In the past year or so, Amy Schumer has found a new favorite topic: the pitfalls of fame. It’s not all fun and games and J.Law jet-ski rides! Or, as she told Vanity Fair, addressing her critics: “Can we just skip this thing where I become famous and then you guys look to burn me at the stake for something?”
Recently, after a man harassed her while asking for a photo, Schumer announced that she, like Justin Bieber, planned to stop taking fan photos. “I’m, like, newly famous, and it turns out it’s not fun,” she’s riffed during a stand-up set. “I’m just now learning that my dreams have been a sham, and that it’s actually not great and it just only comes with pain.”
Her increasingly high profile has become a topic of concern among critics, who have wondered whether she has gotten too big for Inside Amy Schumer, the Comedy Central sketch show that made her a household name. The show’s best comic moments historically came from (a) mining her own life, and (b) extrapolating something viewers could relate to. But what happens when your life no longer looks much like anyone else’s? Last night she confronted that problem head-on, with a full episode devoted to the topic of fame. And while it didn’t yield any gems on the level of last season’s “Last Fuckable Day” or “Football Town Nights,” it did suggest that modern celebrity might offer a new lens on the pet subjects — gender, sex, technology, performance, the media — that she has dealt with all along.
The first sketch was basically the equivalent of Justin Bieber’s “no more photos” Instagram rant in sketch-comedy form. As fans in a coffee shop bombard Schumer with rude greetings (“you’re Fat Amy from that singing movie!”) they grow increasingly wild, mobbing her with demands — a selfie, a boob-grab, a bite out of her leg — until she eventually ends up with her head on a spike. Nobody simply wants to meet her: They want to photograph her, capture her, consume her. And the next sketch is something of a rejoinder to the first, poking fun at both entitled celebrities and the pressure to be “relatable.” (Schumer hosts a show called Down to Earth while riding a blimp with her face on it, and Selena Gomez provides the theme song: “She has a chef for her dog, she bought a convent in Prague, she owns three precogs, this girl is just like you.”)
It will be interesting to see how Schumer uses this new vantage point to probe the same issues she’s tackled since the beginning, but last night felt like a promising start. Maybe, suggests Schumer, the performance of fame isn’t all that different than the many masks we all wear in our everyday lives. Social media has turned all of us into brands, images crafted for public consumption; it’s not just celebrities who know what it’s like to live life feeling like we’re constantly being watched and judged. (Likewise, all women, not just famous ones, are subject to constant policing of their image and behavior, a pressure to be both flawless and “relatable” that exists far beyond the pages of US Weekly). Schumer may be have blimp-money now, but she is still doing some of TV’s most interesting work, using her own unique trajectory to explore modern celebrity from many different angles — while still acknowledging that it may be a tough pill for her fans to swallow.
So cheer up, Justin. You are not alone!