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October 17, 2013

Amy Schumer: The Iconoclast

In an era when a million Twitter followers trumps a million-dollar paycheck, and viral videos capture more views than Hollywood blockbusters, all the old rules about power are dead. Today, networks are the new companies, and your contacts are currency. Knowing how to leverage them is real power. And nobody knows that better than the women spotlighted here, the most connected women in America Photographs by Meredith Jenks


Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Subjects

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AMY SCHUMER KNOWS WHAT PALEONTOLOGISTS will find if they excavate her remains eons from now. "Oh, my God, just, like, a lot of wine," deadpans the 32-year-old comedienne as we peruse dinosaur bones at New York's American Museum of Natural History. "My sister and I got pretty drunk last night. Unexpected drunk, like it just sort of got out of hand."

If Lena Dunham of HBO's Girls is a voice for entitled, self-serious 20-somethings who can't get jobs, then Schumer, cocreator and star of Comedy Central's raunchy sketch show Inside Amy Schumer, represents those girls' breezier, boozier big sisters: single, self-supporting, and unabashedly living out sorority benders well into their 30s. Schumer, the patron saint of closing time, sees herself as having many missions, among them making people laugh, of course. But she's also propagating a pro-sex, cocktail-in-hand message perfectly pitched to the new wave of women who've ditched the "settling down" part of conventional adulthood. Her stand-up, she says, disguises social commentary and helps women feel "less apologetic" about their lifestyles. Like the bit about a 20-something who tells Schumer she's pregnant. "I don't know whether to be like, 'Congratulations!' or 'Do you need a ride?'"

Schumer's squirm-on-your-bar-stool shtick has clearly struck a nerve—and not just with women. When it premiered in April, Inside Amy Schumer raked in 3 million viewers, trouncing all of the network's other new shows. (Another coup: Her recent Comedy Central stand-up special, Mostly Sex Stuff, was the network's second-highest-rated stand-up special in five years.) "I knew I would make a show I was proud of and that I would think it was funny," she says. "But I did not know if people would watch it. Or if it would last. Especially on that network."

Born in Manhattan and raised on Long Island, Schumer graduated from Towson University outside of Baltimore with a degree in theater, and afterward dove into stand-up. Her big break came in 2007 when, at the age of 25, she made it onto the fifth season of Last Comic Standing—and finished fourth. But the exposure begot other higher-profile gigs, like Comedy Central's roast of Charlie Sheen, where her blazing set catapulted her into the mainstream. From there, she landed a guest spot on Howard Stern's radio show, which is where Girls mega-producer Judd Apatow discovered her. In August, Apatow optioned an as-yet-untitled screenplay Schumer wrote and will star in.

"I was motivated, and I wasn't afraid. I felt like I had something to say," Schumer says of her path to success. "I had a lot of rejection and agents being like, 'No, you're kind of not special enough.' But then no one can really tell you to stop stand-up, because it's all about work ethic—you just have to be working on it all the time—and I never quit." —Jada Yuan



The Hollywood hit-maker behind Knocked Up will produce Schumer's next film.


The buzzy stand-up revered by Louis C.K. is a writer on Schumer's show.


Schumer cut her teeth opening shows for this stand-up pro.


Schumer's manager also reps Will Ferrell and Whitney Cummings.


This former SNL scribe is Inside Amy Schumer's lead writer.


Schumer's co–executive producer is a Daily Show and Colbert Report vet.

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