Amy Schumer Has Accidentally Stirred Up A Huge Debate About Race In Her Comedy


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With the wit of Tina Fey and the balls of a drunk Liz Lemon, it’s no mystery why Amy Schumer has ascended to internet superstardom recently. Though she’s been a successful stand-up for years and her sketch show Inside Amy Schumer has been on air since 2013, her work with the latter has struck a chord for its strong feminist comedy and painfully on-point social and political satire.

If you’re still playing catch-ups: here she is annihilating rape culture in sports with nothing but knowing glances and a comically large wine glass, here’s another on douchey beauty standards and boy bands, and one more where she takes aim at Hollywood double-standards while gently sending Julia Louis-Dreyfus afloat for a Viking funeral on her “last fuckable day”. I make no apologies for spamming you with this stuff. I could fill up this entire piece with repeats of whole episodes and be content with a good day’s work.

But with such success comes the inevitable controversy and after months of nothing but glowing praise, Schumer’s has finally arrived. Oddly enough, it’s kind of her own doing.

The Criticism

It all started on Sunday when The Guardian published a piece by writer and comedian Monica Heisey which praised Schumer for her recent success. “While Schumer’s politics are impressive, her jokes are just as much so; she has serious comedic clout in addition to a feminist agenda,” Heisey wrote. “[Her] keen awareness of the garbage women in the media have to put up with combined with a bro-y ‘let’s do some shots about it’ attitude is what’s helped Schumer achieve something that’s long been presented as impossible: funny, feminist, mainstream entertainment.”

Then, right down in the 9th paragraph, things take a negative turn when the writer questions some of Schumer’s less-shared work. “For such a keen observer of social norms and an effective satirist of the ways gender is complicated by them, Schumer has a shockingly large blind spot around race,” Heisey wrote. “Schumer’s stand-up repeatedly delves into racial territory tactlessly and with no apparent larger point. Her standup special features jokes like ‘Nothing works 100 percent of the time, except Mexicans’ and much of her character’s dumb slut persona is predicated on the fact that the men she sleeps with are people of colour. ‘I used to date Latino guys,’ she says in an older stand-up routine. ‘Now I prefer consensual.'”

Aside from a couple more references to skits and an acknowledgement that someone has made this point before, that’s about the brunt of it. It all ends on a fairly positive note suggesting “Schumer is providing something we’ve been hungry for: a walking, talking, occasionally farting counter-argument to the idea that feminists aren’t funny”.

The Response

Schumer hit back at this hard, posting a long iPhone Note on Twitter just a few hours after the piece was published. Staunchly proclaiming that she won’t back down from edgy material, the majority of her message asks her fans to trust her because she’s “not a racist”. “You can call it a ‘blind spot for racism’ or ‘lazy’ but you are wrong,” she said. “It is a joke and it is funny.”

Continuing on into a second day, she’s now arguing the criticism is no longer valid because it’s not the focus of her work:

She’s defended the wording of her original post:

And now, she’s making light of this kind of criticism in general.

Meanwhile, op-eds are flooding the internet in response to her response and the author of the original piece is pretty confused about the whole damn thing.


Before you aggressively pitch your tent in either the ‘Let’s Boycott The Silly White Girl’ or ‘Lets’s Cut Out All This PC Bullshit’ camp, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First of all, the piece in The Guardian really did not call her a racist. Control+F that shit. The only place you’ll find that word in relation to Amy is the comments. Instead, Heisey was arguing that Schumer is much less adept at her comedic critique of race than she is of gender — a point that was all but inevitable for a comedian who has become one of preeminent voices of US political satire.

Heisey’s argument isn’t without its flaws. For instance, the standup where Schumer makes ostensibly derogatory statements and plays to racist stereotypes is all performed in character. The context of the performance makes clear that the joke is really on her: the ill-informed White Girl that you probably recognise from high school. This is made especially clear when the idea is carried across to sketch comedy. The below skit was criticised in the Guardian because “the titular problem appears to be that all the store’s black employees look the same”; a more popular reading would presume the titular problem to be that some white people are idiots.

In this way, you can understand why Schumer responded so quickly, but the nature of that response has done nothing but aggravate the situation. As Bhakthi Puvanenthiran wrote for Daily Life, “It’s the standard attitude of the George Carlins, Doug Stanhopes and Bill Mahers of the world … a long line of comedians who assume that once a joke is made, the onus is on the audience to understand their comic genius.”

Instead of taking an interest in the basis of the criticism or using it as part of a dialogue about race as Lena Dunham famously did, Schumer silences it in the same way as Trevor Noah or Daniel Tosh. She may have a better argument behind her and more people inclined to trust her well-meaning testimony, but woah, if that isn’t just terrible company to be in.

Welcome to the internet, Amy. <3