Like some of the stand-up greats, Amy Schumer grows greater in the company of a grateful audience. She thrives on attention, given undiminished last night by Melbourne at her only Australian live date.
She’s not so emboldened, though, by the attention of a press she describes at length in her set. They ask the newly celebrated comic questions like, “Is it rewarding to know that a woman like you is so popular?” Her much smarter-than-average mouth set into a not-at-all-larger-than-average female frame has made her a media curiosity. And, worse, an “inspiration”.
This, of course, and as any Schumer fan knows, is pants. That a professionally funny person of any size, colour or genital arrangement should be judged in any register other than laughs is a disgrace. Amy is not empowering. Amy is not an inspiration. Amy is, in her best moments, much like Joan Rivers, to whom she has elsewhere delivered apposite tribute. Which is to say, it’s all about the material and in this room her gender, discussed outside the room as either an “inspiration” or a curse, is nothing more than a prop.
But, if over-used, prop comedy can run the risk of draining the cream-pie from its audience. While it’s absolutely true that Schumer is uncannily gifted, it’s also true that any prop ceases to really hit you in the face after seventeen lobs. And, yes, the matter of gender provides a rich vein that has been mined expertly by greats, like Sarah Silverman or Eddie Murphy, whose number Schumer is one day very likely to join. But at some point or another, it might have been nice if she stopped digging.
Or, more specifically, it might have been nice if she’d stop claiming that she refuses to be an “inspiration” to women while demonstrating such a regular commitment to inspire. If Schumer has no wish to honour the preposterous idea of “role models”, and this is a fiction I’d be personally glad to see demolished, then she must quit being one. That Schumer refers — and I LOVE it when she does — to her encounters with semen or her own organ which discharges “egg-white omelette” is no prophylaxis against the “empowerment” she says she despises. Schumer does have an inspirational project and even though she declares she just wants to “have FUN”, she also wants us to learn from her example.
The jokes come fast, perfectly delivered and expertly crafted. But, they also come very often with a moral injunction. You mustn’t judge. You mustn’t care what people think. You mustn’t apologise. These aren’t bad lessons but they’re still lessons and I can’t have untrammelled FUN if someone is asking me to learn.
The woman is marvellous and adorable and gifted of a great physical power to make us lose our shit. Her drag queen voices and her semen-logged shuffle are top-tier and that she is costumed like a millennial Bridget Jones in clothes that don’t so much fit her as fit her not-yet-abandoned aspiration to be impossibly thin, is perfect.
But, she wants to lift us up. This, of course, works very well for some comedy fans but not for me. Comedy is my “safe place” in which anything can be said and everything, including and especially hope for a Better Tomorrow, can be rubbished.
My guess is that Schumer will be forced soon, by both her talent and the continued privilege this talent will bring, to stop “inspiring” us with tales of her conflict with oppressors. You don’t get to keep complaining, especially if you are a very presentable blonde with a kicking career and famous friends, that life is shit. Yes, it’s stupid that stupid women’s magazines are asking her stupid questions. But, she could choose not to answer them at all.