To stare at the Jiffy Lube magazine rack the other day was to behold the power and the glory of Amy Schumer, a woman who, as recently as a year ago, could have gone in for a synthetic oil change in total anonymity.
There Schumer was on the August cover of Glamour magazine. “Bow down, it’s Amy,” read the headline.
“I want to make women laugh. I want them to use their voice. And I want a jet,” Schumer was quoted as saying, deftly hitting public service, empowerment and justified self-gratification all in three simple declarative sentences.
There she was on the cover of GQ, part of a raunchy and audacious “Star Wars”-theme Schumer shoot that involved the comedian sharing a bed with C3PO, no less. It made fine use of the parody protections of the copyright laws. And if the photo collection upset a few “Star Wars” fans protective of the robot’s dignity (a spot in the Lucas Museum is unlikely), Schumer was game for the most elaborate of fantasia.
Much of this, of course, was part of the publicity apparatus for the movie “Trainwreck.” Still. That’s a lot of magazine covers.
How has all this happened?
At 34, Schumer is benefiting from the rise of the supercomedian, the elite group of stand-up comics who have been catapulted into the kind of fame once reserved for rock stars. These comics are buoyed by movies, certainly, but they are not dependent on them. They’re more creatures of social-media clips and carefully cultivated audiences.
Kevin Hart - who recently achieved the genuinely dazzling feat of selling out the United Center for three shows over two nights - is also of that group. Like Schumer, Hart’s material is mostly personal and driven by gender difference and the comedy of personal embarrassment. The two comics also share the same compelling sense of self-confidence, although Schumer’s relationship with her audience is more intimate. Still, Hart is also a suddenly arrived influencer of quite amazing clout.
Louis CK is also part of this arena club - although his style is more laid-back. So is Aziz Ansari. So, on the other side of the Atlantic, is Eddie Izzard, another comic with political ambitions. But that’s about all. And Schumer is the only woman. Sure, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler also command enormous respect and wield colossal influence. So does Lena Dunham. But none of those women are true stand-ups. They’re sophisticated actor-writers and they maintain a certain dignity. You won’t see them doing a photo shoot in bed with R2D2. Schumer has an empathetic spot all her own.
Granted, this current group of supercomics is not the first to play the likes of Madison Square Garden (which Schumer has never played, although she now could). Andrew Dice Clay, a figure about as un-Schumerlike as you could ever be, was huge around 1990, playing to massive audiences. Chris Rock was once there. So, more recently, was Russell Peters. And Schumer did not arrive out of a vacuum - she follows a trial blazed by Whoopi Goldberg, Sarah Silverman, Ellen DeGeneres and, of course, Joan Rivers.
But if you were just to look at the last 30 days, none of the above names, male or female, had a month anything like Schumer’s. She’s a performer who truly is living the notion that when your moment arrives, you have to grab it with both hands and hang on for dear life.
Who knows where she will go from here? Bow down, indeed.
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