Amy with no holds barred

Comedian on roots, feminism and therapeutic laughter.

by Richard Mowe

Sisterhood - Amy Schumer and her sister Kim Caramele in Locarno for Trainwreck
Sisterhood - Amy Schumer and her sister Kim Caramele in Locarno for Trainwreck

Amy Schumer, who cut her comic teeth on Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer, was on fine feisty form when she breezed into a media gathering at the Locarno Film Festival and before her US hit Trainwreck by Judd Apatow received its European premiere last night (8 August) on a thunder-threatened Piazza Grande. Accompanied by her sister Kim Caramele who is her associate-producer, she loves playing to the gallery and engaging playfully with the media while maintaining a neat line in self-deprecation.

Q: What was your way in to the business?

AS Genetically I am blessed - it must be in the genes. The Sound Of Music was my first foray and I played Gretl. Do you guys want me to sing Edelweiss? Because I will. I did plays and theatre in college and after college I did stand-up and became a comedian. The aspect of it that I like best is teaming up and writing with Kim. I like to get lost in it all by myself at first and then develop it by collaborating. The way I was trained to act and I apologise if this sounds actorly but it is to behave truthfully in imaginary circumstances. I have always been this way even doing shitty comedy clubs on the road. I like the idea of making people feel better about themselves and being able to laugh.

Amy Schumer:
Amy Schumer: "It was totally liberating making this movie."

Q: Do you get a kick out of making people laugh and do you find that sexy in a way?

AS: Oh yes, because it is one of the only ways I can get orgasm! I don’t really want people laughing in the bedroom. I would rather that they focussed on what they are doing. I love it here in Locarno and it is only the second time we have been to Switzerland. The first time we were in Interlaken and we hiked, smoked pot like everyone else and got high.

Q: How do you respond to Meryl Streep’s recent stance on woman’s rights in film and television?

AS: I worship Meryl Streep and that resonates with me because people say I am a female comedian whereas they would not say he is a male comic. I hope people can tell by looking at me that I have ovaries. It would be nice not to be labelled in that way. I think it is strange - you would not says he is a black comedian. A black person is someone who does not have a white skin.

Q: Do you enjoy being able to move audiences as well as make them laugh at themselves?

AS: I like movies that can do both - making you laugh and cry like Richard Pryor. The power to promote any emotion is insane. People are surprised by Trainwreck - that it is also a love story.

Q: How did you adapt to making a film rather than a tv show?

AS: It was pretty relaxing because on the tv show I play many different characters. We had to shoot three scenes a day and play different people but in the film it was pretty relaxing just to play one character. We had the time and money to let the shoot breathe and we could shoot just one scene over the course of a week. I had the time to figure it out and it was a lot easier than doing television.

Q: Some people have acclaimed you as a feminist icon - how do you feel about that?

AS: Yes that is awesome! I hope everyone can identify themselves as feminist but anyone who can call themselves an icon is mental. I got an email the other day from Gloria Steinem and I cannot believe I am in a position to be communicating with her.

Q: Do you now plan to direct and write a movie yourself?

Amy Schumer:
Amy Schumer: "The Sound of Music was my first foray and I played Gretl." Photo: Richard Mowe

I love directing and I direct on my TV show but I would not want to direct myself in anything - that would be creepy. Kim and I have finished rewriting a film script that was originally written by Katy Dippold (The Heat and Ghostbusters). It was really funny but we are rewriting so I can be in it.

Q: The subject of Trainwreck was very close to home - was it a daunting task to put yourself on the line?

AS: I felt cool about putting my stamp on my personal stories and Judd was cool about it too. The alcohol and the sleeping around was what I did when I was in pain. I would not say that behaviour is healthy. If I knew someone like Samantha in Sex And The City I would get one of my friends to take her to hospital. I came to realise that I was not only hurting myself but also those around me and those who were closest to me. So I think that sleeping with someone because you like them is OK but the numbers of boyfriends and the drinking is wrong. I was using this as a defence mechanism. It is hard to let someone love you. I think the journey Amy [Amy Townsend is her character] goes through does make her realise she is in love and that she has to modify her behaviour. I think that she was not saved by a man but she found a way to love herself.

Q: Was being so upfront in Trainwreck quite therapeutic?

AS: It was totally liberating making this movie. I was discovering things about myself while I was writing it. I did think that now everyone knows everything about me but yes it was liberating and the most liberating thing I have ever done.

Q: How did you feel about your sister being so frank about herself on screen?

KC: Amy is a totally honest kind of person and never puts on a front so I did not feel the film was any different. She is honest and that is one of the reasons why people connect to her so much. Her stories come from a genuine place.

Trainwreck is released in the UK on 14 August.

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