Amy Schumer’s outrageously hilarious feminist sketch series “Inside Amy Schumer,” on Comedy Central, brazenly lampoons social institutions, muscle-flexing machismo and, of course, Schumer herself. She is unabashed and unafraid to take comedy’s X-ray to herself and does exactly that in her upcoming “Trainwreck,” which she wrote and stars in, directed by Judd Apatow. (Universal, July 17.)
Theater-trained in New York, Schumer waited tables, tended bar and worked in a mail office while struggling as a comic. She idolized Lucille Ball, Whoopi Goldberg, Gilda Radner and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“the funniest person alive”) while developing her own filter-free, loudmouthed, unapologetic style. And now she’s about to break out big time. In the spirit of the film’s raucous South by Southwest premiere on Sunday — technically a “work-in-progress” — Schumer offered up a blunt chat about the film, her career and where her must-see show, returning in April, is headed next.
Here are the 12 best things she had to say at SXSW.
1. On transitioning from standup to TV to movie stardom: “Insane. It feels super surreal. This moment feels the most surreal of anything. Three years ago I was begging to get half-off my wings at a Comedy Club, so this is the best. It was so fun to watch the movie last night. I just watched it like a movie. I don’t feel any connection to myself up there. It was such a great crowd.”
2. On the first time she made someone laugh: “I was playing Gretl in ‘The Sound of Music.’ I love a good Nazi musical. Every time I would come onstage, I was five years old, everybody would laugh. I felt really stupid and humiliated and the director could see that. I would get angry and frustrated because I was a little girl. She explained to me, ‘No it’s good, when you make people laugh you make them feel better, it’s a great thing.’ Sometimes people just look at me and start laughing, so I embraced it at five years old.
My dad always filmed us. I just wanted a captive audience and I would make up stories as we went along, about, like, two rabbits that were friends. They weren’t good but my parents were like “Amazing! Let’s get the neighbors over here!” I was brought up with a false sense of security. My parents made me feel I was the best and it wasn’t until later that I realized they were lying.
I’ve always wanted to perform and entertain but I don’t know. I still don’t have any goals. I don’t have a backup plan. My last job was sorting mail. I had to stop bartending because I didn’t want to talk to people anymore—”Oh that’s so interesting!” “Where are you from?”—I had a job sorting mail and I only talked to the mailman and… What was the question?”
3. On getting started in standup, and why she loves it. “I never had a plan and I still don’t. I didn’t even decide to become a comedian. It still just kind of happened.
“I love to lie. I love lying in interviews specifically. But when it’s someone who doesn’t know who you are. I was asked, What was your favorite scene to shoot last year? I said, ‘I was in Dubai hanging out with Wiz Khalifa and I pissed myself’ and they printed it and I was like ‘That’s so fun.’ There’s a lot of lies. I loved ‘Newsies’ growing up and I’m sure I said in some interview that I was a Newsie but that’s a lie. I’m a girl. I’ve always had ovaries.
“As soon as I graduated college I moved back to New York, I was just waiting tables and auditioning and I joined an abusive improv group and I went to see one of the girls — ‘girl’? She was like 60 — one of the chicks in my troupe, she was doing standup and she just ate it so hard and I was like, ‘I could do that. I could bomb.’ I tried it and I loved it.”
4. On coping with backlash. “I remember [as a kid] being surprised when I got any negative feedback. Everything I do now is trying to work back to that place of ‘I’m a human being and I’m not going to apologize for a flaw.’ People make fun of my teeth. I have little rabbit teeth. I love them. I think they’re really cute. But everyone will put pictures of me next to a chipmunk, but no, I don’t want to look like anybody else. I want to be myself and embrace it.”
5. On her stage persona and how much is real, or hyperbole: “My standup started out very much as a stage persona, like a deranged Stepford wife saying really racist things. That was a character and I’ve gotten closer to who I am. I’ll still throw a line in there where I’m playing kind of a dimwit but I’m getting further and further from that. On my TV show, I love playing a monster. I love playing the worst idiot I can think of. A lot of girls come up to me and say ‘I’m you!’ and I say ‘I’m making fun of this. That’s not good.’ I think you can point out the problems with playing a character like that. I’m either playing a total monster or a complete victim, and I think I’m both of those things.
People know that it’s a major exaggeration. Or if they meet me they’ll realize that really quick. That’s the big difference between me and my character in the movie.”
6. On having sex and encountering huge penises. “I’m no stranger to a cock. I had an encounter with a guy who had a huge penis and it was just too much for me to handle so I got out of there. ‘What am I trying to prove here? Have a great life.’ So in the opening scene of the movie, that’s there.
“I called my sister the next day and I was in a Starbucks telling her what happened and I was like ‘oh let me try that on stage.’ I’ve accumulated these stories over a lifetime but when you hear them altogether it sounds like I must have my legs over my shoulders – that’s actually impossible, I’m like the worst person to have sex with. I completely love sex and don’t feel shy about feeling entitled to an orgasm if I’m having sex with someone, but I don’t really have that much of it. I’ve had mostly monogamous relationships but in between if I meet someone attractive, I’m going to have sex with him, especially if he’s stupid. Even if I don’t see myself getting married to him, I’ll probably have sex with him.”
7. On her Judd Apatow origin story. “Judd is like a fucking oracle. If you look at people that are huge stars now, he put them in movies before you knew who they were. He has a good sense. Not that I’m saying ‘Guys this is the last time you’re about to see me because I’m about to blow up!’ he’s not afraid to let people be themselves and be vulnerable. That’s what he heard when I went on Howard Stern. I was just trying to promote some road dates so this worked out way better!”
8. On why falling in love is like “feeling sick” and “being on drugs.” “I was falling in love when I wrote ‘Trainwreck,’ was scared out of my mind and wasn’t even enjoying it. I was feeling sick all the time. It’s like being on drugs. It’s not even fun falling in love. You don’t remember it until you’re going through it and then you’re like, ‘why did I ever want to be in love?’ It kind of sucks. I hadn’t taken a look at myself and my behavior until he encouraged me to do that. It was really hard, but it was good, it was overwhelming.
“But [the relationship] was over before the second table read! That guy was a sex addict I found out, and that’s always really fun at first, when you don’t know yet and you’re like ‘oh my god I’m the prettiest girl in the world’ and you’re like ‘No, he would fuck this table.’ Which is why I’m dressed like this today.
“I love love, and I’m very hopeful and was raised on all the fairy tales everyone else had. I just noted that everyone’s mom was dead and real princesses get beheaded so I just have a more realistic take on it. So does Judd. We both have experienced a lot of pain and try our best to cope with it by making ourselves and other people laugh.”
9. On the title, “Trainwreck.” “It was always going to be ‘Trainwreck.’ Or ‘Cum-Dumpster.’ My publicist had to fly out early and that’s her fault that I just said that.”
10. On the next season of her show “Inside Amy Schumer” and its guest stars. They show up and I’m like, “We don’t have trailers,” and they’re like, “Oh cool soup kitchen.” I think there are a lot of performers that want to play and they trust it will be somewhere they’ll have fun, and I think they think the show’s funny and they want to be part of it. You think they just need millions of dollars but they’re performers and they want to have fun. This season the guest stars are almost embarrassing: we got Jeff Goldblum — in your face! — John Hawkes, Method Man makes an appearance, Rachel Dratch is back, Dennis Quaid. We want everybody to come back. It will blow your mind: why would they do this show?
“This is the season of the ass. As someone with an ass, it used to just be black guys that were into ass and all of a sudden white guys wanted in because Nicki Minaj made one video and they were like ‘Maybe I’d like ass.’ It’s too late white guys! And I’m like, ‘Oh this isn’t mine I’m holding it for a friend.’ When they talk about marketing the TV show I thought, ‘let’s just do all ass. All the marketing’s a pyramid of asses. Let’s just embrace what’s going on in the world.'”
11. On why people are scared of the word “feminism.” “I’m gonna get it tattooed on my clit. (Universal’s like, ‘Is it too late to reshoot with Jessica Biel?’) I don’t think people know what the word feminism means: a social and political equality for women. I think if you’re against that, you’re a crazy person, or you don’t know what it means, and that we don’t actually have it is a bummer. It feels like we should be further along. That’s why it was so exciting to see Patricia Arquette shout out to equal pay because it’s insane it’s still an issue. People are afraid for some reason. Some cultures are completely based on the fear of women.”
12. On what Jeffrey Wells wrote about Schumer when the trailer landed. “I did ‘Last Comic Standing’ in 2007. I’ve been having people say the cruelest and the kindest things to me for what I feel like is a long time. Someone saying that I’m physically disgusting doesn’t change my heart rate or the course of my day at all. I truly from the bottom of my heart did not give a shit at all about that. It’s good that people were angry with him for saying that stuff about me, because that let people know ‘We’re okay with people that aren’t Victoria’s Secret models. We can fathom people could stomach fucking her.’ There was that #askhermore campaign about the Oscars and I tweeted ‘What about my campaign #askhimless?’ It was just a joke, not to belittle that campaign, and a girl wrote a whole article about how I was diminishing it, and I was like ‘Girl I’m on your side.’ That’s the kind of stuff that makes me upset. Not a sad human in LA looking for attention. I don’t care.”