There was a time when you couldn’t even open your browser without unintentionally seeing someone hate on Amy Schumer. The controversial stand-up comedian is even rumored to be the reason why there is no star rating on Netflix anymore. When The Leather Special (which at the time received an audience rating of one star) came out in 2017, many viewers called it the worst stand-up set in history. I will never forget when, after watching the show (which I found to be at least quite humorous), I decided to see what other videos of Schumer I could find online.
“That’s fucking disgusting. You’re making disgusting jokes, beyond stupid,” I heard one YouTuber raging in their “Everything wrong with Amy Schumer” compilation video. That night I found many such videos, and I couldn’t help but think: really? The Leather Special wasn’t the funniest, best written or in any way sophisticated watch; I did like it though, as it dealt with some avenues of generalized sex life in a way that I found to be quite fresh at the time. Even the overdone impressions of diarrhea couldn’t put me off.
If we’re to believe the critical YouTube videos, Schumer’s bad reputation mostly comes down to her joking about vaginas, sex and weight in a vulgar and obvious way (as opposed to legitimate criticisms about her racist jokes). Whether she’s talking about bleeding into her underwear or blacking out at the end of a boozy night, there are legions of people waiting to screen-record her material and turn it into yet another “worst of all time” compilation. Is making jokes about the least glamorous functions of our bodies automatically a cringe fest? Self-deprecation is one of the most popular genres of comedy, so why is Schumer’s case so different? As someone who enjoys Schumer’s work, as well as acknowledges and understands most criticisms sent her way, there is a significant group of people who despise her comedy. The others probably just jumped on the hate train, not knowing where it’s headed.
Hate trends are like avalanches. It’s hard to stop one and just as hard to get out of one. Go and look at top videos that come up after searching for Schumer on YouTube. Most of them include negative comments from years ago, liked by hundreds of people. Looking at a performer through the lens of their most criticized work from years ago is so myopic, though. Hating on Amy Schumer is so 2017. Her comedy is much more than just a set of poorly executed bimbo jokes and unnecessary noises.
Her 2019 Netflix special Growing is a perfect example of Schumer trying to take criticisms seriously. Recorded in Chicago during her tough pregnancy, it includes less farting and puking sounds, less smelly body parts content and much more substance, storytelling and, most importantly, laughs. Her jokes about drinking wine while pregnant had me and my hard-to-please Scottish partner in actual stitches. I’m not saying that the special didn’t include any eyebrow-raising moments at all, but 99% of them do. Again, what seems like hordes of online commenters did not find Growing funny, despite critics praising the special. To each their own, but in this instance, we can definitely see some patterns repeating.
Schumer’s attempts at self-deprecating humor don’t seem to land well with a large chunk of the general public. I always thought that self-deprecation was the way to go, especially at the beginning of one’s career. People don’t like those who feel superior and think too highly of themselves. They want to see that others fuck up too, that none of us are perfect. Don’t we all black out sometimes and wake up with an oven pizza on our lap? Oh, you don’t? Good for you! It’s hard for me not to conclude that many criticisms of Schumer are rooted in misogyny. Once, a Grindr hook-up (in true Schumer fashion, I know!) from the US told me: “It’s just tasteless for a woman to joke like that.” Oh, the irony!
As a gay man, I identify with a lot of topics included in Schumer’s comedy. Even though she discusses unrealistic beauty standards for women, the hypersexuality straight men tend to demand from their female partners or the general miseries of sex, I can relate to a lot of her material. Being a naïve 18-year-old at a party and holding a champagne flute like it’s literally too heavy? That rings a bell. Always pretending like sex is my number one priority in life, because you know, “gay lifestyle”? Check. Not to mention all the preparation before each date (detachable shower head, anyone?) that she often likes to joke about. Yep, I find her relatable!
Is Trevor Noah disgusting for telling the audience he threw up blood after a night out in Scotland? Is Ricky Gervais tasteless for patiently describing how his testicles started hanging lower as he aged? I am not trying to say that everyone should find Amy Schumer funny. But in 2022, we should at least hold her to the same standard as other comedians. You think her comedy is trash? All of it? If so, I don’t think it’s her comedy you have a problem with. You just hate her.
Tomasz Lesniara is a freelance writer based in Scotland, originally from Poland. His work has been published by VICE, Al Jazeera, iNews, Metro and more. You can follow him on Twitter @lesniara_t to see him obsess over the music of Lana Del Rey and Britney Spears’ dance skills.