READY FOR HER CLOSE-UP
Amy Schumer Talks Sex, PC Police, and Vince Vaughn on ‘True Detective’
The talented comedienne opens up about her new semi-autobiographical flick ‘Trainwreck,’ sex/dating/drinking in New York, and why she can’t say what she wants.
It’s a pretty big day for any American—let alone its “it girl” of the moment, Amy Schumer—for earlier this morning, the Supreme Court came down with a 5-4 decision legalizing gay marriage in the United States. And Schumer, a long-time proponent of same-sex marriage, is ecstatic. “It’s amazing!” she shrieks. “I’m moved. I would’ve cried, but I was already in full hair and makeup. I’ll have to celebrate on the plane back to New York. What do I drink on the plane? I’ll either go wine or Scotch, depending on the vibe.”
But she’s then quick to change the subject to her current fascination of the moment: the second season of HBO’s crime drama True Detective. The first episode of Nic Pizzolatto’s show had just premiered, and Schumer has some questions y’all. “Can we just talk for thirty seconds about True Detective?” she says in a flurry. “Vince Vaughn is SO distracting. It’s like… What? I’m always thinking, Get out of there!” I mention how funny it is to see Vaughn and co-star Colin Farrell’s characters constantly making eyes at each other across the booth in that thoroughly depressing bar.
“Right? It’s like, Are you guys going to fuck? It’s so weird!” says Schumer. “I’m still undecided on the show, but I’ll probably watch the whole season.”
Unlike True Detective, reviews of anything Schumer touches have been overwhelmingly positive of late, including her Comedy Central series Inside Amy Schumer, which just wrapped its third season, and her new film Trainwreck, opening on July 17.
Written by Schumer and directed by Judd Apatow, Trainwreck tells the tale of Amy (Schumer), a commitment-phobic woman with a successful career at a magazine in New York City lorded over by saucy editrix Dianna (Tilda Swinton). Her dating life mostly consists of a string of booze-soaked one-night stands—that is, until she’s sent to profile Dr. Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), a charming sports doctor whose best friend happens to be LeBron James. And for the first time, she doubts the lessons of her no-nonsense father (Colin Quinn) who taught her that monogamy is a myth.
During our chat in late June, Schumer revealed to me that she’d turned down The Daily Show. Since then, she’s faced a bit of (silly) backlash online over some old off-color jokes—with a Washington Post columnist weighing in who’d yet to see any of her work. It’s a testament to how wildly popular the 34-year-old has become: she’s got haters who don’t even know her.
How much of Trainwreck is autobiographical?
I’ve been having fun just making up an arbitrary percentage, but there’s so much of me in there. My Dad really has MS, and the relationship you see between us is really similar to what you see in the movie. My sister and I are crazy close, and Brie brought an edge to the character that my sister Kim doesn’t have—and we don’t actually fight in real-life.
What about your character, Amy? With the behavior, I wrote this two years ago and it’s kind of about my behavior as a sophomore in college. I was a pretty popular girl in high school and then got to college and it was just back to the drawing board. And Towson University, where I went, was voted the Hottest College Girls in Playboy, so the competition was just too much for me. I had to start over, lost a bunch of self-esteem, the numbers kind of went up, and I was drinking my own body weight most nights. So I’d say it’s a look at me at 20 years old, and some of that is still a part of me but I don’t have a lot of partners anymore. I usually have a boyfriend, but when I’m single, it’s usually someone who I’ve been friends with for a long time that I sleep with and then there’s this moment of, “Should we date…?” and there’s a real sadness to it. I drink like… three or four nights a week.
Well, you’re a New Yorker.
Yeah. And if I have to work I can’t, but I love to drink. I don’t get shitfaced, but I love to have a couple drinks.
What are you drinking? I’m a whiskey person.
I love Lagavulin.
Oh, yeah. Same here. I love Balvenie, too.
Yeah, that too. Definitely. I love an Ogio Chardonnay or a big red, and I love a Ketel One martini. I also love tequila and margaritas. How long is this interview? I drink a lot of things. It’ll be rubbing alcohol within the next six months. But I’ve never done cocaine and I’ve never done ecstasy. You’ve never done cocaine? Nope! I’ve never done coke. Just mushrooms and weed. All my friends did [cocaine] and my friends all had sex early, and I was really a late bloomer. I always wait ‘til I’m ready for things, and I was never ready for cocaine.
With Trainwreck, what was your biggest hurdle in tackling your first leading role? You’re really in every scene here and anchoring your first movie.
It was actually to give up full control. In my stand-up and TV show I have the final word, but here, Judd could say, “No, we’re doing it like this.” He didn’t really do that, and for the most part it was a completely collaboration. But it was really hard to trust that. I sent him a lot of frantic emails very late at night, and he was very patient with me in saying, “Don’t worry.” I just wanted this girl’s story done right because the line is so thin in what we’re willing to forgive in women’s behavior. So the biggest hurdle was to trust Judd in believing that he wasn’t going to make me look like a drunken whore.
She’s a very New York girl, too. What are your thoughts on just dating in New York? A lot of people have a strange relationship to that phenomenon, because it’s different from a lot of other cities. There are a lot of casual hook-ups, and then the state of things becomes hard to define.
People who are drawn to New York are, for the most part, mentally ill—including myself—so you’re always waiting for that, “What’s the thing about this dude that’s going to be the dealbreaker?” And I’m sure that’s how it is for men, too. For me, dating is tough because I’m not picking up people at bars, so it’s gotta be people I meet through work. And it’s New York, so everybody mostly winds up being gay or married.
The ratio is also very skewed. In San Francisco, there are a lot of men and very few women, and in Manhattan, there are a ton of women and far fewer men.
I think I’m also not trying to ‘nab a guy,’ but it seems like if you are, it’s just really competitive. It seems really unfair and dark. I really like that article that came out in The Atlantic a couple of years ago, “All the Single Ladies,” and just how that model you see for African-American chicks deciding to date the playboy who you know is dating other people, or taking on the deadbeat—and I think that model is universal for all races now. But I’m just so busy that I’m only interested in investing my time and energy in someone I really want to hang out with. It should seem reasonable, but it’s not how a lot of people are.
Back to Trainwreck—LeBron James is going to surprise a lot of people in this. He’s really good and it’s not a cameo, but a proper supporting performance as Bill Hader’s best friend.
It was completely surprising. He was funny on SNL, but we thought he was going to be kind of wooden and hopefully Judd would be able to get something out of him that we’d edit around. But he was just awesome. I still don’t even believe that he showed up that down to play, and was grounded, and so good.
Bill Hader told me that at one point while filming you just yelled out at him, “Rap the lyrics to ‘Gold Digger!’” and he started doing it.
[Laughs] Yeah, and he didn’t know all of them so me and his wife Savannah were yelling out the lyrics to “Gold Digger” and he would repeat them.
As far as the casting goes, there’s also a strange We Need to Talk About Kevin reunion in this movie. Were you watching that flick late one night and thinking that you needed to get Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller in something lighter? I know! Let’s get these two back together under happier circumstances. [Laughs] That was totally unplanned, but they’re amazing.
Trainwreck is of course a comedy, but I do think films like this are pretty important because they’re changing the overwhelming narrative in film these days. This is a film where a strong woman is dictating the action—not only narratively, but calling the shots in the relationship, and they’re the ones who are sexually dominant.
That’s been my experience just living in New York. Here, you can recognize that behavior in women, but I think a lot of the country will feel, “Oh, she’s playing the guy,” and that’s not at all the case.
Right. In a lot of movies, we see a dude picking up a woman, taking her home, and jackhammering her for twenty seconds onscreen.
Right. And that girl’s like, “Can my family come to the premiere?” [Laughs] But hopefully it will change and we’ll see more of these women.
I know this isn’t a new conversation, but the tide does seem to be shifting a bit where audiences are becoming more accepting of women in comedy. You’ve got Trainwreck, Spy, Pitch Perfect 2, the all-female Ghostbusters on the horizon. And people are highlighting Ghostbusters because the 1980s version is very bro-y and “Are you the keymaster?” but in this one Chris Hemsworth is playing the receptionist.
Oh, I didn’t know that! That is hilarious. I’m so naïve about “the industry” but as a person who just goes to the movies I can say, yeah, there really haven’t been a lot of female-driven comedies that appeal to me for a while, and right now there is. I’m really happy about it. The funniest people I know have always been women, and I grew up watching women, so it’s exciting. It is annoying that we have to have this conversation, but it is fact-based.
Were you asked to star in Ghostbusters? It did come out in the Sony hack that you were one of the names the execs were throwing about for their dream cast.
I know! I was so honored to be a part of the Sony hack, and I would have loved to have been a part of Ghostbusters, but I wasn’t asked. Also, right when they’re shooting is the time that I would have had to do all the press for Trainwreck.
Inside Amy Schumer has become such a phenomenon, too. It’s now become one of those shows that media outlets recap every week, which is pretty rarified territory.
It’s awesome. It feels so fucking good. Yeah, we just didn’t see that for our show, so it’s the shit.
How do you feel about the state of comedy? It feels like there’s never been a harder time to be a stand-up comedian, in particular.
Why? The level of scrutiny is through the roof. If you make, say, one rape joke that goes over badly, your career is toast. Every set is put on YouTube and scrutinized.
I know, it sucks. You really have to watch your back, and it fuckin’ sucks. Part of me wants to resist it and say, “Fuck you, I can say whatever I want!” but it’s actually careless at this point. It sucks. Every fuckin’ show, it’s like that episode of Black Mirror where everybody has their phones up. It fuckin’ sucks. It’s such a gotcha society, and that really does suck. I accepted that Glamour Award in the UK and there were a lot of cameras there—which they said was for their “archives”—and I’m glad, because a lot of people responded to me accepting this award, but I just feel like anything I do can blow up and be a “thing.” I had nightmares about it last night.
What happened in the nightmare?
It got kind of graphic and sexual with a girl who wanted a picture with me—it had a lot of twists and turns—but I think it all just stemmed from that. It was about all the aspects of fame and everything being monitored, and I woke up really bummed out.
Right. As a comedian, you all have to really test-run material to see where the line is, and oftentimes you have to go pretty far past the line to even know where it is.
Right. Also, I just want to say really fucked up stuff sometimes and I can’t now!