By Lena Dunham
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I first met Amy Schumer almost six years ago when she came in to audition for the role of Shoshanna on Girls (trivia deep dive! Wild!). Everyone in the room was stunned by the detail and skill of her improv, the wild talent radiating off her (and I was personally intrigued by her breasts). It was clear Amy wasn't meant to play an innocent Juicy Couture lover obsessed with emoji — even if her Meatpacking District club lingo was the funniest shit I had ever heard. But when she left the room, the vibe was very "Someone give that lady a show, STAT!"
A year later we couldn't get her off our minds and asked Amy to come back and play a pivotal role as the protective best friend of Adam's new GF, a lady with a penchant for gold lamé and verbal threats. Our entire crew was in stitches, even if she was just dancing across a background shot. There was also something so tender about her portrayal. Between scenes, on the steps of a trailer in Fort Greene, Amy told me in hushed tones about the pilot of Inside Amy Schumer. She said she was nervous, but it was impossible for me to believe her — after all, she was the definition of power and command. I wanted to get inside her purse and have her carry me around and just watch her do it all through a peephole.
I didn't have to get inside her purse to see, because she's done it like a fireworks display: urgent, beautiful, impossible to look away from. It would be easy as pie to write an ode to what Amy Schumer has done for comedy over the past five years, for storytelling and for the grand old cause of feminism. She's made issues our foremothers fought in vain to bring to popular attention into an easy part of our national vocabulary, all the while causing us to spit milk from our noses with giddy laughter. She's asked tough questions and never shied away from the answers. But I feel way more equipped — and excited — to explain who Amy is as a friend, and that's exactly who every woman who connects with her work hopes she would be. She is fiercely loyal, as protective as any Long Island soccer mom, as loving as a hospice nurse. She's the person holding the cup of water at the end of the marathon, because she knows what hard work and tough times look and feel like. Somehow, despite touring nonstop and making action movies with Goldie Hawn and writing a poignant yet shockingly amusing book (The Girl with The Lower Back Tattoo, now a #1 bestseller) she finds time to answer every text and make the women who love her feel like they are invincible. I am so deeply lucky to be one of those women. I would fellate the whole cast of Duck Dynasty if it meant keeping Amy safe, and I know she'd do the same for me (though neither of us want to AT ALL).
As we chatted, I was so happy to be on Skype with Amy that at times this ceased to be an interview. I just gazed happily at her as she enjoyed several varieties of soup in a raccoon printed sweatshirt. Good thing she doesn't need a journalist in order to drop the knowledge.
Lena Dunham: Wait, I'm trying to video you, but I can't.
Amy Schumer: Oh, I can see you.
LD: The idea that you can see me and I can't see you is bone-chilling, but also kind of fun. So you did Howard Stern yesterday.
AS: Yeah, it was great, but he referred to my tattoo as a tramp stamp, which I always take offense to. Because those are the little, small ones.
LD: And yours is big and serious! When I first got my tramp stamp, which my dad came with me to get, like two months later, he said, very innocently, "Did you know that one of my students says it's called a tramp stamp because it's the place where after you have sex from behind, men ejaculate on it?" He seemed upset and perplexed. I was like, "I so appreciate your loving, caring, consistent presence in my life. Please never talk to me again."
AS: Dad, please, let's take a step back in this relationship.
LD: I'm supposed to interview you about your book, which is right here, and which is perfect. One of my favorite chapters is the one about hustle, like how you can't knock your hustle. I'm starting to wonder more and more, and I feel like this is something that you can speak to, about that relentless sense of hustle, like, "I'm going to work so hard I'm going to die." Do you think hustle — fear you'll never work again or never make your mark — comes from a place of deep anxiety and damage.
AS: Well, I think it's different for everybody. I think your and my hustles are very similar. We have the need to create and contribute and are not about the spoils.
LD: You and I were literally sitting across from each other at the Met Ball, and it was like a crazy countdown to when we could escape. You were like, "We're honored to be here. We're honored to be here."
AS: I left so early. When did you leave?
LD: I attempted to grind my ass on Michael B. Jordan for an additional twenty minutes and then left right after you.
I was sitting next to Odell Beckham Jr., and it was so amazing because it was like he looked at me and he determined I was not the shape of a woman by his standards. He was like, "That's a marshmallow. That's a child. That's a dog." It wasn't mean — he just seemed confused.
The vibe was very much like, "Do I want to fuck it? Is it wearing a … yep, it's wearing a tuxedo. I'm going to go back to my cell phone." It was like we were forced to be together, and he literally was scrolling Instagram rather than have to look at a woman in a bow tie. I was like, "This should be called the Metropolitan Museum of Getting Rejected by Athletes."
AS: You were dressed like a boy, and you looked sexy, and I really appreciated you showing me your tits several times.
LD: I loved this year when you were like, "I'm not fat, and I'm not skinny, and why do I have to be in this plus-size category?" after a magazine called you plus size on their cover. I know it ended up being a fucking pain in the ass for you, but what I was so glad about was that you were just being like, "Why, when you see a woman and she has 18,000 contributions to the world, would your desire be to place her in a random category you came up with?"
AS: Right. I said, "I think it's unfortunate that we still live in a time and a country where normal isn't good enough. The media body-shames women of healthy, normal sizes."
That's why I spoke up about the plus-size thing. Because plus-size, unfortunately, still does have a negative connotation.
LD: People always ask, "How do you feel about the fact that everything you say gets taken out of context? How do you feel about the fact that you can't speak without outcry …" I've retreated, in some ways, on Twitter. There's certain things I've had to do for self-preservation. The past few weeks … I don't even want to make you talk about it, because it's the fucking worst.
AS: I'm fine to talk about it.
LD: People wanted you to speak out about something a fellow comic, Kurt Metzger, who has been a writer on your show, did — a Facebook post he made in which he was a real dick about rape and women who have been assaulted. And you were just like, cut me a fucking break, people.
AS: First I was like, fuck Kurt. It's been years that he's been doing this. He's one of those guys, like a lot of the guys that I'm friends with, who are degenerates. Kurt was saying this awful stuff, and in previous years, I would be like, "You've got to shut up." He'd be like, "All right." Then it would kind of go away. This time, it was just so bad. But also, why are these women treating him like he raped someone? He's not Bill Cosby; Kurt has never raped. What he was saying was horrific, and he was being a troll. He can be an Internet troll. The fact that I had to answer for it … I was like, "Ugh, why this week?" [Jokingly:] I was like, if there's scandals, can't they be about me?
LD: I know, you're like, why aren't you focusing on my rape and my broken relationship with my mother?
AS: I'm like, "Come on, you guys. My dad shit himself at Adventure Land." I do understand that [Kurt's actions] would come back to me. I can see myself thinking that if I heard somebody on someone's staff was doing that. I'd be like, "I wonder how they are going to handle that." I get it. I get it, and I wasn't even resentful of the connection. I was resentful of the lack of trust. Like, "Have I earned any good will with you guys? Do you believe that I feel that rape victims should be shamed on the internet?" Have I built up any sort of good will?"
LD: The other thing that I get really crazy about is this new world in which women aren't just supposed to be protected from actions, they're supposed to be protected from language. Women are so strong. My ovary has basically exploded in my stomach twice, and I was pretty chill about it. You think I can't listen to some short comedy loser say something dumb about rape?
LD: I'm not going to cry, I'm a fucking queen.
LD: I don't think anyone should be a troll on the Internet, but I also get crazy about the idea of trigger warnings because a book isn't what I have a problem with. What I have a problem with is actions in the world. I understand that art and public figures teach people how to behave, but I want to be outraged about what's truly happening, because it's always happening.
AS: Right, I was like, can we focus on the rapists? What about the guy actually raping? How about that guy?
LD: I want to see a movie where you're Inspector Clouseau and you're like, "Guys, there's a rapist!" And everyone ignores you.
AS: Right, he's right there. Everyone's like, "No, we want to focus on the guy who said the mean thing." It's like, no, let's focus on protecting women from these situations and getting these rapists to stop the raping.
LD: No more raping.
LD: Something that I wanted to ask you about is one of the incredibly moving things in the book, and something I know has meant a huge amount to you: the chapter you wrote about Mayci Breaux and Jillian Johnson, the women who were shot and killed during a screening of your movie Trainwreck in 2015. I feel like you were galvanized by that in a specifically powerful way.
AS: It still fucking kills me. I might cry a little bit talking about it, but it is fine.
LD: I love you, you can cry near me.
AS: I mean, on paper it's like yes, of course, yes, you connect to that, two women were murdered, you know. But knowing it was my movie, and … that they went and they bought tickets and wanted to go see this movie, it just crushed me. I felt so powerless. And it felt a little bit like something that I had done, that there was a connection to me actually hurting people.
LD: Like something that you had made that was supposed to bring people joy caused anyone any pain.
AS: Yeah, and I just wanted to do anything and everything I could. Like I wanted to fly right there. Now, thinking about it, it's like, Why would they fucking want to see me right away?
And it just so happens that they were two of the sweetest angels who have ever lived, you know? It is never some toothless fucking crackhead who gets killed.
So I didn't really know how to react. I was so upset, I watched the news that whole night, I was just fucking fucked up by it. Any shooting fucks me up. Of course. There are some shootings I will choose to skip. Like I skipped Sandy Hook. I was like, no, no, not letting this in, I can't. I didn't go too deep into Orlando. I was like, I can't go down the rabbit hole because it really fucking kills me for at least a week. I am in a K-hole of misery.
[When the theater shooting happened,] it was such a shock, and it shouldn't have been because it happens, but … You know, that is actually when I felt the closest to Jennifer Lawrence, because that day she texted me, "It's your fault." And in times like that only jokes make you feel a little better.
LD: Jennifer Lawrence texting "It's your fault" is like the greatest worst thing I ever heard.
AS: And then I got really angry, and I was like, this is not OK. I want to really do something. Chuck Schumer called, and I answered and said I hope this is about preventing gun violence, and he said yes, do you want to do something? And I was like yes, let's work together, I really want to help. So then I started going to events and meeting all these families of victims.
I got to go to the White House with my brother and my sister when Obama signed his executive order on gun control, and all these people were there, all these victims of shootings. All these people who joined this movement to try and help stop gun violence, and they come over and they are like, "Thank you, because nobody listens to politicians, they listen to celebrities, so thank you, please keep helping us." Hearing that, and seeing Obama deliver that speech — like, tears just shot right out of his face when he started crying about the first graders being shot — I was just like, I am a lifer, I am in this. I really hope I don't have to die for it, but I would.
LD: Do you have increased security at your shows now because of it? Because people are so fucking nuts.
AS: Yes. Security is up. I'm really trying to protect myself. I am not being an idiot.
LD: Because we need you. Really, there's like a lot of people who want to borrow money from you.
AS: I give everyone money. No one ever asks to borrow money because I just, like, give it to them. I'm like, you want this? You can have it.
LD: You're like, I have this, and I am so upset that I have been allowed to have it.
AS: I'm like, it is crazy that I have it, so please take it.
LD: When I was going to the DNC, I was getting interviewed and someone asked, "Why do you feel confident coming out so hard for a presidential candidate?" And I said this thing that I afterward realized was so dumb — I was like, "I don't have to be scared because I don't care about starring in a rom-com, so I can say whatever I want."
And then I realized, "Amy is busting this whole thing open because she is starring in marketable movies." Not everyone who comes to see your movies shares your belief system and they are still fucking showing up to them, and that is you, like, busting open the idea that we all have to toe the line in order to be commercially palatable. You are basically saying, "It's done."
AS: Well, yes, I hope so, but really what I am also saying is if I make less money, it's OK. I will make less money on this tour that I am about to go on, because I talk about Hillary. I feel like I am kind of on the campaign trail by myself doing all these shows. I'm just like, yeah, if you are voting for Trump, if you are about that gun life, you are not going to love the show.
LD: I just want to say one more thing, which is that the book is really beautiful and really funny, and it's very exciting that you can buy it in the airport!!!
AS: I haven't seen it in an airport yet. Maybe I will see it in the airport tomorrow.
LD: You are going to die when you see it in the airport. That's like a real I've made it moment.
AS: At first I was like, I'm gonna go buy it in a bookstore, when I was in Chicago, and I walked in and it was 30 percent off, and I was like, All right.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Lena Dunham sometimes starts to use a weird "cool dude" voice around Amy Schumer in an attempt to impress her.
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