Amy Schumer on self-confidence, bathroom attendants and angry Jackass fans
The world needs more of what Amy Schumer has to offer: fresh, bold comedy that casually confronts sexuality and race in a way that makes you laugh now -- and think about it later. Whether she's discussing HPV, traveling to the Jewish homeland (Miami), or finally sleeping with her high school crush (but now he expects her to go to his graduation!), Schumer always delivers hilariously unexpected jokes. Her resume is impressive -- she placed fourth on season five of NBC's Last Comic Standing, appeared on Curb Your Enthusiasm and 30 Rock, and will be in the upcoming Steve Carell film Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.
We caught up with the comedian about self-confidence, angry Jackass fans, and how guys don't care if your arm jiggles a little bit.
Westword: What's your favorite joke to tell right now?
Amy Schumer: I have a joke, like a part of my set where I talk about a bathroom attendant and how it's just always annoying that there's a bathroom attendant. It's just so awkward, you know? So I think acting out my interaction with her is my favorite right now. There's a part of that joke where I say "I was in the bathroom, and don't worry, I'm not gonna say anything gross," and then I proceed to be like, "So I'm in there and I'm just dropping a ton of heat" and then I just say the grossest...it's like the funnest thing for me to say.
What's your process of writing comedy? Is it mostly stuff that's happened to you or is it an exaggerated version of yourself?
I don't know what the percentage is, but it's either the opposite of the truth or the truth. So I'll say something really ridiculous, kind of playing a role like an ugly American, just the most racist idiot, but then I'll also talk about totally true stories that happened to me, you know, in and out of the bedroom.
Why do you like to talk about the bedroom so much?
I don't know, that's a good question. I think it's always interested me. It's always what I want to talk about. I like talking about sex and love and that stuff in my everyday life and so I think it makes sense. If I'm having a conversation with someone, I don't wanna talk about, like, "Oh, what do you think about the new movie?" I wanna hear their secrets. So I just share mine first.
You made a really funny video called "A Day in the Life of a Female Comedian." Can you talk a little bit about what inspired that?
Just every interview any female comic ever does, they always are like, "What's it like?" So that was sort of a comment on that question. Because I don't think it's harder. It's different being a woman day to day. So that video is kind of like, yeah, this is how it's different, this is what we do all day. That's sort of what that was about.
You got a lot of backlash for that Ryan Dunn joke you told on the Charlie Sheen roast.
I did? No, I'm just kidding [laughs]. Out of all of the off-color jokes that were told that night, why do you think people focused on you and that specific joke?
I don't really know, I can only guess that it was. I think that people were just surprised to hear his name because he had died only a couple months before. I had no intention of that joke being a big deal at all. I was really surprised. But Comedy Central chose to cut to Steve-O looking really sad and that elicited a reaction. I think lot of people watched the roast that had never seen them before. They were just Jackass fans watching to support Steve-O. There was no one that I know that was offended that I would care about. You know what I mean? The people that reacted that way are not people that I was that concerned with, and I knew what my intentions were, so I was just like, it was a joke and I don't feel bad. I think they were surprised to hear his name, and Steve-O looked sad, and I'm a girl and people like to burn women at the stake. People love being mad at a woman. They like vilifying chicks. Why else would they have done that? I think they didn't understand the joke. The joke was saying that I would have rather Ryan still been alive and Steve-O be dead, which is the joke. That's not true. I don't want anybody to be dead.
It seems like people don't want women to be mean.
Yeah, yeah. People don't know what they want from women, but they like being angry at them. [Laughs]. I didn't have even a moment of self reflection, like "maybe they're right!" It was honestly just annoying.
You wrote a really great Cosmo article on how to be confident. What inspired you to write that?
That's an issue I'm constantly sort of...every woman is sort of battling. Ashley Judd had an article today that I read that was really good about it. Did you see that?
I did! I loved it.
I loved it, too. I think it's so right. I have an article this month in Men's Health and they had me write this whole article and then they sort of quietly opted to use a model instead of me. And it's really hard for that not to be a huge blow to the ego. There's this huge picture of this teenager in like a bra and underwear, using a champagne bottle phallically. So these things come up where I'll find real self-confidence and I feel strong, I feel beautiful, I feel good about myself, and then something'll happen and you just get shot back to being like a sixth grader who someone's like, "You're ugly" and you're like, "I am? Oh no, I have to reassess." Letting other people's experiences of you define you has always interested me and it's something I'm always battling against. I want to take my own struggles and help inspire other women to find their own self worth from the stuff that actually matters. Because our toughest critics are usually ourselves or other women, so every day I'll get 30 tweets saying, like "You're my dream girl. You're so hot" and then I'll get five being like, "You're the ugliest human being that's ever walked the planet." So my feeling is that they're both right. What Ashley Judd said that I really agree with is that the compliments mean just as little as the insults. It shouldn't matter, these faceless people. But I know that the people that I love and care about know and love me, so that's how I define myself. I sometimes will look back at that [Cosmo] article to remind myself, because you just want to look in the mirror and be proud of how you're living.
And it's hard when a lot of the value society places on women is totally tied up in how we look.
Yeah, it's hard to accept. It was sort of interesting, Ashley's article, because she wasn't saying like, let's fight against it, but she was saying it's worth a looking at. Like, how much longer can we do that? So I'm kind of trying to do my part. I feel like a beautiful woman, I really do, but I'm not Reese Witherspoon. I'm not a romantic comedy lead. And I don't want to lose a bunch of weight and move to Hollywood. I don't think these people are happy out here. I'm in L.A. right now and I'm just like, everyone's lonely and it's sad out here. I'd rather continue to eat carbs and drink. And I don't think people need to see a weight loss from me or some beautiful new way to put my hair. [Laughs]. I'm just gonna keep on being myself and trying to get better at stand-up and get the roles that I look physically right for. And you know what? Guys aren't that hard of critics. They wanna have sex with us and they don't notice if, like, our arm jiggles a little bit more. It's all just media-generated and it seems so negative. I'm doing what we're all doing, just trying to feel good about myself and ignore the fear-based marketing that's trying to make us all kill ourselves.
When you got into comedy did you have the idea that you wanted to help other people, or was that something that came up later?
No. And even now I don't know if I'm helping. With stand-up I like to think that I empower the women and also the men. If they don't have somebody sort of strong and outspoken and unapologetic, a woman like that in their life, they see that this exists and I'm up there and I say the word clitoris not for shock value but because it's something I'm talking about. That sort of came later. I started feeling excited about the thought of helping people and that came probably just a couple years ago.
I do a lot of colleges and I realized, like, a lot these kids are like 18, 19, and I'm catching them at this very sensitive time, so I'm gonna make them laugh here and hopefully leave them with some messages that will maybe help them out when they have some vulnerable situations happen. Like, when the girls in here find out they have HPV, which most of them will, maybe they'll remember me talking about it and saying that I had it in college and not feel as disgusting and worthless. And just talking about being kind of promiscuous in college and saying that that's okay, and talking about being safe, and talking about drinking but not making it that appealing, like the truth about it. And I'll just stop my set and sort of talk at schools and I'll be like, these guys, you won't even like these guys after college. There's more women at every college I've ever done. And so the guys are just getting laid that don't deserve it. I'm like, no, these girls will not talk to you after college. I just like to be a voice that's making people laugh. I like the thought that people come to my show and it maybe makes them think a little bit. I want people at my show, I want to make money, I want the crowd to be full. But I do want my audience to be, you know, smart, forward-thinking people. I'm not interested in getting everyone in the room.
What are you working on next?
I have an hour for Comedy Central in June, and I think I'm gonna do the next roast. The movie I did with Steve Carell is coming out at the end of June also, so that'll be fun. I filmed a pilot for Comedy Central and I'm waiting to see if that got picked up.
What's your pilot about?
It's called Come Inside with Amy Schumer, and it's a bunch of scenes and some stand-up and man on the street stuff. Each episode has a theme and the first theme is threesomes. I love it and I really hope they pick it up. I would love to be able to do that whole series.
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