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Amy Schumer and her brand of raunchy, in-your-face comedy feels pretty mainstream at this point. Her first big break came in 2013 with the debut of her Comedy Central sketch comedy show Inside Amy Schumer, which she created, produced, wrote, and starred in. In 2015 she wrote and starred alongside Bill Hader in Trainwreck, and that’s what people describe as her tipping point. While she has multiple projects lined up (including one with BFF Jennifer Lawrence), her latest, Snatched, alongside comedy legend Goldie Hawn hits theaters this Friday. The pair play a mother daughter duo who get kidnapped during an exotic vacation to South America (now might be a good time to mention that the entire movie seems like it only perpetuates untrue stereotypes that the continent is a huge, dangerous jungle full of bad hombres).
However, just as the sky is blue and the grass is green, Schumer, like all human beings, is no angel. For years now she has been dodging incredibly problematic controversies. Whether it’s stealing other comedians’ jokes or being racist, Schumer has been accused of just about everything. We thought we’d make a handy little guide to every single problematic thing Schumer has been accused of, so you can #staywoke and make informed choices.
In 2014, Schumer did a sketch on her show Inside Amy Schumer called Slap Chef, a mock commercial for a new kind of weight loss program in which chefs cook for you, but then slap the food out of your hands before you can eat it.
Compare that to a joke from a 2011 stand up performance by Kathleen Madigan. The joke goes: "I get why poor people are fat. But Oprah, you're a billionaire. You have enough money to pay a man to stand there and literally slap shit out of your hand before you put it in your mouth. You could hire a full-time food slapper."
Sure, we could give Schumer the benefit of the doubt here and assume that this was merely a coincidence. They had the same thought! They have so much in common. It’s sweet, really.
And yet, Schumer’s Slap Chef sketch continues, this time advertising Sleep Gym, a new exercise program in which you’re put into a coma and trainers work you out while you’re knocked out.
Oddly enough, Madigan’s bit about Oprah continues in a rather similar direction. Still riffing on how ridiculous it is that a rich woman like Oprah is overweight, she jokes that "you're so rich you could pay someone to exercise you. You could just lay there like a baby with cerebral palsy and have people move your legs."
Now, what are the odds that Schumer had the same “Slap Chef” idea as Madigan and the coma exercise idea?
The similarity here is in content—Schumer hasn’t exactly copied Madigan word for word, so if you’re still on Schumer’s side, you could call it a case of parallel thinking and keep living your beautiful naive life.
But of course there’s more.
In her 2015 Amy Schumer: Live at the Apollo comedy special, Schumer makes a very on-brand sex joke: “I am very old-school—I think the guy should always pay on the first date. For sex."
This would be real hoot if it wasn’t word for word the joke that Wendy Liebman made during a stand up performance in 1999. Even their delivery is similar, barrelling through the punchline under their breath to make the joke even more unexpected.
Schumer, 2015, talking about new sex positions: "There's the Abraham Lincoln. That's where the guy trims his pubes, comes on a girl's face, and throws the pubes so she has that facial hair.”
“The worst one I've ever heard is 'The Houdini.' It's where the guy's having sex with the girl from behind. Then, unbeknownst to her, his friend subs in for him. Guy 1 runs outside, knocks on the window, and waves to the girl."
Patrice O’Neal, 2006: "Have you ever heard of Gorilla Mask Her? That's when you come in her face, and then take some pubic hair and throw it at her.”
"There's The Poltergeist. But you need your friend for this one. You're fucking her from behind, and then you sneak out and he takes your place. And then you walk outside and wave at her through the window.""
What does Amy say about stealing jokes?
She was featured on The Jim Norton Advice Show on Sirius XM's Opie Radio in January 2016 to clear her name. She went on to explain that it’s all because she’s so darn busy coming up “with so much material, for my TV show, this movie, stand-up, and I'm so careful... I would never do that, it would be so stupid for me to do that." The verdict on this one is decidedly still out.
Lest this entire article start sounding like a bad infomercial, just assume that when it comes to Amy Schumer being problematic, there is always a “But wait! There’s more!” moment just around the corner.
When Schumer’s jokes aren’t dangerously similar to other people’s jokes, they’re offensively racist. Here’s a list of some of the most egregious ones:
“Nothing works 100 percent of the time, except Mexicans.”
“I used to date Hispanic guys, but now I prefer consensual.”
“I think they would be mad if I brought home an Asian guy. Just out of confusion. They would just be like, ‘I don’t understand. Do you really want to fuck this guy?'”
What does Amy say about racist jokes?
Schumer denies that her jokes are truly racist and plays the comedian card, arguing that because race is ~taboo~ and she’s a ~taboo~ comedian, it’s fair game. “You can call it a ‘blind spot for racism’ or ‘lazy’ but you are wrong. It is a joke and it is funny. I know because people laugh at it,” she tweeted.
The reason Schumer is wrong is that while her jokes might be funny to some, the laughter is simply a thin veil for the same discrimination that the minorities she is mocking face every day. There isn’t a single restaurant, hotel, or store that Schumer has ever set foot into that could run without the cold, hard, sweat of Latino men (and women!). Latino men have been deemed rapists by the actual President and that still makes it no less offensive. Similarly, Asian men have historically been desexualized by the media in an attempt to somehow protect the precious, fragile sexuality of the American male. These are the modern day repercussions of centuries of racist policies and mindsets, and for those who’ve been on the receiving end, there’s nothing all that funny about being told you’re less of a person because of where you’re from.
The Odell Beckham Jr. Fiasco
While we’re on the subject of racism, let’s not forget Schumer’s involvement in Lena Dunham’s strange accusations towards Odell Beckham Jr. last year. It all started with a conversation between Dunham and Schumer that was published on Dunham’s Lenny Newsletter in which Dunham whines about being ignored by the football player at the Met Gala. To be sure, this is mainly Dunham’s moment of blinding stupidity, but Schumer glosses right past Dunham’s comment in the interview, missing the chance to call her friend out.
What does Amy Say about Odell Beckham Jr.?
In a truly shocking twist, Schumer responded to one particular critic of this situation—an economics professor at The New School, mind you—with yet another racist tweet. While he attempts to explain that men of color are no more sexist than white men, she attempts to discredit him by implying that men of color catcall women more in the street, which is a gross generalization that, at best, simply misses the whole point.
Apologizing for Kurt Metzger
At another point in the same 2016 interview from the Lenny Newsletter, Lena brings up Kurt Metzger, a writer on Inside Amy Schumer, who made fun of rape victims in a Facebook post. Many people were counting on Schumer to finally act on her feminist ideals and unequivocally denounce Metzger. Instead, Schumer chalks it up to the fact that Metzger has been “doing this for years,” and even goes on to ask "why are these women treating him like he raped someone? He's not Bill Cosby; Kurt has never raped.”
Finally, let’s settle it once and for all: there is no hierarchy of sexual assault. While it’s factually true that Metzger’s comments don’t add up to physically raping someone, they prop up the same rape culture that paves the way for sexual discrimination. It would’ve been pretty easy for Schumer to position herself in stark opposition to this kind of rhetoric and wash her hands of the whole situation.
Perhaps more disturbingly, Dunham and Schumer go on to talk about how annoying it is that this whole Metzger deal is dulling Schumer’s spotlight. Schumer jokes that she wishes the scandals could be about her, because even though she understands why people connected her to the Metzger scandal, she “was resentful of the lack of trust. Do you believe that I feel that rape victims should be shamed on the internet? Have I built up any sort of good will?" The glaring issue here is that Schumer can’t see that any “good will” she has built up is shattered every time she refuses to stand up for fellow women. Sure, we could be talking about Schumer’s sexual assault outlined in her book (which is the reason for the interview in the first place), but it all rings pretty hollow when she wants everyone to focus only on her past and refuses to stand up for abuses against others.
What does Amy say about Kurt Metzger?
She’s tried to wriggle her way out of this one quite a few times, but the best way to summarize her response to the outrage surrounding her lack of response to Metzger’s words is through the following tweet:
He’s credited as a writer on a whopping 39 episodes of the sketch comedy show. Saying he’s not a writer on the show because there is no show is just semantics and a bad, fake clever attempt at dissolving responsibility.
In October of last year, months after the powerful release of Lemonade, Schumer filmed a video of herself lip synching to “Formation” alongside Snatched co-star Goldie Hawn. Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack also appear in the video. It was initially released exclusively on Tidal, and therefore seemingly had at least Jay Z’s (and probably Bey’s) approval.
Almost immediately after the video’s release, the backlash began. Most of the claims centered around the fact that regardless of approval or not, this was not Schumer’s work to parody. It feels darkly ironic to appropriate a song from an album that explicitly champions black female empowerment.
What does Amy say about "Formation"?
Schumer wrote a whole article as a response. She loves that Beyoncé is telling “women to get in formation,” (which... duh?), admires how the album brought “us all together,” and finally reaffirms she would never want to make fun of a video that was “so moving.” However, for many, she did not really get to the heart of the matter and missed a prime opportunity to listen to the grievances of the very same women she supposedly wants to empower. Making this video was unnecessary, and that she did it anyway is another example of the trivialization of the Black experience in America. In short, stripping away the layers of meaning from another woman’s work in an attempt to call attention to yourself seems like a funny way of celebrating “us women.”
With all of that said, it is important to confirm that nobody is perfect, and the public eye magnifies celebrity’s faults in ways that are often lopsided and unfair. Amy Schumer has certainly done some problematic things, but that doesn’t mean she is an inherently bad person. The point is that the worst sin any of us could commit is to not own up to your our mistakes and forego the opportunity to learn something. Schumer—and other celebrities who get in similar situations—ought to start listening to their critics rather than immediately jumping on defense. Even better: they could start to use their large platforms to incite meaningful debate.