Mom Com by Amy Schumer

New York Times Magazine

Amy Schumer appeared on the "Late Show with David Letterman" shortly after winning a Peabody Award for her sketch-comedy series "Inside Amy Schumer" in 2015. She'd been working on "Inside Amy" for three seasons when Letterman asked if it was getting easier. "I'm finding that I'm getting easier," she admitted. "However, the show..." She shook her head, her face a mask of innocence. (As usual with Schumer, the racy nature of what she was saying was balanced by the wholesomeness of her face.)

"She kind of looks Amish," she says, "kind of Cabbage Patch-y up top." Letterman, who was about to retire, told her that this was their final time on the air together and asked her to do something she'd regret. Schumer stood up, hiked up the hem of her tight black dress with a split skirt, and pointed out a long white line across her upper thigh. "What exactly is that?" Letterman inquired as the camera zoomed in on Schumer's scar, which was caused by an adolescent surfing accident. "That's my vagina!" she exclaimed warmly.

It was a classic Schumer moment: daffy, destabilizing, and genital. "Are you that girl from TV who constantly talks about her pussy?" In an episode of "Inside Amy," Julia Louis-Dreyfus asks her. (In the sketch "Last Fuckable Day," Schumer comes across Louis-Dreyfus picnicking with Tina Fey and Patricia Arquette to mark the end of her plausible onscreen desirability. Arquette explains to Schumer, "Honey, men don't have that day."

Schumer was labelled a sex comic early in her career, when she was young, taut, and blond, and occasionally bounded onstage carrying a bottle of Chardonnay. Her first stand-up special, "Mostly Sex Stuff," was released a decade ago. "I know I sound so slutty up here," she admitted to the audience. "But I've only met four people."

And it was a strange night." In her next special, Schumer defended sperm: "Come gives us life. Gandhi had arrived. "Come, Oprah." She dressed the part by wearing short skirts and plunging necklines. "When they see a female comedian, they're like, 'Yawn,' and 'What else is on?'" At the time, Schumer told Howard Stern. "You see some skin, and at the very least you'll pay attention and hear what she has to say."

Audiences have always reacted positively when Schumer reveals herself. She was the first female comic to headline — and sell out — Madison Square Garden in 2016. "Inside Amy" received three Emmy nominations. She wrote and starred in the hit film "Trainwreck" (in which a party girl experiments with commitment), which was followed by "Snatched" (in which a party girl is kidnapped along with her mother) and "I Feel Pretty" (party girl sustains head injury and gains freakish confidence in her looks).

But now that Schumer is married with a three-year-old son, her tone has changed. Since the outbreak, she has appeared in "Expecting Amy," an HBO documentary series about her difficult pregnancy, as well as "Amy Schumer Learns to Cook," a reality show with her husband. Her most recent Hulu release was the autobiographical dramedy "Life & Beth." At the end of each episode, viewers see her production company's logo: a photograph of her bloody uterus on a blue hospital cloth, wearing sunglasses, taken after her recent hysterectomy.

Late this spring, as the Supreme Court was poised to effectively overturn Roe v. Wade, Schumer was seated at the Champions of Choice awards luncheon, which she dubbed the "abortion Oscars." As Dr. DeShawn Taylor, who runs a family planning clinic in Phoenix, spoke about "ethical access to health care for womb-bearing people," Schumer scribbled a set list on the donation card she had filled out for $10,000: "C-section, failed, butthole, hyperemesis, Viagra, dirty talk."

Schumer described giving birth to her son, Gene, from the stage. "I had a C-section, and he popped out the sunroof," she explained. "A lot of women feel like they've failed if they don't give birth vaginally, and the only thing that makes me feel better about that is my still-perfect pussy."

The audience erupted as Schumer ran through her butthole, hyperemesis, and Viagra jokes before settling into a riff about her husband of five years, Chris Fischer. "It's difficult to have sex with your husband because he's your family," she explained. "That's my emergency contact number." I can't simply fuck him." "You can't talk dirty," she said, with the tired resignation of a parent of a toddler at the end of the day. I can't be all, 'I'm going...' 'No, you're not,' he says. 'It hurts your back.'

On a hot summer evening this summer, after their son had gone to bed, Schumer and Fischer were at their home on Martha's Vineyard—a shingled cottage on a rocky beach that they bought from James Taylor's brother a few years ago. Fischer's family has lived on the island for over a century. He grew up there and went on to become a farmer, then a chef. During a family vacation, he cooked for Schumer and her family.

Fischer was sprawled on the floor, his back dragged over a foam roller. On the couch, Schumer was sipping electrolyte water. "Please, Sir," she said to an insect that had landed on her arm before flicking it away. Then she went to get a pair of blue-light-blocking glasses that her doctor had recommended she wear while watching television at night.

Schumer and Fischer had become obsessed with "Starstruck," a BBC series about a drunken encounter between a regular woman and a movie star that turns into a love affair. I asked Fischer if the show accurately depicted falling in love with a celebrity. "No," he said flatly. "It's unique to this fabricated situation."

"What was it like falling in love with a famous person, Chris?" Schumer asked, with a slight eye roll.

"It's the same as falling in love with anyone else," he replied.

Schumer remained silent for a few beats before saying, "No."

For one thing, jokes about Fischer's life—his household routine, parenting, sexual habits, and autism spectrum diagnosis—are told to thousands of people. ("I enjoy playing the game: Autism? Or simply a man?") Schumer is unusually open both onstage and off. Money, I.V.F., adolescent shoplifting, alcohol-induced blackouts, attending the Met Gala high on mushrooms, pooping her pants: Schumer openly discusses everything that most people keep desperately private. ("I have twenty million dollars in cash," she said. "My annual expenses are six million dollars, and I give away about 400 thousand."

Schumer's friend, actress Jennifer Lawrence, told me about seeing her social-media posts revealing her plastic surgery: "When she got liposuction, I just assumed that would be a secret." "And then it wasn't!" "It's a part of her—I hate using this word—relatability," Lawrence continued. It has helped her in some ways. Take a look at her clearly successful career."

In "Expecting Amy," a camera is present during Gene's birth, which documents Schumer's experience of enduring a sixty-show tour while suffering from endometriosis and hyperemesis, a condition that causes women to vomit violently throughout their pregnancy. (As one expert in the series explains, "you just vomit to the point where you can't breathe, and it just doesn't stop.") Schumer pukes during a podcast recording, a Pilates workout, in the back seat of a car, and in hotel and hospital rooms across the country. She brings a wastebasket onstage during one performance. She throws up so forcefully before another that she bursts the blood vessels in one eye—"So that's good for camera," she deadpans.

It's difficult to imagine Julia Louis-Dreyfus or Tina Fey allowing fans to see them without makeup onscreen, let alone allowing this level of intimacy. "I'm not sure why I don't have any boundaries," Schumer explained. "I simply don't."

Schumer filmed a Netflix special in Chicago when she was eight months pregnant. She pitched "Life & Beth" in Los Angeles when she was nearly nine months old. Soon after, she had her C-section, which took three hours to complete. "You really learn, men can't do anything," she groggily says to a camera outside the operating room. "You don't want that on video," a nurse warns, to which Schumer responds, "I want that live broadcast."

Men were the oblivious beneficiaries of a system that rewarded their idiocy and entitlement in Schumer's early work. For straight women, being single was a desperate, self-deprecating attempt to meet their emotional and sexual needs by people who only cared about their own penises. In "Real Sext," Schumer sits in her pajamas, watching a romantic old movie while attempting to write an enticing text. "I'm so lonely all the time—" she writes, then deletes it and starts over: "I'd love another chance at giving you a blo—" When the guy she's texting finally says, "I just finished on your hair and head," she says, "Cool." "I'm always available."

At work, the deterioration continued. Schumer recalled in her standup special "Live at the Apollo" that producers read her script for "Trainwreck" and, to her surprise, asked her to star in the film: "They were like, We just need you to do three things: One, simply be yourself. Two, have a good time! And, finally, stop eating." "I was like, 'You guys, I don't even like food!'" she said. 'I was just eating it to pass the time!' Her cooperation, however, was fleeting. Schumer realized she could make roughly the same amount of money touring and creating her own shows as she could acting in rom-coms. She'd have more control over what she cooked and ate.

When I met with Schumer, she was about to embark on a 42-city tour that would last until 2023. Fischer is staying in Brooklyn with their son. "It's not really a conversation with our lives, her career, and Gene," he explained. "She tells us what's going on, and Gene and I are happy, willing, and able to adapt so far." Fischer, the author of a James Beard Award-winning cookbook, has worked with Alice Waters and at the River Café in London, and she ran the best restaurant on Martha's Vineyard for two years, according to the New York Times. (During his presidency, the Obamas went there on a date.)

He is currently working on a second book about home cooking. "You can't have a restaurant — or work in a restaurant — and have a functioning family," he explained. "And Amy is the most dedicated worker I've ever met." She's like, she never stops."

"This has to be the dumbest thing I've ever made," Schumer smirked as she watched a new sketch, "Murder in Fart Park," on her phone. She was on the Manhattanville College campus, eating hummus and tortilla chips with her makeup artist and hair stylist before filming an episode of "Inside Amy Schumer." (The show was cancelled in 2016; the new season will be available on the streaming service Paramount Plus.) The sketch was based on a broad premise: a public green space where New Yorkers could come together to release all of the toxic waste that had accumulated during the pandemic. But Schumer demanded accuracy.

"Farts could use some work, be more specific," is what she emailed her executive producer. He responded quickly, assuring her that what she'd heard were "placeholder farts."

Schumer had some time before going on camera, so she visited her friend Amber Tamblyn, a regular on "Inside Amy." "The first time I met you, you were walking down a street in midtown, and I was like, 'Hi, Amber,' and you just lifted up your shirt and you had no bra on, and I was like, 'I love you,'" Schumer said in Tamblyn's trailer.

"That makes sense," Tamblyn said. She informed Schumer that she had recently finished watching "Life & Beth": "I believe this is a new path for you." 'This is the Amy I know,' I thought.

Schumer embodied a knowing, brassy, bemired persona in her early standup—the last woman at last call. ("That's when I really shine!") In sketches, she usually played a hopeful, befuddled innocent trying to make do with whatever humiliation came her way. A boy band sings to Schumer in one: "Girl, you don't need makeup / you're perfect when you wake up!" She cheerfully washes her face, only to be horrified by her actual appearance by the singers. "I'm trying," Schumer says as they agree on how she needs to cover her face in cosmetics.

Schumer's jaded avatar and her naive avatar were caricatures of herself. She plays a quieter, more melancholy character in her own show, "Life & Beth." In one episode, her character, Beth, asks a friend, "Is life worthless?" "Life is trash, girl," the friend responds. Beth is dissatisfied with her job as a wine sales representative; she is unhappy in her relationship; and she is mourning the death of her mother. ("I'm always dead," Sandy Schumer, Schumer's mother, told me. 'Trainwreck' is no longer alive. This one is gone.") Beth, dissatisfied with her routine, falls in love with a farmer, based on Fischer and played with amusing bluntness by Michael Cera.

In flashback, Beth's childhood is revealed: her comfortable Long Island life disintegrates after her family unexpectedly declares bankruptcy. The plot parallels Schumer's own. Gordon, her father, was a funny, charismatic hustler who imported high-end baby furniture from Italy. The family thrived for a time: rented planes, weekly lobster dinners. Gordon, on the other hand, had a drinking problem that he kept hidden.

The company eventually failed. "I don't remember how it felt to lose everything, but I do remember men coming to take my dad's car when I was ten," Schumer wrote in her 2016 memoir "The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo." "I stood there in the driveway, expressionless, as it drove away." Gordon was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis around the same time. He now uses a wheelchair, has memory loss, and lives in a lower Manhattan care facility. He and Schumer talk every day, often multiple times.

Gordon called her on FaceTime while she was on set. "Have a good Wednesday, Dad," she said. "Have you seen my Hulu show?"

"I'm getting there," he said. Schumer inquired as to what he was anticipating. "God is on his way," Gordon said.

"She's coming, believe me," Schumer said. Then she mentioned the show again, saying, "You should watch it." It's all about you." Her father's face was no longer visible on the screen. "He always hangs up first," she said, shaking her head. "He attended the premiere. Perhaps he doesn't want to see the reenactment of his family's death."

As in Schumer's own life, Beth's parents divorce, and her mother marries the (married) father of Beth's best friend—the first of a string of men who come and go from the increasingly run-down apartments she shares with her children. (Kim Caramele, Schumer's sister, told me, "I'm pretty sure we lived in nine different places before I graduated high school.") Beth's father's drinking worsens as he tries to maintain a relationship with the daughters he can no longer support. Beth begins to pull her hair out, strand by strand, until she has a bald patch, which her peers treat with the cruelty of the young. "I didn't care for Long Island," Schumer admitted.

She grew up in Rockville Centre, a middle-class village in Nassau County, where kids threw pennies at her and called her Amy Jewmer. "The diocese was in town," Schumer explained. "Everyone who wasn't an Irish Catholic was like, 'You're not one of us.'"

Schumer still has a bald spot on the top of her head—"A yarmulke would cover it," she told me. Trichotillomania was the one secret she couldn't bring herself to reveal. "The vulnerability of people knowing that I pull my hair out feels very raw to me..." "It's bald spots," she explained. "It's like, a monster and a goblin have that."

Schumer has frequently portrayed herself as a monster in her comedy. In what she considers to be the funniest sketch from "Inside Amy," she records voice-over for an animated film described by her agent as "like 'Charlie's Angels,' but with meerkats." Schumer sits perky and eager behind a microphone in the studio, while animated avatars of her co-stars, Jessica Alba and Megan Fox, emerge. Jessica Meerkat is "pretty and nice," and Megan Meerkat is "sexy, but I love math"; both are dressed in tight little outfits and boots.

Schumer's character appears out of nowhere, enormous, bucktoothed, and cross-eyed, wearing only a shirt that doesn't cover her enormous stomach or her alarmingly red vagina. "How come my meerkat doesn't have any pants?" Schumer inquires of the producer. "Our animation team is in Japan, and they don't have anyone as big as Dumpy the Frumpy Meerkat," he says. "They literally couldn't figure out how to make pants fit you—they couldn't even fathom it." Then her meerkat starts pooping in front of the two hot meerkats, who are shocked.

Schumer's face appears to deflate as she takes in the situation, the triumphant joy replaced by panicked recognition. Kim, Amy's sister who created the sketch, said, "That moment when Amy, who has actually allowed herself to feel good for a sec, realizes that this is who she is to people... it's crushing." I'm laughing now, remembering her expression." Schumer's character is horrified and humiliated, but eventually succumbs to the men in the room's demands. "I think Amy is especially adept at demonstrating how women are expected to simply roll with the punches," Kim said. In Schumer's comedy, her complicity in her own demise is frequently the climax, the last laugh.

The Frumpy Dumpy Meerkat evokes the terror that most women feel at some point in their lives that they are irredeemably hideous. It also evokes the vitriol directed at Schumer's appearance on the Internet. Her response has been defiant at times—"I say if I'm beautiful," she wrote in her book, "you will not determine my story"—and self-lacerating at times, in a way that is funnier but not necessarily less brutal than the online trolls.

"Oh, my God—Alfred Hitchcock is alive and loves water sports!" Schumer says in "The Leather Special" after seeing a paparazzi photo of herself paddleboarding. She describes herself as a "Tonya Harding-themed Thanksgiving parade float." Her current set includes a joke about her body resembling that of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

"I said all that when I was, like, twentysomething," Schumer explained. "I got a little carried away. It was easy to say I was hot back then because... well, I was." "I vacillate between feeling really beautiful and special and just looking like a monster," Schumer, 41, said.

Schumer has always identified as a feminist. (She wrote about the male gaze in "Madame Bovary" in her senior thesis at Towson University.) In recent years, she has become increasingly vocal on other issues of social and racial justice, as has much of Hollywood, corporate America, and the Democratic Party. She mentions, amid her C-section jokes, that Black women in America are three times more likely than white women to die during pregnancy or childbirth.

She frequently mentions her privileged position. "I get it—white women are the worst," she recently admitted on LeBron James' "Uninterrupted" podcast. "I despise myself. "Believe me." Depending on your perspective, this is either a welcome emphasis on the structural inequities inherent in American life or a grating form of virtue signaling from an élite member.

However, while some critics accuse Schumer of being overly enlightened, another group accuses her of being insensitive. Schumer co-hosted this year's Academy Awards, where Will Smith smacked Chris Rock. ("Did I miss anything?" she asked when she returned to the camera.) Rock is one of Schumer's closest friends and the director of her "Live at the Apollo" special; when she posted on Instagram that the incident had "triggered and traumatized" her, she was labeled a Karen. A few years before, when Schumer and the cast of "Snatched"—Goldie Hawn, Wanda Sykes, and Joan Cusack—made a video imitating Beyoncé's "Formation," the Internet erupted in outrage.

Because of jokes like "Nothing works 100% of the time, except Mexicans," Schumer was accused in 2015 by the Washington Post of perpetuating a "worldview that justifies a broken immigration system, mass incarceration, divestment from inner city communities, that rationalizes inequality and buttresses persistent segregation and violence."

Schumer may have been making fun of an exploitative system. But it's a joke she'd never tell today. "It's horrible," she said via email. "It's completely insensitive and lazy." "Like white people," she added later.

Schumer, who describes herself as a "lightning tower for male rage," has a habit of offending people by committing both a sin and its opposite. She has been chastised for not being attractive enough to be in entertainment, as well as for being too thin to make fun of her own appearance. "I know," she admitted. "I really irritate people."

Schumer's social commentary takes daring, unexpected turns at its best. I saw her perform a few days after the Uvalde massacre at the Fat Black Pussycat in Greenwich Village, where she frequently performs when she's not traveling. "You know what you never hear after a mass shooting?" she asked the fifty or so people who had gathered on a weekday afternoon in the dank, airless space. "Was it a man or a woman?"

"I think she walks a line between subversive and mass appeal in a way that a lot of people can't," Bridget Everett, a comic and cabaret performer who stars in HBO's "Somebody Somewhere," said of Schumer. "I have a lot of friends who are downtown performance artists who don't have a lot of mainstream appeal." She can do her thing while also competing in arenas." On the one hand, jokes about women's experiences—in childbirth, at work, and in bed—are fundamentally feminist. On the other hand, observational humor about marriage's compromises is a mainstay of mainstream comedy, from "I Love Lucy" to "Everybody Loves Raymond."

For every strange joke Schumer tells—"Does anyone else have trouble remembering what kind of cancer their grandparents died from?"—there's another that could easily fit on any domestic sitcom: "We discovered that the best day of the week for sex is tomorrow."

Schumer's fan base remains massive, but the demographics have shifted. "There was a wider net at first, when she was labeled a sex comic," Kevin Kane, her producing partner for the past decade, explained. Schumer rose to prominence as an opening act for Jim Norton and Dave Attell, whose audiences were typically young, drunk, and male. (Attell is still Schumer's favorite standup comedian.) She named her son Gene Attell Fischer, but after a few weeks, she realized the name sounded dangerously close to "genital fissure." Gene's middle name has been changed to David.) "The boys I grew up with were troublemakers," Schumer said. "Attell—like he's my father." "He's a lovable degenerate."

When Schumer first began headlining shows, her audiences were evenly divided between men and women. "I was always surprised that guys were watching," she explained. Her comedy was frequently motivated by outrage at the way men judged women's bodies—but satirizing the objectification of hot women onscreen without showing hot women onscreen is difficult. (In Schumer's sketch "Milk Milk Lemonade," women rap, "I'm going to make you scream and shout for the part of my body where poop comes out!" as the camera pans over twerking tushes: something for everyone.)

The body has remained a major theme for Schumer onstage as she has aged, but she now focuses on how it disintegrates with motherhood rather than how men perceive it. She told me that she is now speaking directly to a female audience. "Everything I do—well, not everything, because I'm in a mayonnaise commercial, but everything else—is to make women feel better." "Chappelle's fans are young and spry," she said during her set at the Montreal Comedy Festival in July. My fans no longer have menstrual cycles."

In her most recent special, "Growing," Schumer tells a story about her sister and husband going to a paint-your-own-pottery shop while she was in the hospital bed, receiving I.V. fluids after five hours of vomiting. Kim returned with a colorful ceramic mermaid. Fischer brought a plate-painted portrait of his wife, which he proudly presented to her.

It resembled a child's drawing of a blond walrus. ("Do you want to know what the sad part is?") Later, Schumer stated. "The more I think about it, the more I think, 'It's good.'" She suggested that the painting was a microcosm of marriage, both the good and the bad: your spouse gets to see you for who you truly are.

Schumer told Barbara Walters years ago that she didn't expect to marry or have children: "I would love those things, but I don't really see it for myself." As a touring comedian, Schumer traveled for more than half the year, and it seemed impossible to imagine a husband, let alone a child, tolerating her absence. "You have to find someone who can stand you," Schumer advises audiences in her current set.

Schumer was anxious and a little downbeat as she prepared to leave for the road. "I always want to cancel everything, and I always try," she explained. Her first stop was in Los Angeles, where she filmed a scene in Jerry Seinfeld's new film. (She'd tried to back out, but he'd persuaded her to come.) Her standup tour loomed after that. "There are sixty shows!" Schumer exclaimed. "A big tour is about forty days."

Fischer presented her with a sloppy smoothie. "The thing that bothers me is being away," she explained.

"We'll be there a lot," Fischer said.

"I know. But at this age, routine is so important," Schumer said, watching Gene run around the coffee table in a diaper. "I'm thinking about how awful it'll be to say goodbye to him the third time I leave to go on the road." "You just want to puke when you hear them cry and reach for you."

Gene had fallen asleep on top of her the night before. Schumer was concerned as she lay on the couch, watching the sun set with her son splayed across her chest. "There will only be a few nights where they will want to do this," she explained. She'd seen Seinfeld's kids go from constantly snuggling with their mother to becoming normal teen-agers who don't want to be handled. "My mother is always sneaking little touches," Schumer explained. "And I'm like, 'Mom, get off,'" she says. She appeared depressed. "I'm going to miss putting him to bed for the next 65 nights."

What, after all, is that worth? Is this insane of me? But then it's like, "Oh, I have this opportunity to go make all this money." She estimated that it would cost around ten million dollars to complete her "Whore Tour."

I asked Schumer what she liked best about standup when we first met. "If you have a bunch of ideas that you think are really funny, and you get to be in a room with people who want to listen to what you're saying... it's like having a story you can't wait to tell your husband," she'd replied, with palpable delight. "It's like, 'I'm going to get up there, and I have so much to say to these people, and I'm going to make them laugh,' when you have a great set." She described it as an irresistible urge to reveal oneself with increasing specificity and creativity.

I asked if this tour was truly about money—a lot of money. As Gene sucked on his pacifier in his sleep, Schumer looked at me as if I were insane and asked, "You mean, like, is it for the love of comedy?"

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