Some people might call Amy Schumer dirty, or a sex comic.
Karen Morgan calls her honest.
“She really is the voice of the next generation, in terms of comedy, a woman speaking her mind and talking about exactly what’s going on,” said Morgan, 51, a comedian who lives in Cumberland and performs around the country. “Some say she’s dirty or talks about sex too much. She’s brutally honest and speaks about things dear to a lot of us. It’s refreshing.”
Schumer, 34, is as hot as a comedian gets right now. She won an Emmy earlier this year for her cable TV show “Inside Amy Schumer” and scored a $130 million box office hit this summer with her film “Trainwreck.” She brings her considerable comedy resume to Portland Saturday for two scheduled stand-up performances at Cross Insurance Arena.
The fact that Schumer is doing two shows at the arena, which holds about 6,700 people, tells you something about her popularity right now. Jerry Seinfeld, by comparison, usually performs in the 1,900-seat Merrill Auditorium when he comes to Portland.
Schumer first started to make a name for herself in 2007 as a contestant on the NBC comedy competition show “Last Comic Standing.” Her fame grew after her Comedy Central special in 2012, “Mostly Sex Stuff.” In 2013 she scored a hit with her own Comedy Central series, “Inside Amy Schumer,” a mix of stand-up, sketch comedy and man-on-the street interviews. Her film, “Trainwreck,” opened this summer and became a blockbuster. She plays a woman who sleeps around and seems to have no qualms about it, until she starts to fall in love.
Schumer seems to resonate with fans, especially women, in a way most comedians don’t. It’s not just that her jokes and sketches are funny, it’s that her audience feels like she stole that joke from inside their head.
“She does this very funny, crazy women’s stuff that is very relatable to me,” said Carley McQuinn, 21, a Portland nursing student who will be attending one of Schumer’s shows in Portland. “I saw Kevin James (at Merrill Auditorium) and he was very funny, but he talked about his wife nagging him and keeping track of his kids. It wasn’t super relatable to me. (Schumer) addresses some things that aren’t talked about much, and she makes them easier to talk about.”
In both her stand-up and on her TV show, Schumer pushes the boundaries when it comes to talk about sexuality and views on women, to the surprise and delight of her fans. One sketch on her show was about the idea that there is a timetable for the very last moment when male fans find a female celebrity desirable. The title featured an X-rated synonym for desirable, and showed actresses Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Patricia Arquette getting together to celebrate Louis-Dreyfus’s last day as an object of lust. Louis-Dreyfus acts surprised that she had remained publicly desirable into her 50s, remarking, “I thought that US Weekly had made some sort of clerical error.”
“That skit is all you need to know about sexism, agism and Hollywood today,” said Morgan.
Schumer’s appeal seems to span generations. McQuinn is going to the show Saturday with her mother. Dana Baldwin of Portland is going to a Schumer show with her 17-year-old daughter, Lucy Denton. Baldwin likes how Schumer’s skits cleverly make points about topical issues, while remaining hilarious. She particularly liked a parody of a birth control ad that ended up making points about how easy it is to get a gun in this country.
Baldwin and other fans point to Schumer’s accessible manner as a big part of her appeal.
“I think what sets her apart is that everyone thinks she’s someone they could hang out with,” said Baldwin. “She’s like my funniest friend.”
Schumer uses her comedy to talk about real life in a funny way. But she’s also using her name recognition and clout to talk seriously about serious issues, gun control specifically. In July, a gunman at a Louisiana theater showing “Trainwreck” fatally shot two women. Since then, she has spoken in public and on social media to support her cousin, Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, in his efforts to pass a bill he says would tighten up background checks for gun purchases and stop the trafficking of weapons across state lines.
Raised in Manhattan and on Long Island, New York, Schumer’s parents divorced when she was young. Her father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Her escape was comedy and performance.
She earned a theater degree at Towson University in Maryland, then went to New York City to study acting and began doing stand-up comedy.
She told the New York Times in July that it didn’t take her long to realize that audiences responded strongly to her, especially when she talked strongly about anything sex-related.
“I thought ‘Oh my God, I don’t think I ever saw a female comic talk about sex like this,’ ” Schumer told the Times. “I was like, ‘I’ll be that voice.’ ”
Schumer went on in that interview to say that club bookers and network executives tried to discourage her from so much sex talk. But she decided that she, and her audience, knew what was funny.
“Have you had a sexual experience that wasn’t, on some level, hilarious?” she said. “Maybe five times in my whole life. It’s so fun to be honest about that stuff.”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Cross Insurance Arena, Spring and Center streets, Portland
HOW MUCH: $36 to $66