Amy Schumer is up where she belongs
Comedian took the long path to overnight success
MONTREAL - Two years ago, New York City standup Amy Schumer was playing second fiddle to a not-so-pit-bullish Bobby Slayton in the Just for Laughs fest’s Bar Mitzvah Show series. Things weren’t going well for Schumer during her set, in front of a sparse crowd in one of the smaller rooms at Place des Arts.
Surely, Schumer had to have been questioning her comedy existence that night.
“I was just talking to a bunch of comedian friends about the worst shows we had ever done, and that was one of them for me,” Schumer recalls in a phone interview. “I had to go on after my friend Modi, and I had never seen anyone kill like that. It was like watching Jesus in Jerusalem. And that was definitely not the correct bill for me to be on.”
Times change. Schumer has lost her religion. And in an ascent of — dare we say — biblical proportions, she is now one of the hottest comics on the continent. She returns triumphantly to Just for Laughs, not on the Bar Mitzvah bill, but in her own solo show, Wednesday at Metropolis. And though she may be up against some of the biggest names in comedy — Dave Chappelle, Seth Meyers and Hannibal Buress — Schumer’s show is sold out.
So what happened? Schumer can thank Charlie Sheen, more renowned for destroying careers than making them. Following her Just for Laughs gig two years ago, Schumer was invited on the rostrum for the Charlie Sheen roast on Comedy Central.
She eviscerated Chuck as well as fellow roasters Mike Tyson and William Shatner. “Charlie, you’re just like Bruce Willis: you were big in the ’80s, but now Ashton Kutcher has got your slot,” Schumer said. “But if you ever need a friend to pee in a cup for you, I’m your girl.” As for Shatner: “Does Priceline.com pay you in empanadas?”
She was as vicious as the nastiest of them in roasting Sheen and, later, Roseanne. And in a line of work where belittlement can get you everywhere, she was soon to be rewarded with her very own Comedy Central series, Inside Amy Schumer, which has been airing Tuesdays at 10:30 p.m. on the Comedy Network in this country.
“It’s all about timing and placement, I guess,” Schumer, 32, says softly. “But it really has been rather whirlwind. I had been recognized just a couple of times over the years before. Now it’s about 20 times a day I have people coming up to me. I’m definitely not used to it. Actually, I get rather frightened by it.
“I can be walking through New York and daydreaming, and someone will just jump in front of me. Then I scream, because it’s all new to me.
“But the point is, I have been doing this work for a long time. The only difference is that now I’m getting recognized for it. It’s been kind of overwhelming. The funny thing is that when I was young, I never dreamed about being a standup. It didn’t even occur to me to try it.”
Her goal was to be an actress. She started acting in plays when she was 5. She majored in theatre in college. Then, nine years ago, she got swept into the comedy world.
Like her buddy Sarah Silverman, Schumer has a sweet girl-next-door demeanour that masks the naughtiness lurking inside. “How we look clearly does not reflect how we really are,” she cracks.
Schumer is fearless in her TV series. In one episode, she plays an innocent who shows up to a casting call for an absolutely outrageous Internet porn video. In another, she fantasizes about marrying a knob with whom she had a one-night stand the evening before. She even tastes an array of wedding cakes in anticipation of the blessed event. But when she calls the fellow, not only has he forgotten about her, but he’s in the midst of pleasuring himself while gazing at the face and body on his bottle of Hefty Mama tomato sauce.
In another piece, she gets depressed when interviewing a stripper who claims she has made as much as $2,000 a night. A despondent Schumer responds, “And I’ve been doing it for free?”
Schumer’s self-esteem is constantly taking a beating on the show, but she leaves others feeling much better about themselves.
“The writers and I just pitch ideas,” Schumer says. “We look for some social norm to make fun of or some sort of injustice to comment on. And either the good ideas will make us laugh or start a conversation. Then myself or one of the writers will write the scene.”
Not surprisingly, many of these ideas spring from Schumer’s life, such as the segment in which she tests wedding cakes after her one-night affair. “It happens where you meet a guy and don’t know much about him. This allows you so much freedom to take that to the extreme.”
Her recent hour-long show Mostly Sex Stuff became Comedy Central’s second-highest-rated special this year. Landing roles on the hip/hit shows Louie and Girls also cemented her rep. Her latest disc, Cutting, made the Top 5 on the Billboard charts and was cited on numerous comedy-album-of-the-year lists.
Schumer’s Just for Laughs show will incorporate standup material from her special and disc as well as material from the coming second season of her series.
“People will be catching me at a raw yet exciting time,” pledges Schumer, who made her network debut six years ago in Last Comic Standing. “It’s been a slow, steady incline for me. I think because I look the way I do, people have expected almost nothing from me.
“Really, if I saw me getting up on stage, grabbing a microphone, and if I didn’t know who I was, I would be going, ‘Oh God, isn’t it time to go to the bathroom?’ But it’s great to surprise people. One just can’t judge a book by its cover.”
Amy Schumer performs a solo show Wednesday, July 24 at 9:30 p.m. at Metropolis, 59 Ste-Catherine St. E., as part of Just for Laughs. The show is sold out.
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