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Amy Schumer‘s Comedy Central show has become a mouthpiece for contemporary womanhood, whether she likes it or not.
“It wasn’t like, ‘Everyone, bras off! We’re going to make the dream feminist show!’ But we accept the responsibility,” she said at the New York Comedy Festival panel for Inside Amy Schumer, held on Saturday at New York City’s Paley Center for Media. “I hate when pop stars like Miley Cyrus say, ‘I never meant to be a role model.’ It’s like, ‘Well bitch, you are.’ ”
Part sketch, part stand-up, part interview, Inside Amy Schumer plays off her background as a stand-up comedienne and her training as an actress. The Emmy-nominated format was originally pitched as a talk show.
“Chelsea Lately was doing great, and I have ovaries also,” Schumer recalled, but she and head writer Jessi Klein decided to scrap everything after sharing some wine. “Jess had a glass and a half, and that’s usually when the truth comes with her. And she was like, ‘I think you’re squandering this opportunity. … You need to make the show of your dreams.’ ” Added Klein, “It felt like there was something more ambitious to do than the template that stand-up comedians are often handed.”
Much of the show evolved from Schumer’s desire to disarm people, as in its HBO’s Real Sex-like man-on-the street interviews: “You discover that everyone is a scumbag, but because everyone is a scumbag, it means no one is a scumbag,” Klein explained. “You ask people about sex, and everyone is sort of disarmed, and they’ll give a weirdly honest answer if there’s a mix in front of them.” The panel also promised that season three would feature even weirder observational humor.
Throughout the panel — moderated by Jason Zinoman of The New York Times — Schumer and her writers discussed how the series has turned heads with its unapologetic take on modern-day sex and relationships. Such sketches often keep the jokes reigned in, almost like they were presenting evidence so men can identify themselves in the commentaries on dating. “Female perspective makes all the difference,” executive producer Dan Powell said, adding that men are often shown as sweet and sensitive, like John Cusack and his boom box in Say Anything. “In actuality, it’s like, leave her alone.”
Still, Inside Amy Schumer isn’t a show made for women, and the panel noted that its audience is actually a slightly male-skewed 50-50 split. However, sketches like “I’m So Bad” and “Compliments” are about “recognizing a female behavior we should be aware of,” Schumer said, adding that next season, the show will take on women’s tendency to constantly apologize.
Schumer knows she’s guilty of the behaviors her show lampoons. In another sketch depicting a focus group of men watching Inside Amy Schumer, all they can talk about is whether or not they’d sleep with her, and she’s happy to hear it. “There’s this cycle of feeling enraged that this is really how it is, but I’m not above wanting people to be attracted to me,” she said. “It’s unfair and we’re all part of it.”
These “moments of magic realism” also appear in Trainwreck, Schumer’s upcoming flick with Judd Apatow, Brie Larson, Bill Hader and Ezra Miller that’s due out next summer and features cameos by wrestler John Cena and NBA stars LeBron James and Amar’e Stoudemire. “I thought, ‘Here come the dummies,’ but LeBron is hilarious!” she said. And whether at the Comedy Center or Carnegie Hall, stand-up is still in the cards for Schumer. “We keep each other at the right self-esteem level,” she said of her comedian peers.
Questlove, who composed the music for the show and was in the panel’s audience, asked if she ever felt pressure to incorporate her fellow stand-up comics into her sketches. She insisted casting choices are all made for the good of the show. “It’s not about doing anyone any favors,” she said. “If it’s right, it’s right.”
Nov. 9, 10 a.m. A previous version incorrectly noted the cast of Trainwreck. THR regrets the error.
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