Comedian Amy Schumer has one thing she wants to be known about every career move she makes — she's doing it for the girls.
“I do want to reach as many people as possible, but I am absolutely trying to communicate the female experience and the human experience,” Schumer said in a recent phone interview from Los Angeles. “I have a great interest in bringing a bit of justice and shedding some light on the female experience.”
That justice is found in biting riffs from her “Mostly Sex Stuff” stand-up special — subjects include the Plan B morning-after pill and being the misfit friend at a wedding shower. Then there's her Comedy Central sketch show “Inside Amy Schumer,” which includes bits on sexting and how women have trouble accepting compliments. The latter featured a woman refusing a compliment on her dress: “Little? I'm like a size 100 now. Anyway, I paid like two dollars for it. It's probably made from old Burger King crowns.”
Schumer, 32, appeared in the Season 3 opener of HBO's “Girls” (it's her favorite show) this January as a friend of Adam's bitter ex-girlfriend. She says that compared to her set for “Inside,” it felt as if “you were living in the middle of a beautiful movie and there just happen to be cameras.” Schumer also looks up to “Girls” for how it depicts women.
“I've always loved shows that portray women as human beings,” Schumer said. “With comedies, the women always play the role of the nag or the straight man and you don't ever get to see a girl as a dirt girl. It's just nice and it stands out with shows like 'Broad City' or 'Girls,' that we get to see women as these fully realized people. Real human beings that don't spend their time apologizing for being a woman or not fitting into a box or taking up space.”
During her seemingly painless rise to fame, Schumer created her own brand of comedy that's equal parts vulgar and cheery with a core audience in mind. Her stand-up often veers to the taboo — think jokes about circumcision and being blackout drunk — but everything is delivered with a touch of irony and aloofness from someone who has described herself as being sweet-looking and “a little Cabbage Patch-y up top.”
And this awareness has paid off. At this point, it's feasible to call Amy Schumer the “Queen of Comedy Central.” After gaining notice as a fourth-place finisher on NBC's “Last Comic Standing” in 2007, she earned her first “Comedy Central Presents” half-hour special in 2010. She then appeared on the channel's popular roasts of Charlie Sheen and Roseanne Barr before earning her first hour-long special in 2012. “Inside Amy Schumer” ranked as the network's strongest premiere show of 2013.
She has often used misdirection in her comedy, but now with her latest tour and the development of her own show, she intends to deliver a more narrative set when she performs at Washington's Constitution Hall on Saturday.
“I think my sets have more of a point of view and I'm saying more than I used to,” Schumer said. “It's more storytelling than using a certain technique.”
The format of her own television show makes it easy for Schumer to show off her comedic diversity. Each 30-minute episode features a few minutes of stand-up, a few sketches, interviews with people she finds interesting (Season 1 had a model and an exotic dancer, for example) and questionnaires with people on the streets of New York. Season 2, which premieres on April 1, is “more ambitious,” Schumer said. “It's like sophomore year of college. You come back with a new wardrobe and you know what's up.”
As for her own brand of comedy, Schumer is still striving for a personal connection and, in fact, it all goes back to the feeling she had while doing sets at dingy comedy bars in New York at the beginning of her career.
“My set is really conversational, and the crowd seems to respond to that,” she said. “I just talk to the crowd like they're a friend, and so even if we're in a big beautiful opera house where it's 2,800 people, I still want everyone to leave like we just had a conversation and a few drinks.”