WELL, THAT HAPPENED: Crafty comedienne

By on July 28, 2015

Schumer’s film blazes new path for funny females

Amy Schumer’s new film ‘Trainwreck,’ celebrates female flaws.

Amy Schumer’s new film ‘Trainwreck,’ celebrates female flaws.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Female comedians have always had it rough. The comedy world, despite being somewhat racially diverse, has been and continues to be dominated by male comedians. From improv stages to the studios of “Saturday Night Live,” men are often at the forefront of sketches and scenes. When I was studying at the iO Theater (formally improvOlympic) in Chicago, there was an overwhelming imbalance of male to female students. It was said that girls had a better chance of being cast on a house improv team because, no matter how talented, it was important just to have at least one woman on a team.

As history has shown, the most successful female comedians have been self-deprecating, taking swings at everything from their anatomy to their marriages to society and women in general. Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers come from this era of foul-mouthed matrons harping on the simple taboo of being female. “I’m from Brooklyn, but I haven’t been back for a long time,” Joan Rivers mused on a 1974 episode of “The Carol Burnett Show.” “When I left I was an ugly, flat-chested little girl and here I am, voila, today. An ugly, flat-chested little woman.”

Kristen Wiig of “SNL” fame gained her strong fan base by creating physically and behaviorally unattractive characters including the snaggletoothed singer Dooneese and the overtly excited and off-putting Target Lady. Melissa McCarthy also made her way up the comedy ladder with film roles that actively or inactively poked fun at her weight.

Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, two of the most respected and successful women in comedy, starred in their respective shows (“Parks and Recreation” and “30 Rock”) as strong, career-driven characters, as does Julia Louis-Dreyfus currently in “Veep.” But even those characters end up buffoons more often than not. When it comes to female sitcom characters, the most confident, effortless character in recent years has been Donna (played by the comedian Retta) on “Parks and Recreation.” Not only is Donna’s plus-size weight never mentioned in any of the show’s seven seasons, but she is financially stable, extremely witty and has a vibrant sex life. Even the character of April (played by Aubrey Plaza) never drifts into the world of “finish-a-pint-of-Ben-&-Jerry’s” so many comedic female characters frequent.

With “Trainwreck,” the new Judd Apatow movie written by and starring Amy Schumer, many of these same female comedian traits come back into play. The movie plays a little like a “Bridget Jones’s Diary” remake, with a down-on-her-luck career woman who is eager to oil the squeaky hinges of her life. Schumer’s sketch show “Inside Amy Schumer” has gained a strong fan base because of her unabashed ability to make fun of herself and women.

In the film, Schumer’s character (named Amy) can’t hold down a relationship and doesn’t plan to anytime soon. She drinks too much, she smokes weed and she has a habit of driving every relationship around her into the ground. But what makes “Trainwreck” special is that the film never drifts into shaming Amy for these acts. Sure, she suffers consequences, but those consequences don’t rule out the possibility of happiness. Bill Hader’s character offers a fantastic balance to her reckless behavior, but ultimately this movie is about her redemption. Amy doesn’t get fixed at the end of the film like you might expect. Instead, her faults are embraced.

While Schumer’s humor is flavored with that good ole body-shaming material, she’s doing so with an attitude that’s unparalleled by other comedians of the current age.

“I’m not a traffic-stopping model or the smartest person in the room,” Schumer wrote in Cosmopolitan. “The more you get to know me the prettier I become. In my act I have a joke: ‘I know what I look like. You’d bang me, but you wouldn’t blog about it.’” PJH

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