Comfort the afflicted, afflict the comedians

It’s been two weeks and this Amy Schumer story won’t die, so I guess that means it’s time for my two cents.

Like seemingly every other comedian, Schumer is experiencing the double edged sword of virality: Sure your talents are exhaulted, but then people find your old stuff. Your non-PC stuff.

In Schumer’s case it’s about race, and the problematic blindspot she seems to have for at least latinx people. And in the grand tradition of comedians on social media, Schumer jumped in to defend herself.

There are many arguments I suppose one could make for Schumer here: Stand-up comedy is always a sort of hit-or-miss medium, and often times comedians judge their success in the moment after a joke is told. Digging through any joker’s past is sure to illicit a few skeletons and jokes that bombed (or should’ve, or would if told today).

The difference is, Schumer was so beloved because of her unabashed focus on taking on controversial issues (like rape, equal pay, and feminism in the media) and punching up. And if you look at that list of things she’s tackled, the most successful ones are where Schumer is speaking from her own lane: White womanhood. From here, Schumer is able to root in (presumably) her own experience and voice and stick it to the man.

So what makes Schumer’s response so disappointing is that she’s defending material that ultimately isn’t coming from her own viewpoint, but from the viewpoint of an ally who believes they’re servicing the greater good. But here’s the thing about being an ally: You don’t get to decide when you’re in the right. You sit down, shut up, and listen when disenfranchised communities tell you they feel wronged by you.

Arguably Schumer’s response is that of a comedian, dismissing complaints as people who might not understand her “edgy” comedy, instead of hearing what are essentially critiques of her job performance. If Schumer took the time to hear the complaints, she could make herself a stronger comic, and an unstoppable force in today’s needlessly PC-phobic world of comedy. Instead she’s just telling 1995 edgy comedy to a 2015 club. It’s not falling on deaf ears, but we don’t need to hear more of it.

 

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