Fate refuses to give Amy Schumer a free pass – no matter how talented or hilarious she is.
Just when the world should have been her oyster offering up pearls everywhere she goes, an ugly controversy surrounding one of her Comedy Central show’s writers has left her as off-balance as a woman could be at the exact moment when she’s publishing a memoir that is going to be one of the surefire best-sellers of 2016.
The book is her long-awaited memoir “The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo” (Gallery Books, 323 pages, $28) and it’s everything her fans could want: funny and so laceratingly candid that lots of offense will be taken.
As we speak, she should still be in mid-victory lap – soaking up cataracts of media love. She’s not only THE female comic in America, she is, in almost everything she does professionally, forcing America to rethink every assumption it has been making for decades about women and sex and freedom and power.
Instead of an unbroken chorus of “We love you Amy/oh yes we do/when you’re not with us/we’re blue/oh Amy we love you,” she has had to explain why one of her show’s old writers – comic Kurt Metzger – was denouncing an improv comedy group the Upright Citizens Brigade for banning appearances by comedian Aaron Glaser. Glaser is facing rape allegations from a few female comics.
Metzger has said the police are the only necessary recipients of such accusations, not the internet.
Instead of talking about the abundant meat and juice on almost every page of “The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo,” Schumer had to make clear everywhere that while she disagreed with Metzger, he was still “my friend and a great writer.” Metzger, for his part, says he is not trying to make the world safe for predators, only registering disgust at the “modern lynch mob mentality” of the internet.
Schumer couldn’t win. Wherever she came down in the whole mess, clumsiness beckoned. So much for a clear, unsullied shot at best-sellerdom. (It will happen – only with speed bumps.)
Even so, her current bruises are a mere fraction of the horrors that awaited her when her wonderfully funny and raunchy smash hit film “Trainwreck” hit theaters.
That’s when the comedian, after promoting the film in Australia, came home to a barrage of unanswered frantic, missed phone calls from her publicist.
She jokes in the book that “if she was trying to contact me that urgently, I was certain that a naked photo or a sex tape of me must have gotten out. I had sex with my boyfriend on a computer camera once when I was twenty and it was totally awful. … A still of Rupert Murdoch would have looked sexier.”
But what she learned from her publicist on July 23, 2015, is that “there was a shooting in a theater in Lafayette, La., at a showing of ‘Trainwreck.’ ” The movie was targeted by an opponent of sexual content.
She writes “my heart broke right then and there. I mean it. The only other times I felt sadness that heavy in my life were after a surfing accident when I was sure I was losing a leg, and upon hearing of the death of a couple of close friends. The news crushed me. I went to my hotel room, turned on CNN and became almost catatonic. I didn’t yet know that two beautiful, smart, strong women would die that night.”
Their names – Mayci (Breaux) and Jillian (Johnson) – make up the title of her chapter on the shooting.
Carefully parse the preceding: A ghostwriter or canny editor would almost certainly have advised Schumer to leave off the surfing reference in the accident that had her fearing the loss of her leg.
It can be read easily as a jarringly trivial element in a tale of bodily fear that is anything BUT trivial.
But that’s not Amy Schumer. And that’s not “The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo.” Whatever others’ contributions may have been, this is her voice for anyone who has heard or seen her perform.
To no one’s surprise, her life, objectively considered, has been a mess. But it is the whole point of Amy Schumer that everyone’s life is a mess when related truthfully and in detail.
On Page 1 of her book, she casually mentions soiling herself in Austin. On Page 3, she writes “An Open Letter to My Vagina.” (It begins “First of all, I’m sorry. Second of all, you’re welcome.”)
On Page Six she tells us about “My One and Only One Night Stand” (he was “a six-foot-two inch strapping strawberry blond of about thirty-five years. My first kiss was with a redhead so I guess I’ve always had a weakness for them”). She met him on a plane “traveling between two horrendous cities: Fayetteville, N.C., and Tampa, Fla. I’m not scared about writing that and making those people mad because I know for a fact that no one who lives there has ever read a book. JKJKJKJKJK but kind of not K.” (That is “just kidding but kind of not kidding” translated from textese.)
The horrors in Louisiana made her a passionate opponent of the gun lobby but not a fanatic one. (She understands those who own guns for hunting and self-defense but ends her book with a list of “people in Congress who have taken money from and been influenced by the gun lobby.”)
Those well-grounded in Amy-world from TV and movies and standup will learn salient details from her memoirs – grim details of her father’s multiple sclerosis as well as his alcoholism and infidelities; her mother’s leaving her father for her best friend’s father (the two were never friends again); the nonconsensual way she lost her virginity (she calls it “grape”; she was not conscious at the time); the harrowing details of a vile abusive relationship; her lifelong fandom of Buffalo’s own Ani DiFranco.
It’s her article of faith that her current fame and its immense young female demographic doesn’t just allow her to appear on TV in Old Navy ads for kids’ clothing; it provides opportunities to be useful to the human race.
She loves very little in this world more than standup.
But she also writes “it’s weird to be treated differently all of a sudden just because you have been on TV and have some cash. I am not special just because I am famous right now. I won’t be famous forever – not even much longer actually, which is fine with me because it doesn’t feel good to have people be nice to you because of your money, My favorite people in the world still give me (expletive) and treat me like the Long Island Trash receptacle that I am.”
Hardly. She is, without question, the leading comic of what an old colleague of ours around here once called “Generation Overshare.”
The internet has made it difficult, if not impossible, for younger comedians to hide.
It’s Amy Schumer’s profession – in this book as well as her movie and her TV show and her act – to wonder why on earth we’d want to.
Even so, she insists she’s an “introvert.” The book proves it, up to a point.
As one of its blurbers has written, Amy Schumer – who knows more than a thing or two about being human in this world – has got your back.
Look at what she just did for one of her show’s writers when he made her publicly uncomfortable at the worst possible time.