Amy Schumer is putting in the work. That’s not an appraisal of how busy she is, though it could be; from the look of her CV, her days are packed. Schumer acts in movies (2015’s Trainwreck, which she also wrote, 2017’s Snatched and this year’s I Feel Pretty); writes books (her 2016 memoir The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo topped The New York Times best-seller list); has a hit sketch comedy television show (Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer, currently on hiatus); acts on Broadway (her performance in Steve Martin’s Meteor Shower earned her a Tony nomination); and maintains a rigorous stand-up touring schedule, one that brings her to the Cosmopolitan for a two-date mini residency August 10 and 11 (with two more shows on November 2 and 3).
But there’s keeping busy, and then there’s doing the work. And Amy Schumer, feminist, humorist and outright firebrand, fully commits to her craft, even when it makes more work for her on the back end. The peril of saying everything you need to say—about sexual harassment, about gender inequality, about body image—is that you’ll take flak for it, from within your fanbase and from without. Liberal audiences accuse Schumer of muddling the message at the expense of making dirty jokes (Los Angeles Times critic Lorraine Ali called Schumer’s career a “drunken walk of shame toward world domination”), while misogynist trolls strive to shut her down completely. (Most recently, they mounted a campaign to sabotage Schumer’s latest Netflix special with one-star reviews.)
Through it all, Schumer keeps pushing forward. It’s tempting to think that being provocative is simply a family trait (she’s a cousin of Senator Chuck Schumer), but if you’ve ever fallen down a rabbit hole watching YouTube clips from Inside Amy Schumer, it quickly becomes evident she’s only playing the bad cards she’s been dealt and using them to bluff the haters. In one clip, she reacts to a sexting query of “What do you want me to do to you?” with “Tell me I’m safe in my apartment.” In another, Schumer pleads with God (Paul Giamatti) to take away her herpes by destroying a village in Uzbekistan; the deal falls apart when God tells her she’ll have to quit drinking and call her mother more often. And in a note-perfect parody of Sidney Lumet’s 1957 classic 12 Angry Men, an all-star cast, including Jeff Goldblum and Kumail Nanjiani, debate whether Schumer is attractive enough to be on television.
Schumer’s comedy isn’t for everyone, but everyone who appreciates a truth-teller should respect it. “When a nude photo of yourself goes viral, the word you don’t want people to use to describe it is ‘brave’,” she said recently. True enough. That word should describe what Amy Schumer does onstage, right alongside the words “hilarious” and “real.”
AMY SCHUMER with Rachel Feinstein, Mia Jackson. August 10-11 & November 2-3, 8 p.m., $59-$199. The Chelsea, 702-698-7475.