It's fair to say that unless you were an avid watcher of NBC's Last Comic Standing, not only would you be hard-pressed to believe that the show actually aired for seven seasons from 2003 to 2010, but you'd also have a hard time naming any of the contestants.
Sure, the show featured established comics like Ralphie May, Rich Vos, Kathleen Madigan and Gabriel Iglesias, but in the years that have passed, it's clear that the show's true breakout star is Amy Schumer, who comes to the Lowell Memorial Auditorium on Wednesday.
Schumer finished fourth in the show's fifth season in 2007 (Jon Reep, whose claim to fame is really as the guy who said "That thing got a Hemi?" in a series of Dodge commercials, won the season.), but she's closer to the true embodiment of the show's title.
In an April 2011 interview, Schumer described her Last Comic Standing experience thusly, "Last Comic was totally fun. I had a great time because there was no pressure on me; I had been doing stand-up around two years. I wasn't supposed to do well. So every time I advanced, it was a happy surprise. I kept it honest on the show and it served me well."
After a number of low-profile gigs, Schumer's first Comedy Central Presents stand-up special aired in 2010. She made appearances on 30 Rock, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Girls, but it was her killer set on The Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen in September 2011 that raised her profile to a new level.
She started making regular appearances on Howard Stern's satellite radio show, got a follow-up gig on The Comedy Central Roast of Roseanne Barr last year and Comedy Central gave her a one-hour standup comedy special, Mostly Sex Stuff, a year ago this week.
Somewhere along the way, she dated WWE wrestler Dolph Ziggler, a relationship she described in very adult terms on Howard Stern's show.
All of this activity led to a sketch comedy series on Comedy Central titled Inside Amy Schumer, which ran this past spring to rave reviews and great ratings. The show mixed snippets from her stand-up act with sketches on relationships, working in an office environment, the perspective of a single woman and a unique segment called "Amy Goes Deep" where Schumer interviewed people working in unique professions like stripper and dominatrix.
The show, which featured appearances from Abby Elliott, Lisa Lampanelli, Rob Schneider and Amber Tamblyn among many others, was renewed for a second 10-episode season that will premiere next year.
If you haven't figured it out by now, Schumer's act revolves around sex. It also deals with relationships and life as a single woman in her 30s (Schumer, the cousin-in-law of U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer from New York, is 32). She does it with a dry sense of humor much like that of Louis C.K. where she's not coming over the top in a search for laughs. Her wry delivery belies the raunchiness of some of the material, but her ability to turn a phrase makes even the most adult material seem palatable.
In a February 2012 interview, Schumer said, "I don't like the observational stuff. I like tackling the stuff nobody else talks about, like the darkest, most serious thing about yourself. I talk about life and sex and personal stories and stuff everybody can relate to, and some can't."
Schumer's career arc is clearly trending upward. News reports that came out earlier this week indicate that Judd Apatow is going to produce a big-screen movie for Universal Studios that will star Schumer. While details have not been released, it's the latest venture with female comedians for Apatow, who also worked on Kristen Wiig's Bridesmaids film and the HBO series Girls.
After an appearance from Louis C.K. earlier this year, it's becoming apparent that Lowell, and in particular the Lowell Auditorium, are becoming a hotbed for national comics to appear on a local stage. Auditorium officials are hopeful this pattern becomes a trend, although it's unclear as of now if any other comedians will be coming to the venerable Mill City stage.
For now, it's best to buy tickets to see Schumer, get there early, be prepared to laugh and enjoy the show.
Amy Schumer comes to Lowell Memorial Auditorium on Wednesday, Sept. 4, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35, $25 for students with a valid student ID. There is a four ticket limit for the general public and a two-ticket limit for students. Tickets can be purchased at www.lowellauditorium.com.