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I can’t stand Amy Schumer

She is not the progressive comedian she's made out to be

I can't escape her. No matter how much I unsubscribe.

I just can’t. The unanimous praise she gets from progressive, left-leaning media confuses the hell out of me. Sure, she’s got some wonderfully subversive humor about sexuality and the complicated reality of being a woman, but for as quickly as outlets like Salon and Huffington Post publish zealous pieces decrying gaffes about race from the right, they have nothing but praise for Amy Schumer.

Yes, the Amy Schumer that makes fun of black names, and makes tired jokes about asian women’s vaginas, Latino men being rapists, the list goes on.

And I mean, I’ve come to expect that from American standup comedy. The biggest, most well-known acts are revered for being raw, boisterous, and ‘politically incorrect.’ And while I’ve got my own qualms with that, I acknowledge 2 things: 1. what is most popular is going to appeal to the white middle-class sensibilities of America’s [pop] cultural gatekeepers and 2. most popular stand up comedians aren’t trying to be ‘progressive’, they just call it as they see it. [and more than likely, their view of things is limited by who they include in their inner circle]

But if you’re a young, left-leaning mediaphile, Amy Schumer is unavoidable. I have my Facebook newsfeed tailored specifically for news items that are relevant to the LGA’s core audience, and it’s taken a lot of unfollowing and ‘See fewer posts like this’ to get it to be useful for me. But no matter how many times I try to hide Amy Schumer stories, they continue to pop up like weeds, and I question if Facebook’s newsfeed algorithms just want to make my life a living hell. Starting in June and ending today, I screen capped 31 Amy Schumer stories in my feed, mostly from Salon. I saw an Amy Schumer story almost every day. No other standup comedian comes close, and the only individual who popped up more than that in my newsfeed during that time was President Obama.

Out of those 31 pieces, 30 of them were pieces praising Amy. And yes, she does deserve some credit. Her humor and candor surrounding her experiences with body image, rape culture, and the crazy, contradicting forces that place pressure on women and their identities is wonderfully subversive, and her self-deprecation yields genuine bittersweet laughs from her audience.

However, when someone can juxtapose jokes about how terrible rape can be with how black mothers should have google in the delivery room to correct a ‘crazy’ name choice, it’s surreal to me. When someone can so poignantly and hilariously challenge one realm of power in society, and stomp on the human dignity of a historically marginalized group with simplistic-ass jokes that strip away any semblance of social context, I don’t know if that’s cognitive dissonance, or just plain stupid.

The one piece I stumbled upon in my newsfeed critical of Amy from the Washington Post nails it. Authors Stacey Patton and David J. Leonard note, “Schumer herself has shined a spotlight on rape culture, misogyny and sexism. But when it comes to race, she betrays this tradition. Blind or not, joking or not, Schumer used her stage to play and profit off race while people of color are bearing the brunt of racial violence.” More reprehensible is Schumer’s lack of self-awareness in her response to criticism on Twitter, “Playing with race is a thing we are not supposed to do, which is what makes it so fun for comics,” she wrote. “You can call it a ‘blind spot for racism’ or ‘lazy’ but you are wrong. It is a joke and it is funny. I know because people laugh at it.”

But why are they laughing? Are they laughing at the ridiculous reality of how entire groups people can be disrespected and dehumanized for cheap laughs? Or are they laughing because a comedian has put the audience’s own limited, ignorant worldview into words? If you’re appealing to the latter, then you are being lazy.

Schumer has used the excuse that her racist jokes are told through a dumb white girl persona, but where in her routine is there any indictment of these attitudes? Don’t get it twisted— cheap stereotypes put on display without questioning their validity just hurts the people they’re haphazardly applied to, not the morons that internalize and believe them.

I’m of the belief that when tackling controversial topics involving human beings and their identities, good comedy should punch up, never down; it’s something you hear often these days. You attack perpetrators and power holders, not victims and the marginalized. You’re supposed to punch the rapist, not the rape victim; the racist, not the discriminated; the rich corporate executive, not the downtrodden worker. You go after the assholes that deserve the hate. Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and John Oliver are masters at this, and they’ve earned all of the praise they get because they manage to tackle very nuanced, complex, controversial issues, and somehow, only manage to offend the most backward, privileged, delusional people.

But Amy’s inconsistencies regarding race are glaring. When you attack sexism, but spew racism, it comes off as egotistical and selfish— that you only want to address the issues that directly affect you and people who look like you. And it’s embarrassing that Amy doesn’t have the self-awareness to say “I told jokes in bad taste to establish my career, but now I see what I did wrong, and I won’t continue to do it.” Instead we get half-ass apologies and the delusional “she’s not racist, she’s a feminist” defense from her fans.

Amy Schumer has some bright spots in her repertoire, but she’s proven far too inconsistent, far too selfish, and not worldly enough to be praised in the manner and frequency she is, especially by zealously liberal media outlets. The people who instantly jump to the tired defense of “they’re just jokes” are trying to avoid a conversation they’re not equipped to have, and will likely never get it. That’s fine; those people will always be there. But for those of us who like to have our perspective challenged with new experiences and knowledge, let’s not confuse controversy and subversion with ignorant dehumanization. Let’s reserve our praise for comedians who respect the human dignity of all groups of people, and don’t pander to people’s lack of experience for cheap laughs. Comedy is a product of the social environment it inhabits, and while it’s incredibly subjective, what you choose to laugh at is reflective of your worldview. Let’s reflect on why we’re laughing and be more selective. And as for me, I’ll still be hiding Amy Schumer stories in my newsfeed.

14 Comments on I can’t stand Amy Schumer

  1. brilliant critique of Amy! i couldnt quite verbalise what i was finding a bit ‘off’ about her work, thank you very much for doing so.

  2. Kathleen Edsall // July 16, 2015 at 8:56 pm // Reply

    To the point, well written and speaks to a common problem: white people who see themselves as liberals in regards to women’s issues and GLBTQ issues but refuse to do the work to look at their own white privilege and racist beliefs. Until white people stand up, speak out (including in their comedy routines) and work to change the institutions that continue to discriminate against people of color, we will continue to live in a country defined by race and class. 

  3. Are you fucking kidding me? You have no idea what you are talking about, when Amy Schumer makes ‘racist’ jokes it is commentary on racism itself. She has a joke about how her grandma saying black people steal things and she says ‘white people stole black people’. You are a sexist and a racist.

  4. Uh huh. Just like when Seth Green made Meg a punching bag all those episodes, amirite? kylekdim just has no sense of humor!

    Even if you think commenting on racism is what she’s doing, even if SHE thinks that’s what she’s doing, it’s never going to come off right, because that is not in fact what Amy Schumer is doing. If that were what she is doing, wouldn’t she say so? But she doesn’t.

    Amy’s defense amounts to, “I’m not supposed to do this, so I do it. It’s funny, so it can’t be racist.” Do you see any indication of her commenting on society or even showing an ounce of introspection there? No, she’s making excuses and refusing to consider what it is she’s actually doing. As the author says, “Schumer has used the excuse that her racist jokes are told through a dumb white girl persona, but where in her routine is there any indictment of these attitudes?” If something is satire, and the audience can’t tell it’s satire, it fails as satire.

    The most damning evidence against her is Schumer’s own material. As kylekdim so aptly points out. she mocks sexism very well, and nobody is confused about whether that material is “really sexist or not.” It’s obvious, and it’s often very, very funny. But her “playing with race” plays it straight. Like Seth Green, she’s merely being “edgy” for the sake of it, to see what she can get away with, and that’s a commentary on nothing and no one but her.

    One joke about how “white people stole black people” is just that, one joke. It’s not particularly funny, but it is aimed in the right direction. Can you really not see the difference between that and “I, Amy Shumer, say black people name their kids dumb things haha”?

    Brilliant analysis, kylekdim. Thank you so much for posting it. I laughed at some of the sexism-mocking videos I saw on-line, so I decided to watch her show. Going Inside Amy Schumer was a journey I could only bring myself to make once.

  5. Amen. Great commentary thank you for putting into words what I’ve been feeling. There’s a bevy of clueless white female comedians who are becoming popular. I have to work hard to find the really smart female comics and ignore folks like…Amy Schumer.

  6. No idea who she is but she doesn’t sound funny. Nothing as serious as a joke1

  7. I haven’t watched much Amy Schumer but I saw one piece I hope my teenage Chinese daughter doesn’t come across. She was talking about how now she can afford to get manicures and pedicures, “Now I can have all these Asian people tending to my needs” or something like that.

    Ugh.

  8. I am white and I can’t stand her. For some reason she reminds me of “Mean Girls”.

    • I hate that everybody is kissing her butt when she seems like a downright pompous, jerk with no respect for anyone or any race. She makes everybody look bad around her.

  9. I am liberal and I can’t stand her. I’m doing all this is something about her that I don’t like. It doesn’t make any difference what your political stance is if you don’t like somebody you don’t like her. I think he’s overrated so I’m glad those others who feel the same way as me.

  10. I am liberal and I can’t stand her. I’m saying this because something about her that I don’t like. It doesn’t make any difference what your political stance is if you don’t like somebody you don’t like them. I think she’s so overrated .I’m glad those others who feel the same way as me.

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