Amy Schumer Bares Her Soul In 'The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo' | KUOW News and Information

Amy Schumer Bares Her Soul In 'The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo'

Aug 19, 2016
Originally published on August 19, 2016 7:03 am

Editor's note: This interview contains adult themes, including a discussion of sexual assault.

Amy Schumer is tired of answering a question journalists ask her all the time: Is this a good moment for women in Hollywood?

"It is an amazing moment for every woman," she tells NPR's David Greene, "if you have ovaries and you're in the 90210 ZIP code."

One reason Schumer hates that question: She's a New Yorker. The other? She thinks women generally have it tough all the time. And speaking up — about sex, gender stereotypes, crazy, unrealistic expectations for women and their appearance — is a signature of her comedy.

Schumer was already a comedy star the last time she spoke to NPR a few years ago. Then, last year, Trainwreck — the movie she wrote and starred in, somewhat inspired by her own life — was a hit. And she got really famous.

Now, she's written a memoir, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo (and, yes, she has one).

Like her comedy, the book is revealing. She shares excerpts from her personal diaries going back to her preteen years, complete with footnotes from present-day Amy (young Amy dreamed of living in New York and making money acting and bartending, all of which she's done).

Schumer says she always knew she was funny. "I only remember loving making people laugh. And making myself laugh."


Interview Highlights

On being a comedian and an introvert

I think standup is pretty good for an introvert, because you are performing, but, I mean, it's on your own terms. There are so many people in the room, but it's a one-sided conversation. And you actually don't have to interact, unless you want to. ... I don't want to pull the curtain back, but comedians do want laughs. That is the goal. Being introverted, it doesn't mean necessarily being shy or being afraid of public speaking, it just means that it's hard for me to interact with people for too long.

On writing about being sexually assaulted (Schumer says she had fallen asleep and woke to find her boyfriend having sex with her without her consent)

Talking about this in the book, it's a lot and it's risky, and then people say, "You didn't use the word rape." People ... they just want a pull quote. They want clickbait. And so just talking about being sexually assaulted in any way, you know, for women, it's never like, "Oh, I'm really sorry that happened to you." Which is really how it should be, and how you would think it would be. But it's more, we look for problems we have with how that woman has spoken about her sexual assault.

I call it "grape," because it's this gray area. Not of whether or not it was rape, but it's not the way we think of, like, a Law and Order episode. And when it's not as black and white for everyone, it makes it harder for them to digest. So it's this very personal thing to me, that I decided to share. And I'm only looking for people to feel less alone reading it, and maybe for a guy to read it and think, "Oh." Maybe that'll stop somebody in their tracks, I don't know.

On whether the world has changed for female comedians in the past few years

Not enough. Things are being talked about more than they used to be, things like the wage gap. ... I do talk about sex because I do think that a lot of things translate from the bedroom into how you live your everyday life. Like, as a woman, I think that a lot of women are in relationships where they're with someone who doesn't make sure that they orgasm. And the woman doesn't make it important ... and I think that translates to the office, where you should demand to be spoken to and treated equally to men. I feel like there won't be enough change ... until there's no wage gap, and until someone says "You're my favorite comic," not "You're my favorite female comic."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Amy Schumer is tired of answering a question journalists just keep asking her all the time. So I asked it as a joke. I mean, she is a comedian, right?

I really was curious. I mean, this seems like a good time for women in Hollywood.

AMY SCHUMER: (Laughter) You [expletive] (laughter).

GREENE: Is it?

SCHUMER: It is an amazing moment...

GREENE: (Laughter).

SCHUMER: ...For every woman. If you have ovaries, and you're in an 90210 ZIP code, it's an amazing time for you.

GREENE: Now, one reason Amy Schumer hates that question - she's a New Yorker. The other - she just thinks women generally have it tough all the time. Speaking up about sex, gender stereotypes, crazy, unrealistic expectations for women and their appearance - it's all a signature of her comedy, like in this sketch from her Comedy Central series. She's walking into a clothing store that's called New Body.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "INSIDE AMY SCHUMER")

SCHUMER: (As character) Yeah, I just started working out this morning, so I need a little revamp on my wardrobe for the new body I'm about to have.

JESSI KLEIN: (As saleswoman) Oh, my God, fabulous. What's your fitness plan?

SCHUMER: (As character) Well, I switched to Diet Snapple, and I bought a tiny house trampoline. So, you know, a change is going to come.

GREENE: Now, when we talked to Amy Schumer a few years ago, she was already a comedy star. And then, last year, the movie she wrote and starred in - somewhat inspired by her own life - called "Trainwreck," it was a hit, and she got really famous.

Now she's written a memoir. It's called "The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo," and that is something she has. Like her comedy, the book is revealing. She shares excerpts from her personal diaries that go back to her pre-teen years. I asked her to read some of them, but Amy Schumer forgot her book. Luckily, her sister-in-law ran her a copy into the studio.

SCHUMER: (Clears throat).

GREENE: Read the footnotes too. Yeah, get yourself ready.

SCHUMER: OK, just the last paragraph?

GREENE: Yeah, I mean, unless you're dying to read more.

SCHUMER: Right, no.

GREENE: I don't want to...

SCHUMER: Yeah, I'm dying - I'm dying to read more, so much so that I didn't even know I had the book with me.

GREENE: (Laughter).

So in the book, she has actual diary entries from the past and then footnotes from present-day Amy.

SCHUMER: (Reading) I want everything right now - footnote - I did. I want to be living in New York City - footnote - I do.

GREENE: Young Amy Schumer dreamt of acting and bartending, both of which she's done.

SCHUMER: (Reading) I want to start a new page - footnote - I would like for you to believe that I was being poetic and metaphorical here, but I literally meant I wanted to start a new page of the journal entry. There was a whole line left, but I drew an arrow because I was sick of looking at that page.

GREENE: (Laughter) You know, as couple of colleagues and I were reading that - that last footnote...

SCHUMER: Yeah.

GREENE: ...Someone said, that is so Amy Schumer.

SCHUMER: (Laughter).

GREENE: Is that (laughter) - is that fair?

SCHUMER: That's fair, yeah (laughter).

GREENE: One thing that might surprise you about this brash comic is she considers herself an introvert.

SCHUMER: I think standup is pretty good for an introvert because you are performing, but, I mean, it's on your own terms. It's like there's so many people in the room, but it's a one-sided conversation. And you actually don't have to interact unless you want to.

GREENE: You actually don't feel like you're interacting with your audience? I mean, I gather you're looking for laughs and want that reaction, but it feels like you're alone up there.

SCHUMER: Yeah, I don't - I don't want to pull the curtain back too far, but comedians do want laughs (laughter).

GREENE: (Laughter).

SCHUMER: That is the goal.

GREENE: OK.

SCHUMER: Being introverted, it doesn't mean necessarily being shy or being afraid of public speaking. It just means that it's hard for me to interact with people for too long.

GREENE: Did you know you were funny when you were growing up?

SCHUMER: Yes, I always knew I was funny.

GREENE: Yeah?

SCHUMER: I only remember loving making people laugh and making myself laugh.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "AMY SCHUMER: LIVE AT THE APOLLO")

SCHUMER: (As self) That's why I'm so annoyed I'm single again. That means I'm going to have to go out with a new dude. We'll go to the movies, and he'll be like, do you want to get a popcorn? And I'll be like, oh, my God. I hadn't even thought about it.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHUMER: That's not the whole reason I wanted to come see this piece [expletive] movie.

GREENE: Comedy aside, Amy Schumer gets very serious in parts of this book. And I'm warning we're going to touch on some adult issues and use some adult language coming up.

She decided to write about the first time she had sex. She says she had fallen asleep and woke up to find her boyfriend having sex with her without her consent.

SCHUMER: Talking about this in the book, it's a lot and it's risky. And then people say, well, you didn't write the word rape.

GREENE: You've taken some heat for that? They wanted you to use that word?

SCHUMER: You know, people - a lot of it - they just want to pull a quote. They want clickbait. And so just talking about being sexually assaulted in any way, you know, for women, it's never like, oh, I'm really sorry that happened to you, which is really how it should be and how you would think it would be. But it's more - we look for problems we have with how that woman has spoken about her sexual assault.

GREENE: So is that one reason you decided to share so much because you feel like it doesn't have to be some story line? You can be in a situation like you were in with a boyfriend, and you can be assaulted.

SCHUMER: Right, exactly. I used to talk about it in standup, and I write about in the book, that it's - I call it grape because it's this gray area - not of whether or not it was rape, but it's not the way that we think of - like a "Law And Order" episode. And when it's not as black-and-white for everyone, it makes it harder for them to digest.

So it's like this very personal thing to me that I decided to share. And, yeah, I'm only looking for people to feel less alone reading it and maybe for a guy to read it and think, oh - maybe that'll stop somebody in their tracks. I don't know.

GREENE: One thing we talked about a few years ago was the difference in comedy for men and women - and you being out there doing comedy and trying to send a message that a woman can be empowered and say all these things, and it doesn't have to be that astonishing or surprising. It doesn't have to be a headline that there is a female comic. Has the world changed in the last few years?

SCHUMER: Not enough. Like, things are being talked about more than they used to be - things like the wage gap. It's like, you know, I do talk about sex because I do think that a lot of things translate from the bedroom into how you live your everyday life. Like, as a woman, I think a lot of women are in relationships where they're with someone who doesn't make sure that they orgasm, and the woman doesn't make it important. Just nobody has said to them, no, I need to [expletive] too, and it should be equal. And I think that translates to the office and everywhere else where you should demand to be spoken to and treated equally to men. So I feel like it won't be enough change until every woman has [expletive] the same amount as the guy they're with and until there is no wage gap and until someone says, you're my favorite comic, not my favorite female comic.

GREENE: And you still get favorite female comic now?

SCHUMER: Every day.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: Amy Schumer, her new book is called "The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.