Amy Schumer

It’s time to halt the Amy Schumer coronation

Amy Schumer’s much-anticipated comedy special aired on HBO this past Saturday, and it was pretty good. It ranks right up there with my personal favorites: Chris Rock: Never Scared, Wanda Sykes: Ima Be Me, and Iliza Shlesinger: War Paint. Though the special was mostly funny, there were sections that reminded the audience of Schumer’s weak points. 

Like anything with Schumer, some moments were uncomfortable, including an eating disorder joke that equated bulimia with a diet that she “couldn’t do.” The couple moments that fell flat were jarring considering the last six months of her meteoric rise have been mostly blemish free.

Even when considering Trainwreck, Schumer emerged from the criticism still being considered one of the best comedians around right now, awkward racial jokes and all. And it’s because of the strength of her comedy, the sharpness of it, that she holds this reputation. Her show, Inside Amy Schumer, slayed all spring when it came to revealing sexist bullshit. Trainwreck, for all its warts and pimples, was still a pretty fantastic comedy.

Seeing Schumer back on the stand-up stage promised to be the most thrilling 60 minutes of the year. And it was, sort of.

What makes Schumer’s comedy revolutionary is not that she is a woman, or that her comedy revolves around being a woman. She is revolutionary because in describing her experiences with womanhood, she does so in way that exposes society for how sexist it is, and thus responsible for some of the ridiculous things women do: like diets. This brand of humor stands in stark contrast to someone like Iliza Shlesinger, whose comedic presence is built on poking fun at young women through her “sheep voice” and unfortunate heterosexist way of giving dating advice.

Schumer’s comedy is so much smarter than the “dumb white girl” persona of her past, but her special at the Apollo theater showed a woman in transition, not necessarily a strong social critic who has hit her stride. Admittedly, I hoped for the latter as I tuned in on Saturday, and was a little disappointed.

That it not to say that Schumer wasn’t funny, she was. I literally laughed out loud in my chair, alone in my apartment, sipping on hard cider, which is how I imagine many people watched that special. And she was smart. Having rightfully taken some heat for some bad racial jokes (watch the first twenty minutes of Women Who Kill on Netflix), race was pretty much not mentioned at all, surprising considering that Chris Rock directed the special. The only moment came in a missed opportunity when Schumer opened the show by acknowledging the fact that she was at The Apollo theater and implied that the audience didn’t look like they lived in the neighborhood (read: they’re white). I don’t think there has ever been a better opportunity for a gentrification joke in the history of comedy, but she didn’t make it.

Couple that moment with poking fun at “deaf accents” and equating gender with genitalia, and it became very clear that Schumer’s comedy hasn’t quite evolved from an intersectional perspective. It is possible for Schumer’s “white girl” persona to critically reflect on her position in the world and critique the hell out of that, but that isn’t a place where she has gone yet.

Schumer’s comedy is largely successful because of its relatability to the everyday experiences of womanhood, and all of the bullshit that comes with that. She is raunchy, and makes me feel like we’re all in the same living room, drinking a shit-ton of wine and/or liquor and divulging a deluge of details. It has been my experience, that as women, we love details. Schumer capitalizes on that part of “girl culture” in a way that distinctly honors that experience, rather than tears it down. That undercurrent drives the humor behind talking about periods, body image, and sex.

And yet, the longer the special went on, the more it became apparent that her comedy wasn’t going to be inclusive of my experience as a queer woman, a biracial woman, or a masculine-of-center woman. Schumer identifies with none of those identifies that are most salient to me, other than woman, and so to speak to those experiences would be inauthentic of her. It is not that I expect her to comment on what it is like to be queer (she doesn’t know); it is that the lack of intersectional awareness present in her jokes is beginning to make me feel unwelcome in her comedy.

We all may be laughing with Schumer, but there are moments where she laughs at others, and it’s not ok.

Header image credit: Mashable


Katie Barnes (they/them/their) is a pop-culture obsessed activist and writer. While at St. Olaf College studying History and (oddly) Russian (among other things), Katie fell in love with politics, and doing the hard work in the hard places. A retired fanfiction writer, Katie now actually enjoys writing with their name attached. Katie actually loves cornfields, and thinks there is nothing better than a summer night's drive through the Indiana countryside. They love basketball and are a huge fan of the UConn women's team. When not fighting the good fight, you can usually find Katie watching sports, writing, or reading a good book.

Katie Barnes is a pop-culture obsessed activist and writer.

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