Amy Schumer Grows Up

Surprise! Her New Netflix Special is Actually Pretty Good

Having run out of well-recommended Netflix products to consume, I poured myself a thick bubble bath and a glass of rosé. I lay down in the warm water to watch comedian Amy Schumer’s new stand-up special, Growing.

Many had written off Schumer. Since she came out the gate so strong in the early aughts, feminists had decided that she was racist, or at least overly entitled.  I always considered her shtick to be a running gag about clueless white people who don’t seem to notice their own casual racism. However, I kinda ditched her too after I paid good money to see her perform, only to discover I’d already heard half of her jokes on TV. That seemed extra tacky at the time, given the holy dictum handed down by George Carlin, Louis CK, and other dicks decreeing that jokes were to be written, told just a few times, documented in a comedy special, and then discarded forever. Forever!

I also disliked her first Netflix original, The Leather Special, a collection of forced-seeming sex and toilet humor that aimed to pay homage to Eddie Murphy’s popular standup specials, right down to her all-leather outfit. Maybe I’m not the right audience, since I always thought Eddie Murphy was a shitty comedian too except when performing his Bill Cosby cover-band material about family. I love comedy with bad intentions, but Schumer’s attempt to one-up her PC haters by leaning into her own crassness suffered from just basic poor writing.

Maybe the bubbles and wine lulled me into complacency, but Growing had me believing that  Schumer deserves a second chance. She’s toned her whole deal down just the smallest bit, and has found a less crass, more-human topic in her pregnancy. I wouldn’t recommend toning it down for most comedians. But  Schumer needed it after The Leather Special.

Though Growing could never qualify as wholesome, Schumer has clearly listened to her social-justice detractors. She wants you to know she’s done the work, so you can go ahead and forget about the time she said she used to fuck Mexican men, “but now I prefer consensual.” Though I’m yet to truly love any of these other new hybrid social-justice comedians, Schumer here successfully lands a good many didactic jokes told from an activist perspective, even if some of them are pretty first-base feminism.

Amy Schumer, master of the subtle gesture

Like the recently-reformed and no-longer-funny Sarah Silverman, Schumer has ditched racial humor almost entirely. Her one racial joke in Growing feels extremely careful: while bemoaning women’s unnecessarily embarrassing search for emergency tampons, Schumer explains how, first, “You look around like you’re gonna say something racist…” She then interrupts her joke to warn the crowd: “whatever race you thought I meant, that’s on you.”

Overall, Schumer simply wrote better jokes for Growing than for The Leather Special. The punchlines also benefit from being strapped to a solid fish-out-of-water tale of a former drunken thot’s first pregnancy. Her whole aura here feels a little less thirsty, a little mellower. She seems to take longer breaths between jokes, which gives her an air of confidence. It all works well with the thoughtful new material about the #MeToo movement, her husband’s slight autism, fucking while pregnant, and babies still yet to be born.

Michael Patrick Welch

Michael Patrick Welch is a New Orleans author and journalist. His writing has appeared in The Guardian, Vice, Oxford American, Columbia Journalism Review, and many other great venues.

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