RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Most of what our next guest says on stage can't be played on the radio. Comedian Amy Schumer talks about sex, a lot. She started performing stand-up in 2004. Now she has a sketch comedy show premiering tonight on Comedy Central.
Amy Schumer's work may not be family-friendly. But as our colleague David Greene learned, her family is at the heart of why she's doing what she does.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Amy Schumer, thanks so much for coming on the program and being with us.
AMY SCHUMER: Who is this? I'm just kidding.
SCHUMER: Imagine I just was so nice and now, yeah, thank you for having me.
GREENE: Now you...
SCHUMER: Thank you for having me.
GREENE: No, thank you for being here. You know, I wanted to start by asking you, a colleague of mine recently saw you performing...
SCHUMER: Oh, no.
GREENE: ...in Washington.
SCHUMER: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
GREENE: Well, she told me about this moment where you asked someone in the first front row how old she was. And the young woman said she was 13. And the audience just...
SCHUMER: She was 13.
GREENE: ...and gasped. Yeah.
SCHUMER: I gasped. I was like, I noticed her, and like this beautiful, young girl just sitting dead center in the front row. And first, I was just like concerned. I said you shouldn't be here. You know, my material, a lot of it's adult. It's not...
GREENE: Not appropriate for youngsters.
SCHUMER: ...I wouldn't say it's - yeah. And I'm not a parent by this question her parents. I was like where - I think we need to call Social Services.
SCHUMER: And then I found out she wanted to be a comedian. And I just said God, just do anything else.
GREENE: Don't do this.
SCHUMER: It's like I really...
SCHUMER: I really don't want to encourage you to do this. It's such an isolating, tough, harsh road, I think. And even someone like me has had kind of a charmed path to get to this place, it's still - it's so hard, and it is hard for a woman. So yeah, it's a really hard life, I think.
GREENE: OK. Well, you say it's really isolating and especially so for a woman. Tell me why.
SCHUMER: Well, because most of the male comics I know, after performing, after a show, you'll go out and maybe hang out with the staff, and maybe some of the audience. And as a woman, you don't really have that option. I don't think.
GREENE: Why not?
SCHUMER: Safety is a factor. And, you know, it's different. I'm not going to like sleep with somebody that I met that night, not that there's anything wrong with that. But...
GREENE: Not just anyone.
SCHUMER: ...you know, it's not as rewarding of an experience, I would say.
GREENE: Well, this is so interesting because the woman we see on stage is someone who - I mean you are talking about sex nonstop.
GREENE: But you're saying you're a different person up there.
SCHUMER: Well, I think people, because I talk about sex, they experience me as - however they experience me. And it's usually like, oh, this girl really gets around and this girl - but really, if you listen to what I'm saying on stage, I have a genuine interest in talking about it and exploring these things that you don't hear women talk about a lot.
GREENE: You know, male comedians certainly talk about sex.
GREENE: You have gotten such a reaction. I mean people kind of, My God, Amy Schumer, she's up there talking, confidently, so much about sex. Why this reaction? What have you, sort of, done to trigger this?
SCHUMER: I'm not totally sure. People get more riled up about a woman having confidence in herself than anything else, I think. And when you have confidence, they're like: Does she have a right to have all this confidence. Well, yeah. I feel like I have something to say and then I have a right to say it. And if I'm not their thing, that's fine. I think it's good for people to see a woman who's unapologetic and unafraid of what the response is going to be.
GREENE: And is that part of what drives you?
SCHUMER: That really is, I would say 90 percent of what drives me at this point.
GREENE: Let's talk about the show. It was hard to find a clip that we could play for our morning audience.
GREENE: But we were able to find one that I think stays within the bounds. You're imagining a full future with a guy who you had a one night stand with. You're planning your life together right up to where the two of you are going to be buried.
(SOUNDBITE OF "INSIDE AMY SHUMER")
SCHUMER: (As character) You know what? I want to call my boo-boo and see what he's up to.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (As character) Hello.
SCHUMER: (As character) Hey, just at the cemetery thinking about you. What are you thinking for tonight? I'm literally down for whatever.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (As character) Who is this?
SCHUMER: Yeah, so there's like a little bit of a social commentary there. I don't know any girl that's ever planned a wedding or picked out burial plots after sleeping with a guy once. But I'm 31 and, you know, when you meet a guy and you start going out, you're not just, you know, I would like to say like oh yeah, just whatever - just a by day. But you do think, do I have a - is there a chance I have a future with this person.
GREENE: Let me ask you, Amy Schumer, I read about your life and it's amazing because it's you've had parents who divorce. You had a family who went through a bankruptcy. You had a parent who had multiple sclerosis. And striking, personally, to me, because I went through those three very things as a kid.
GREENE: So I know how hard it can be. Does your comedy come from that hard place?
SCHUMER: I think a lot of it does. Some of it is just silly. But a lot of it I know I've dealt with a lot personal tragedy. And in my family, we just laughed that it. It was too painful, we laughed. Just dealing with - I don't know, is it your mom or your dad who has MS?
GREENE: My mom. My mom has MS, yeah.
SCHUMER: Oh. It just - I mean it's the most painful thing in the world to just watch this person that you love ultimately just digress and kind of decompose. And it's too heavy and you have to find a way to laugh at it.
I will on stage go to a very dark place and make light of things that are painful. And it makes me feel better to hear about other people's struggles, so I like to share mine.
GREENE: Your father, you said that his bluntness in, kind of, confronting disease is something that you feel like you took from him.
SCHUMER: Yeah. He is still just hilarious. My dad has to live in a hospital now. He's in like in assisted facility. And my dad, he's only 63. And the other people there are like in their 90's. And when I go see him, it's not heavy. He's happy. He's funny and he'll just be like, I think - like a woman will walk by this kind of like moaning in her wheelchair. And she'll just like, ugh, just sound like, you know...
SCHUMER: ...mystery noise. And he's like, Oh, I think she's obviously hitting on me.
SCHUMER: He's like, She's had it for me for a couple of weeks...
SCHUMER: ...this woman who clearly is just incoherent.
GREENE: Wow, that does take a hard thing and turn it into a laugh.
GREENE: What does he think of your comedy and what you've done in your career?
SCHUMER: He's so proud of me. And it's really exciting because now it's gotten to a level of where the, you know, they got Comedy Central for him at his hospital so they can watch my show. And the doctors and nurses know who I am now. 'Cause I think, before, the people who were around them, he kind of didn't know how well it was going for me. He just kind of - I think he thought I was like a clown.
SCHUMER: Like he just thought - I think he thought I did birthday parties.
SCHUMER: But now he has people in his everyday life telling him, Oh, your daughter was on this. And somebody just emailed him a picture of a billboard of me in Times Square. And he - I mean he's just so excited.
GREENE: Well, your dad will be watching. And everyone else, if you want to watch as well, it's "Inside Amy Schumer." The show debuts tonight on Comedy Central.
And, Amy Schumer, thanks so much for talking to us.
SCHUMER: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MONTAGNE: MORNING EDITION's David Greene speaking with comedian Amy Schumer.
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR news. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
And I'm Steve Inskeep.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.