On the same night that Trevor Noah was taping his latest Netflix stand-up special, Afraid of the Dark, in New York City, Amy Schumer was 1,800 miles away in Denver, performing her new hour, The Leather Special.
It was Saturday, Nov. 5, three days before Donald Trump would shock the world by beating Hillary Clinton at the polls. Schumer, a strong Clinton supporter throughout the election, was “still feeling some joy,” as she told Seth Meyers this past week. “I had this thing—hope—in my body,” she joked.
Especially after she had a group of Trump fans boo and walk out of her show in Tampa, Florida, a few weeks earlier, she didn’t want to talk about politics in her special. Even now, four months later, she’s still not quite able to go there. “I’m not ready to joke about new dad yet,” she told Meyers.
Instead, Schumer decided to open her special by talking about her body. A near-empty bottle of red wine on the stool next to her, she says, “I don’t know if you guys know this, but this past year I’ve gotten very rich, famous, and humble.”
Schumer was referring to the almost-nude photo she tweeted out the previous year, which she described as “beautiful, gross, strong, thin, fat, pretty, ugly, sexy, disgusting, flawless, woman.” It was that experience, she says onstage, that made her realize you never want someone to call you “brave” for taking off your clothes.
Within a few minutes, she has moved on to talking about her “pussy.” What’s really “brave,” she says, is going down on her while she’s blackout drunk. Because, “On its best day, my pussy smells like a small barnyard animal.” On its “worst day,” she adds, “ISIS.”
At times, this material veers dangerously close to the parody of Schumer and female comedians like her that became a running joke on this past season of South Park. In addition to the storyline about the “Turd Sandwich” and “Giant Douche” running for president, Eric Cartman spent most of the show’s 20th season insisting that “women are funny.” At one point, he tells his female classmate, “Just do women’s comedy stuff. You know, talk about how fat you are and how you wanna have sex with guys and then say ‘my vagina’ a lot.”
Yet, as Schumer made clear in her previous special on HBO, there is a clear double standard at work there. “I’m labeled a sex comic,” she said in 2015’s Live at the Apollo, directed by Chris Rock. “I think it’s just because I’m a girl. I feel like a guy could get up here and literally pull his dick out, and everyone would be like, ‘He’s a thinker.’”
This push and pull between often outrageously revealing material about her sex life and more serious commentary about gender and politics is a constant theme of the new special. Schumer does an extended bit about where men want to ejaculate during sex—“I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve never dated someone with American Sniper-type accuracy”—before transitioning into the story of how she met her current boyfriend, and object of tabloid fascination, furniture designer Ben Hanisch. We learn that they both had massive diarrhea from food poisoning on their first trip together to Paris and that he recently yawned while she was giving him a blowjob.
But then, after about 37 minutes, Schumer takes a hard turn. Things get a little quieter as she brings up the shooting that left two women dead in a Louisiana movie theater during a screening of her debut film Trainwreck in the summer of 2015.
“I knew nothing about gun violence and I found out that the guy who had shot them was severely mentally ill and a domestic abuser,” Schumer says of the gunman, who also killed himself on the scene. “I was like, well how could he get a gun?” she asks. It was later that she found out even someone who is mentally ill and has been convicted of domestic violence can still obtain a firearm due to various background-check loopholes.
Schumer decided she wanted to do whatever she could to change that, enlisting her cousin, now-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, for help. “These are my first public comments on the issue of gun violence, but I can promise you they will not be my last,” she vowed at a Manhattan press conference a few weeks after the shooting. With Trump in office, the issue has thus far been removed from the top of most Democrats’ priority lists.
“What I learned was, no matter what you say, as soon as you say the word ‘gun,’ what gun nuts hear is, ‘She wants to take all our guns!’” Schumer says, breaking into a stereotypical impression of a redneck gun owner. “‘That shifty Jew wants our guns!’”
She goes on to use comedy to express how outrageous it is that those on the terrorist watch list and even blind people can get guns in America. “I’m all about equal rights for the disabled,” she remarks, “but if Stevie Wonder calls me and he’s like, ‘Do you want to go shooting today?’ I’m going to be like, ‘Hard pass!’”
“Can we just work on not giving guns to mentally ill terrorists who are blind and beat their wives?” Schumer asks to applause from the crowd.
Schumer’s latest jokes about this do not represent the most incisive or revelatory satire on America’s obsession with guns—her sketches about the issue on both Inside Amy Schumer and Saturday Night Live were far more effective. But the line she uses to end this chunk of the special, tying together the raunchy material that came before with this more earnest plea for rational gun policy, demonstrates her impressive skills as a stand-up comic.
“And, you know what, I totally hear you guys,” she says, imitating a skeptical member of her audience. “You’re like, ‘Schumer, you were just talking about cum all over your tits, now we have to listen to this shit?’”
“But what’s crazy,” she continues, “is you can catch a hot load all over your titties and still not want to get your loved ones to get shot in a theater.”
Even the South Park creators should be able to give it up for that one.