There was an outpouring of emotional candour from standups at the Edinburgh festival, but Schumer skilfully keeps her anxieties at a safe distance
Does Amy Schumers new tour justify the hype? I caught up with it at the O2 in London on Sunday night and one of the aspects that struck me most was the unresolved tension a creative tension, probably between Schumers Sarah Silverman-style faux-arrogance (Im a superstar, youre lucky to be near me) and her self-loathing (I am trash). The reason it struck me so forcibly was because Id just spent three weeks at the Edinburgh festival, watching comedians foreground their personal problems. Schumer is a comic with challenges of her own but in time-honoured comedian fashion she chooses to keep them at arms length rather than putting them centre-stage.
Thats not to say Schumer is evasive about her body-image issues. Theres the routine where she parts her legs ever further until she identifies the moment her thighs stop touching. There are multiple jokes about womens magazines, Hollywood and the pressure on women to be thin. She is by turns defiant of these pressures, and vulnerable to them. She knows shed be (only) the third best-looking bartender in the bar, she says. She shows us paparazzi shots of her and her sister, and tells us that (generally, not just in these pictures) she looks like garbage.
At that moment, the audience intervenes; there are cries of no! to rally Schumers self-confidence. Thats an odd moment, but also the moment Schumers show intersects with what weve just seen at Edinburgh: an outpouring of emotional candour from clowns no longer prepared to conceal their tears. For years, cynics have been caustic about the preponderance of dead dad shows at Edinburgh a catch-all complaint about the supposed obligation to make shows with an emotional or narrative arc thats anathema (some would say) to standup comedy. Until this year, that phenomenon was greatly, and tediously, exaggerated. But dead dads werent the half of it at the fringe in 2016: in the work of Sofie Hagen, Jayde Adams, Chris Gethard, Rachel Parris, Scott Agnew and more, dead siblings and brain haemorrhages, histories of abuse, bad breakups and lifetimes of depression were all fair game.
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