Amy Schumer is well aware that people who are meeting her for the first time generally have a certain set of expectations. Sitting across from her on a recent Saturday morning, shortly after meeting her for the first time myself, I asked if she ever feels pressure to entertain or embody the Amy Schumer persona when engaging with new people “in real life.”
“I think people probably project how they think our interaction’s going to go, but there are some people who are always funny,” she answered. “It really depends. But I don’t feel the pressure, and whatever they’re expecting, it’s not my responsibility. So I don’t worry about it.
“But I can see sometimes, if I’m just tired. . . . During press you’re meeting maybe 70 people per day, so I’m probably not going to be able to give every person the sort of experience they might want. But I try to be in a good mood and be respectful and give people back what they give me.”
This genial approach—some people will be happy, some won’t be, and it’s all gonna be fine!—seems to underlie much of Schumer’s current perspective. The comedian stars in the studio comedy I Feel Pretty, out April 20, as a woman initially lacking in confidence and self-esteem who hits her head during a Soul Cycle class, and suddenly has more confidence than Kanye West and Kim Kardashian combined. Just like that, she feels pretty.
Schumer doesn’t keep up with what’s written about her. “I am truly just bored by it. [Your publicists] let you know what’s up,” she said, before looking me in the eye. “I won’t read this interview because I’m just bored by myself. You know what I mean? I talk about myself so much with press and with stand-up.”
But she does have a handle on the general sentiment of Schumer coverage—and she was very aware of the outcry when the trailer for I Feel Pretty was released earlier this year, as viewers were upset by that Renee, Schumer’s character, was seemingly meant to be seen as unattractive or not skinny enough to be considered conventionally beautiful.
“There’s all this backlash, and I wasn’t sifting through all the comments,” she explained. “[But] I got the general consensus. When that happened I was like, ‘Oh, that’s really interesting. I can understand how that can trigger some people,’ but it just made me excited for them to see the movie because it’s just so not the message or even the takeaway. It’s not about I’m ugly and I hate myself. It’s a girl with real self-esteem issues, which everyone can relate to. Some people . . . it’s funny, but people really projected what they felt onto it without even that information. Somebody was like, ‘Oh, she has to see herself as really skinny to like herself?’ And I’m like, ‘You don’t know what [my character] saw [in the mirror].’ You never see a different image.”
Meanwhile, Schumer continued, “other people were upset, like, ‘This is saying you have to get a head injury to like yourself.’ And it's like, no, this is saying that this girl needed to get a head injury to like herself. But also it is a metaphor because we all have those friends you wanna just shake and go, ‘You’re gorgeous. You’re so beautiful. I wish you could see yourself the way I see you.’”
Schumer added that she’s pleased with the responses she’s heard from those have seen the entire film. “The reaction has surpassed what I even could have hoped for,” she said. “What I hoped for was just people feeling great about themselves when they left the movie and keeping that with them, and that’s totally happened.”
Model Emily Ratajkowski—with more than 17 million Instagram followers to her name—plays Mallory, an acquaintance of Schumer’s character. Renee thinks that Mallory’s life must be easy, given how she looks; in one scene, a man hits on Ratajkowski’s character in a convenience store, then calls Schumer’s character “sir.” Schumer is a big fan of Ratajkowski’s Internet presence (“I would go see an exhibit just of her Instagram”), but also believes that social media and bullying can certainly be harmful to young people’s self-esteem.
“I’m super grateful that there wasn’t social media when I was a kid, but that sort of self-doubt crept in at a young age,” she said. “It’s bullying. It’s the comments here and there, and maybe somebody says something to you that they don’t even mean to be a mean-spirited comment, but they’ll just kind of say it to you in passing. They’ll be like, ‘You know how you have a really chubby face?’ And I’ll be like, mm-hmm. . . . And you just get handed some new insecurity you weren’t even worried about. So I think it’s just like regular, normal kid stuff and then that mixed with the Internet. These images are so readily available to us. Whereas I’m in a good place with confidence, and I can look at Emily’s pictures and be like, ‘Oh my god,’ and I’m showing my husband, like, ‘Look how gorgeous.’ But somebody else, that might make them compare themselves. I just think that I am at a good age to not do that, but to grow up during this time I think would be really challenging. I think [lack of self-esteem in young people comes from] a mix of advertising, literally marketing to make you feel like something’s wrong with you, and also just straight-up life.”
Schumer keeps up on the news, she said, but refuses to watch Donald Trump: “I can’t watch footage of our president. Like, ‘The president’s speaking about Syria tonight at 9.’ I can’t tune in.” She added that, in the current political climate, and in light of the recent #MeToo movement, she feels a bit differently about how to choose new projects.
Last fall she starred in a Steve Martin-penned Broadway play, Meteor Shower, an apolitical comedy. “[The play] came about at a time where we didn’t know the #MeToo movement was happening, and so I’m just someone who really . . . We all keep up with the times, but I felt such a seismic shift culturally, and to do that play that had nothing to do with that moment was kind of tough for me. Now I just feel this moment deeply and I don’t have a plan or like, ‘I wanna do this and this.’ I just am following the river of when something comes up and it feels totally right, I gotta do this. That’s how I do it. If it feels even a little off, I’m like, no.”
Schumer noted that there does seem to be some progress in terms of the cultural conversation around her work. When I asked if there’s a question she is sick of getting asked, she nodded immediately and smiled. “You know what? There is, but it hasn’t really happened this press cycle, and I’m really grateful for that.”
We made eye contact, and I wondered if she was going to tell me what that question was, if she was going to make a joke, if it was a question I had already asked. Instead, she looked away and continued. “I don't want to be the one who’s regurgitating it . . . Because I think it’s really kept up by interview questions. And so, yeah, I’d rather not [say it]. I’m happy it hasn’t come up.”