Culture

Amy Schumer Scored A Standing Ovation For A Rape Joke (And Other Things You Missed At Her Melbourne Show)

A report from the centre of the hype.

Within five minutes of Amy Schumer’s only Australian stand-up show, I feel like an asshole. Having just come off three days of solid press interviews, premieres and TV appearances, just a week or so after a full junket in the US, she describes the promo tour for her new movie Trainwreck as “physical punishment”. She rolls her eyes, reels off some familiar rehearsed responses, and lays into local press who assumed she was going to rock up to interviews drunkenly screaming with a dick in her hand. 

Andy Lee and Peter Helliar are sitting right behind me, the woman to my right is furiously and unashamedly penning a thesis in an A4 notebook, and my face has involuntarily frozen in a pained smile to repress the fact I’d also interviewed her that morning.

(She later clarifies the reporters were all nice people — except for one guy who was “a cunt”).

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I have both no reason and every reason to suspect this.

This kind of candid, unmediated experience with Schumer is exactly why the 2,400 people in Melbourne’s Hamer Hall shelled out a cool $99 to be there. Though she’s been a stand-up comic for eleven years, the conversation amongst the pre-show crowd — which incidentally had a fairly even split of men and women — is almost exclusively limited to talking about their favourite sketches from Inside Amy Schumer, as they practically clutch each other, bracing for the rush of her presence.

When the show actually starts, Schumer comes out on stage blasting ‘Milk Milk Lemonade’ and doing that awkward high-heeled bouncy dance every girl does when they hear Beyoncé. People scream in a way that nearly seems inappropriate for an auditorium with seats that are basically armchairs, and some rise to their feet, hands over head. She tells everyone to “get the fuck up”, enjoys a quick moment of adoration, and then shirks away saying, “Oh, no. Stop it. I would never”.

Though the crowd were fuelled by the novelty of her trip and the exclusivity of the show itself — one that predictably sold out in minutes, and crashed the Arts Centre website — Schumer’s act definitely didn’t disappoint. A couple of jokes would have been familiar to hardcore fans, but this wasn’t a rehashing of popular stand-up specials for a new audience; after a year that gave her unprecedented critical acclaim, international stardom and a spot she thinks she thoroughly does not deserve on Time‘s 100 Most Influential People list, she has plenty of new material to work with.

Working from the assertion that she’s essentially “garbage” — a girl from Long Island with a lower back tattoo — she spends most of the set examining the strange world she’s been inducted into. The studio execs from her new film told her to stop eating in preparation for the role. She briefly deluded herself into thinking she was dating Bradley Cooper, despite the fact he had a girlfriend who Schumer describes as the fuckable lovechild of a cougar and a panther. A reporter from “a magazine that rhymes with Schmemen’s Schmealth” basically insinuated she was a manatee and chose to give the cover to “someone more relatable, like Gwenyth Paltrow”.

As Schumer recalls, Paltrow was “showing her abs and her clit and saying something like ‘I’m a mom, I get it'”.

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I did not expect this to be so accurate.

Schumer even draws material from her last few days, talking about the press flooding her at Sydney airport and the tabloid magazines earnestly discussing the fact she was wearing an ill-fitting poncho from Forever 21. It’s all fairly standard local jibes until she pulls out this one, and drops it hard: “You guys have no black people though. You know that’s weird, right?”

The show’s already received reviews calling it “dirty fun for a girls’ night out”, and there’s no denying that’s true. Though her support act, old friend Troy Kinne, was a weirdly blokey local comedian fearlessly exploring the differences between mums and dads and other things you might hear during open mic night at the RSL, Schumer’s act is an unapologetic and refreshing celebration of sex from a female perspective. There’s something strangely liberating about seeing more than a thousand arms raised when she asks who’s had a UTI because they’re essentially a “cum dumpster” who was too lazy to get up and pee after sex.

But despite Schumer’s casual stage presence — swilling straight from a bottle of wine — and the general vibe that things could descend into a hen’s night at any given minute, each joke or comment is meticulously structured to push the laughs in the right direction. It’s the kind of smart, ballsy comedy that makes it possible to earn both a glowing review from The Herald Sun and a Peabody: the most revered entertainment award for “meritorious public service”.

This was never made clearer than in her parting joke. After riffing on a list of sex positions that literally and figuratively shit all over women, she ends the set by describing The Houdini — a real thing in which a guy has sex with someone from behind, tags out for a friend, then jumps up in front of the person and waves. It may be the only time in history, someone’s ever got a standing ovation for yelling “that’s just rape!”.

Feature image taken at SxSW 2015, by Richard McBlane for Getty.