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After conquering stand-up, TV and movies within a pretty short period, Amy Schumer has taken her act to a new medium: books. The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo, Schumer’s first book, has arrived. It’s a sort-of memoir that’s entertaining, though sometimes uneven, and not quite as groundbreaking as much of her other work.
The book is a combination of confessional, mission statement and joke delivery system. It also has no fear of going to very dark places, especially in detailing both a past sexual assault and an extended abusive relationship.
A familiar voice
While it's structured similarly to recent bestsellers by comedians Chelsea Handler and Tina Fey, The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo has, in literary form, captured a voice that's in line with Schumer’s established persona. She’s honed that act, her hugely successful standup, her Comedy Central show Inside Amy Schumer, and her hit 2015 movie Trainwreck.
The book delves into Schumer’s childhood as she shares everything from her family’s money woes to her youthful dating adventures, to the time her voice cracked during her bat mitzvah, an experience she shares with myself and just about every middle schooler who’s been on the bimah. It also uses the fantastic device of Schumer sharing old diary entries and giving them present-day footnotes.
The book is less successful when Schumer delves into the virtues and pitfalls of fame. One chapter, in which she shares how awesome it is to have access to private jets and other such trappings of wealth, is somewhat tone deaf. However, another chapter, in which Schumer spills tea about a trio of famous men she hooked up with post-fame, will have readers guessing the unnamed men, especially a well-endowed New York Rangers player.
The great contradiction
Schumer was in town last week for a book signing at the Philadelphia Free Library, which drew a full auditorium and even an overflow room of paying customers, both pretty impressive for lunchtime on a Wednesday in August. She returns to Philadelphia for a standup show at the Wells Fargo Center September 24.
The great contradiction of Schumer’s persona is that she rests comfortably in the world of New York bro comedy. She enjoys ties to Howard Stern, Opie and Anthony, and the Comedy Central roast perennials, the sort of men who complain a lot about political correctness and how “social justice warriors” are ruining comedy. But she has also endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, and is a feminist who doesn’t just throw the word around, but actually sticks her neck out when it comes to calling out sexism, double standards, and rape culture, even in her work.
During the early promotion for Trainwreck, a prominent film blogger insulted her looks and body. Schumer replied in the best way possible: She spent the better part of a season of her show replying with brilliant, cutting-edge sketch comedy, especially the instant-classic sketch that re-imagined 12 Angry Men as a trial over whether or not Schumer was “hot enough” to be on TV.
Comedy is someone else's pain
Turning personal pain into material is nothing new for comedy. But Schumer did it in a groundbreaking way, leading to cheers from women and plenty of men. In the process, she put the lie once again to all of those clichés about feminist “humorlessness.”
There’s a lot of this sort of thing in the book, including a cringe-inducing email exchange between the author and a Men’s Health editor who omitted Schumer’s picture from an article (instead, the editor chose airbrushed models).
But this contradiction has led Schumer into occasional minefields, including a controversy involving an Inside Amy Schumer writer, Kurt Metzger, and some incendiary statements he’d made that were critical of sexual assault victims. In fact, the night of her recent Philly visit, two bombshells dropped, both on Twitter. Schumer disavowed Metzger and implied that Inside Amy Schumer was coming to an end after four seasons. She clarified the following day that while the show will indeed return for a fifth season, it will do so after a long hiatus.
Will those controversies and the delayed television season do anything to derail Schumer's career? I wouldn't count on it; she has several movies in the pipeline as well as a national arena tour this fall and now the new book. If things do go south for her at some point, she'll likely do what she's been doing her whole life: react to it with sharp comedy.
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