Amy Schumer, Hollywood’s latest go-to comedienne stars in the irreverent comedy, Trainwreck (which she also wrote), about a commitment-phobic, hard-partying magazine writer.
In this semi-autobiographical role, she also experiences some rough times in her personal life concerning her childhood, and in particular, her father who’s afflicted with Multiple Sclerosis.
When you’re writing or acting, does it ever occur to you, ‘maybe this is too much?’
For myself as an actor, I remember reading An Actor Prepares by Stanislavsky, the whole part about the girl who just had an abortion. She was acting that out in class and that was, like, too much. But I wrote this script two years ago and it was stuff that was really relevant to me at the time, so by the time we filmed it a year later, I felt I had enough space from it that I could really tap into it and prepare without it being too weird and too close to home. But if you mean in terms of what audiences are going to think is too much, I don’t worry about that. As far as my own sensibilities, I don’t want to be really grossed out and I don’t want to be, like, insane, but I do want to push the envelope and say that this is my reality. That means that there’s got to be other people like me and so I don’t want to apologise for it. If this isn’t your taste in movies, then we are blessed with so many other choices. (laughs) And you can hopefully find your people like I have with my standup. But I never try to push it too far.
Do you think most men wish to sleep with as many women as possible, like you say in the movie?
No. I think everybody is wired differently. I know some guys who have that real innate desire to spread their seed, (laughs) and then there are some guys for who the thought of sleeping with anyone other than their wife is terrifying. I think people are all wired very differently. I happen to have a father who was more like that father in the movie and so that’s what I was kind of exposed to at a young age.
You’ve become the poster girl for sexual humour – is that how you see it?
Well, I am the one who takes the hit for it. And it’s not for shock value or anything but it’s also to remind us that we are all the same and no one is better than anyone.
Do you have a thick skin?
Girl, yeah! I have had a tough road. I know we all have, but our family went through a really rough patch and I was making them laugh the whole time to ease us through it. I think you are born funny but it’s also a defense mechanism and I have had so much happen to me. Like, all my worst nightmares have come through on stage. I have bombed so hard; I bombed at a hunger strike in DC in front of the White House, I have had people get up and walk out and I have had beer bottles thrown at me. I have had people come at me, I have had death threats, but I am here to stay. (laughs)
For me, Trainwreck wasn’t about sex. It was about a woman desperately trying to connect with somebody and ultimately finding love. Do you think it’s going to inspire a lot of other women because perhaps we all look for the man that you found in the movie?
Right. Yeah, it was very autobiographical. My sister and I are very close and she’s married but they don’t live in the suburbs and they don’t have kids, but still she chose that sort of life, and there are moments where I have felt a little abandoned by that. We have been so close and we kind of had to raise each other. And I was realising at the time that I wasn’t okay and that my sister was kind enough to pretend like I was and made me feel like I was okay. And I was broken and the hardest thing was for me was to accept love and that I was deserving of it because I was trying to sabotage it. And I was really learning that about myself when I was writing the script and that was something that I was still always working on. I hope it inspires women and makes people feel less alone. I hope it inspires men too. I want people to laugh and feel better but I want them to leave a little less judgmental of themselves, too. I want girls to be able to look at themselves too and smile at themselves and be like, ‘You are fucking beautiful.’
It’s been a long road for you; you said you started to act at age five but people assume you’re an overnight sensation. What do you think of fame now that you’ve had a taste of it? Are you afraid of it?
I had nightmares all last night about fame. The only upside is that I have really only wanted to make people laugh and feel better, and so that gives me more of a chance to do that. But other than that, it doesn’t seem like there is an upside. I got a free appetizer once at (TGI) Friday’s, but other than that I don’t see what is good about fame. It’s overwhelming. The way I stay grounded is that I have my family really close to me. My sister travels with me and I take care of her. And the comedians who are my best friends, all we do is trash each other. If I walked into the comedy club that I am at every night in New York wearing this (high heels and a stylish dress) they would be like, ‘Boo! Who do you think you are?’ So the people I am surrounded by are reminding me that I ain’t the shit. I have got a really great group of honest people around me. I don’t have any yes men in my life because I am not interested in that and I have always liked honesty.
Christopher Hitchens and others have said something along the lines that women aren’t funny or can’t be funny. Is that still something you are working against or is that an antiquated idea of the past?
I think it’s just such a strange statement. That’s like, ‘Do Jewish people smell like orange juice?’ (laughter) It’s just weird. Of course women are funny and have always been funny. My favourite shows growing up were Carol Burnett and I Love Lucy, and Laverne and Shirley. One of my favourite actresses was Goldie Hawn and I always responded to the women more than the men. I felt connected to them and I just feel like there’s never been a drought. Is the industry changing? I don’t know but I would be giving a joke answer to that because I think most of that is perpetuated by journalists. People will say all the time, ‘Usually I don’t think women are funny.’ It’s offensive. It’s offensive to my gender. People who make me laugh the most are women. It’s such a preposterous question and idea that I don’t mind qualifying it with an answer, but it just insane to me. (laughs)
You were wealthy in your early years and then your family experienced the horrors of bankruptcy, what does money mean to you now? And what do you do with your money?
Oh good question. And I love questions like that. Money is very ridiculous to me. We didn’t feel it that much when we went bankrupt because we had a big house, but we didn’t dress well. It was a different time and our role models were on Donna Reed or 90210, and now it’s Gossip Girl and people name brand things and so we didn’t have any of those things. So it was just that our house got smaller. But I don’t wear any jewelry and I don’t have a nice bag, ever. I spend money on going out to eat and I fly first class now and I can fly my sister first class and my brother has a kid and I got to give them half of what I have. I got my sister an Invisalign braces and I mostly give money to my brother and sister, but I got to buy an apartment in New York and I have never owned anything except for a bicycle. It’s a walkup and there’s no doorman and it’s a one bedroom. But with money, I am trying to be smart about it. I haven’t owned a car since college and I am still in sweat pants all day. So I like helping people and I like giving a lot of it away. But money, I just think it’s funny. I want to be able to keep it so I have that security in case someone got sick or something. (sipping champagne). Hey, is this Crystal? (laughs)
How does it feel to be considered at the forefront of this new kind of feminism? Does that weigh heavily on you?
No, I wear it with total pride. I have identified as a feminist as long as I knew what that word meant. I am very surprised by it. It wasn’t a goal of mine to become that but I see it as a total opportunity and I feel like feminists are in good hands with me. I have got good intentions, and yeah, I am so proud; I couldn’t be prouder. It’s still something that I am adjusting to but I am just going to do everything I can and just reach all the potential I have in me to do as much great work as I can. And my heroes have always been feminists. So, it’s so cool that I know some of them now.
Gloria Steinem is now a friend of mine and I can’t even believe that and then just all the female comics who were my idols growing up, like I have got Ellen and Whoopi and I just got to do that scene with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tina and Patricia Arquette (Last Fuckable Day). So it’s crazy to me and my favourite days on Trainwreck were shooting with Tilda (Swinton). I like to be around really strong women.
What is your opinion on the supreme court decision about gay marriage? Do you feel that comedy may have helped shape public opinion?
I think comedy can really help. I am so excited. I am so moved and thrilled about it. And I think comedy is a really good way of kind of sneaking in the back door to help people change their opinion and break it down in a funny way that might be more palatable for you. And I think that’s how it is with a lot of things. But every comedian I know has a lot of gay marriage material. I kept thinking of that joke, ‘Well I have been having the same sex for 40 years.’
Did you have a plan B if this career hadn’t taken off?
No. I majored in theatre in college, and I never even had a plan A. (laughter) It was really just like following the river and just being as prepared as I could be for opportunities that came up.
How much do you follow the presidential elections? And talking about female empowerment, what do you think of Hilary Clinton?
Who? Just kidding. (laughter) I am a huge Hillary fan and supporter, and my dad’s cousin, I am distantly related to one of the senators in New York, and he has worked with Hillary for a long time. I heard Senator Gillbrand, she did an interview the other day where she mentioned our show as a helpful tool for feminism and I was completely blown away and excited by that. And I have gotten to meet Hillary and I love her. I am sort of waiting and I wrote a little bit about everybody who is in the race right now, but I am going to wait to get real invested. But yeah, I totally care about that and I am a Hillary supporter.
It’s time for a female president, don’t you think?
Hell yeah. It’s time. It’s been time.