Trainwreck. Courtesy Universal Pictures via AP Photo
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A recurring feeling has accompanied Amy Schumer’s rapid ascent in show business.

“It’s always: I walk in a room thinking maybe I belong in here,” she says over a plate of meatballs at a Greenwich Village cafe. “And then I get reminded quickly that I don’t. But then no one really does. And I’m going to do it again.”

It’s getting hard to find a room too big or too prestigious for the 34-year-old Schumer. In her rise to becoming one of the pre-­eminent stand-ups in the country, Schumer has emerged as one of the sharpest, wittiest commentators on gender in America. Her humour – satirical, raunchy, absurdist – is built on a fresh and on-point feminism, alert to both the injustices of sexism and the helpless farce of the sexes.

She's turned her Peabody-winning Comedy Central show, Inside Amy Schumer, into a spinning collider of gender roles, firing out weekly, instantly viral parodies.

Schumer wades into movies for the first time with Trainwreck, a comedy she wrote and stars in. While it is due out on Friday in the United States, there is no word yet on a UAE release date. The 2011 drama Bridesmaids, a similarly raunchy rom-com the film is being compared with, made it to UAE cinemas with some cuts).

Schumer’s arrival in Hollywood – like many of her punchlines – is well timed. Her voice feels particularly valuable to a movie industry wrestling with gender equality.

It’s a conversation Schumer has already joined, most notably in a sketch about the expiration date of attractiveness for women in Hollywood.

Schumer’s introduction to the superficiality of Hollywood, she says, has already given her 20 minutes of new material. The jokes have included her expectation a more attractive actress, “a Kate” (such as Kate Upton), would be cast in her place and her insistence that her Los Angeles experience has proven she’ll never be a movie star.

“Definitely not,” she says. “I’m not doing it. I don’t like anything that comes along with it. I don’t like it so much that I don’t know if I would ever do it again.”

Yet Trainwreck, directed by Judd Apatow, has already won glowing reviews for its crude humour and sweet authenticity. It flips the usual conventions of a romantic comedy: Schumer plays a serial dater and the men (Bill Hader, flanked by his protective friend, LeBron James) are the ones yearning for a second date.

It wasn't a conscious inversion, she says, but one that is true to her experience. One of her most famous sketches, a full-episode version of 12 Angry Men in which jurors decide whether Schumer is hot enough for TV, also came from a blogger's comments.

“I’m trying to do my part, just so people can feel comfortable in their own skin,” she says. “I don’t think we should throw out all the hot people. But people are actually OK with looking at people other than models.”

That underlying message of self-acceptance has made ­Schumer a kind of comic everywoman, candidly baring her anxieties and embarrassments – and triumphs over them – for an understanding audience.

Schumer has given moving, personal speeches (“I say if I’m beautiful. I say if I’m strong,” at the Gloria Awards) and hysterically unapologetic ones.

“I am really in it to talk to the women in the crowd, if I’m being totally honest,” she says. “But what I’ve found is that the men want to hear it, too. They’re interested and they want to empower the women in their lives. And women are just as much to blame as men for why we’re not able to understand each other.”

Her talent has lured not just Apatow but Chris Rock (director of her upcoming HBO special) and Madonna, whom Schumer will open for in September.

“I’m always impressed with people who find a way to do this work, which is so difficult, and have a blast,” says Apatow, who contacted Schumer after hearing her ­ ­interviewed by American radio personality Howard Stern. “She has a great team supporting her and I think she’s found a way to be a great leader at that show.”

Jessi Klein, head writer of Inside Amy Schumer, describes Schumer as an unusually dedicated comic who will spend a day shooting and then rush to perform a set or two at night. Klein said the writers' room (where Schumer's sister, Kim, also works) is humming with a sense of limitless material rife for parody.

More attention also means more scrutiny. A recent column in The Guardian, citing a sketch from the show's first season, claimed Schumer has a "blind spot around race". Schumer posted online that the sketch had been misinterpreted and that she wouldn't start joking about "safe material" – a response she now regrets.

“I talked to Louie [C K] and Lena [Dunham] and Chris Rock and they were like: ‘Yeah, you can’t respond,’” says Schumer. But the resulting headlines crystallised the new challenges coming for Schumer.

“The pressure is that there are more eyes on me,” says Schumer, a cousin of New York Senator Chuck Schumer. “It is strange to be treated like a politician all of a sudden.”

But as Schumer finds herself increasingly on the inside of Hollywood glitz or partying at the Emmys, she’s also recoiling – back to New York, back to the stage.

“I’m glad I don’t feel comfortable there,” she says of awards shows. “I don’t want to become a part of that.”