Stand up comedy is so much fun. I love everything about it. There are a few things specifically that I really enjoy about stand up comedy. Killing on stage, watching a newbie at an open mic get laughs for the first time, watching a newbie at an open mic bomb for the first time, getting mercilessly ribbed by the other comedians after a rough set, watching experienced comedian Rich Vos mow down a heckler, watching Dave Attell perform to non-stop laughter for an hour, and seeing that beautiful red light coming from the back of the club after bombing miserably. I can’t adequately express how much I love comedians. There’s three things that I found particularly awesome about comedians: their brutal honestly, their incredible ability to accept failure and criticism, and their amazing talent. If a comedian has those three things it’s hard not to love them. If you asked me a year ago to name a comedian that possessed those three traits I probably would have named Amy Schumer. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case.
I first started following Amy back in 2011 when she was an opener for comedian Jim Norton. After hearing her stand up she immediately earned a place in my top 20 funniest living comedians list that I have bouncing around in my head at all times. She was funny, she was honest, and she was everything I enjoyed about stand up comedy. Despite being on Last Comic Standing, Amy’s rocket to fame really started taking off following appearances on the Opie and Anthony show and the roast of Charlie Sheen. After her hilarious stand up special “Mostly Sex Stuff” it was apparent to everyone in the stand up community that Amy was inevitable. Her pilot was picked up by comedy central shortly after and it’s currently enjoying its fourth season. I loved Amy’s work and found her to be a truly funny person on and off stage.
2011 to 2015 Amy was like Henry Hill in the glory days of the mob. She had it made. Movies, tv shows, tours, magazines, late night talk shows, acting lessons, dancing lessons. Then came the summer of 2015. In July of 2015 an article was published in The Washington Post (by an author who had by her own admission never seen Amy’s show nor stand up specials) which brought attention to a racial joke that Schumer had made two years prior. She immediately came under fire on Twitter. Her followers and reporters for numerous blogs with tens of twenties of followers bombarded Schumer on the social media site demanding to know if she was truly a racist. Amy apologized and said she was playing a racist white republican character on stage and that she’s now evolving.
Now as a fan of comedy I was somewhat confused. Comedians sometimes make jokes and say ridiculous things on stage and sometimes people laugh and sometimes people don’t. That’s the basics. I’m not going to turn this article into a think piece on the art form of comedy and the rights and wrongs of doing jokes on stage and which jokes are off limits and which aren’t but just know that I found it a little bizarre that Amy would disavow the comedian she was that got her to this position of success. Of course that’s not a deal breaker for me. At the end of the day, I was more annoyed at the bloggers who forced her into this position than I was at Amy. So I carried on enjoying Amy’s work along with the dozens of other comedians I spend my time following. After this incident, it felt like things started to change a bit. Amy started to do something unbecoming of a comedian. She lost her ability to take a joke.
When you’re a fan of stand up, you hear stories of the upstairs table at the Comedy Cellar in New York where the most brutal and hilarious comedians verbally abuse each other hours on end for laughs. I remember being in high school and deciding to wear a studded bracelet because I thought it would be cool. When I sat down at the cafeteria table with my friends the merciless teasing didn’t end for the duration of lunch. To sit with the comedians at the Comedy Cellar on MacDougal street; you’re going to have to deal with the same kind of hazing on a regular basis so you better have thick skin. Amy was one of them. She had previously spoken on radio shows about how unforgiving comedians like Patrice O’Neal and Keith Robinson used to roast her without abandon on regular occasions. Of course Amy, being the professional that she is, was able to give it right back.
That’s what surprised me most when she took aim at 17 year old film critic Jackson Murphy. Murphy tweeted; “Spent the night with @amyschumer. Certainly not the first guy to write that.” A joke that Amy did not find funny. Amy wrote back; “I get it. Cause I’m a whore? Glad I took a photo with you. Hi to your dad.” I was pretty shocked. Amy had built her whole career joking about her promiscuity and we had all laughed along for years. She was a comedian who was surely used to a multitude of jokes thrown her way in her time as a comic. I was starting to get concerned that Amy may have out grown me.
Days later, a host of accusations that Amy Schumer had stolen jokes emerged. Joke theft is no laughing matter in the world of comedy (I know. Look I saw the opportunity and I went for it. It was awful and I have no business commenting on anyone else’s comedy crimes after I just basically committed capital punishment with that joke.) Accusations of joke theft are not uncommon. Dennis Leary and Carlos Mencia are names that are often brought up. Dane Cook has been accused of stealing three jokes from Louis CK and has been doing his best to fight off these joke theft rumors for years. In January, Amy was accused of plagiarizing 10-20 jokes. Some of the jokes were close and others weren’t but the numbers were staggering. I was stunned. Videos surfaced comparing her jokes from her stand up and tv show to the work of multiple comedians most of whom she had worked with. The videos showed her side by side with Marc Maron, Wendy Liebman, Tammy Pascateli, Patrice O’Neal, John Mulaney, Kathleen Madigan, Kyle Cease, Jenny Slate, Josh Smith, MAD tv and more. It was getting harder and harder to defend Amy. It was clear that Amy at best had an originality problem and at worst was stealing jokes from other comedians.
I have only done stand up as a hobby. I’ve never gotten paid for it. Occasionally I’ll be at Helium here in Portland, sitting in the green room before I go on stage, looking up at the signatures on the fridge wondering “Why is Nikki Glaser’s signature so big?” or I’ll look at the fridge and the door frame and the ceiling and wonder “Why did Jim Bruer sign every surface in this room?” and then I’ll look down at the 4 minutes of jokes I wrote that for some reason took hours of work to fine-tune before going on stage to get either laughs or silence. I only experience a fraction of what Amy experiences on a regular basis. I don’t claim to have any concept of what she has gone through but I do know how hard is it to write your own material and have it stolen. It’s a scummy thing to do. Of course, I can’t say with absolute certainty if Amy did but things don’t look good.
There are things Amy has admitted to which I found morally questionable. For example, in Amy’s speech at the Gloria Awards, she describes an experience that sounds like she may have raped a man who was asleep and or drunk and she has also admitted to stealing thousands of dollars from stores. She could have made these stories up or exaggerated them so I’m not going to draw any conclusions on these, but they’re worth noting.
That brings us to this weekend. Amy claimed to be harassed by a fan while she was in Greenville, South Carolina this Saturday. “This guy in front of his family just ran up next to me scared the s**t out of me.” Amy wrote on her instagram “Put a camera in my face. I asked him to stop and he said ” no it’s America and we paid for you” this was in front of his daughter. I was saying stop and no. Great message to your kid. Yes legally you are allowed to take a picture of me. But I was asking you to stop and saying no. I will not take picture with people anymore and it’s because of this dude in Greenville.” The statement was accompanied by a picture of a gentleman giving a thumbs up. The man in question posted a video that told a different story. (Side note: I googled this and the media needs to stop saying that he “fired back” Seriously. Google it. It’s like 100 articles using the same expression. We’re not doing a civil war re-enactment. Relax) Long story short; the man and his wife are saying Amy is lying or at least greatly exaggerating. His video somewhat corroborates his story. It appears to show him apologizing for taking her video and Amy not pleased with being filmed in public. She was not surprised and she claimed to be and he appears to be apologizing when Amy seemed bothered.
I understand it must be very obnoxious to be hounded for pictures constantly and to be filmed by strangers, but to bring the man’s daughter into it and imply that he was teaching her that rape was okay is a bizarre approach to say the least. If you do not want to take pictures with fans then say so. There’s no need to shoe horn an agenda into this.
I’m just a comedy writer whose kind of stupid and whose opinion clearly does not matter to anyone and nor should it, but if you’re interested; I think I’m done with Amy. She had a great run in my list of fantastically talented comedians but I know too many things about her. There are plenty of comedians that I love who don’t steal jokes, don’t have an agenda outside of making me laugh, and don’t treat fans poorly.