Schumer a rising star in stand-up

PHOTO: REUTERS

New York - At the Beacon Theatre on Monday, comedienne Amy Schumer said it was a weird time for her, explaining matter-of-factly: "Everything I do becomes a thing."

She was setting up a joke about a hastily written tweet, but it could have been about one of many sketches from Inside Amy Schumer that have gone viral, her buzzed-about speech at the Glamour Women of the Year awards or her US$500 (S$673) tip to a waiter that became a story in The New York Post.

The press obsessively covers her because she is on the verge of replacing Louis C.K. as the pacesetter in stand-up. As LeBron James, a co-star of her new film, Trainwreck, might put it, she understands the moment.

Schumer's Trainwreck Comedy Tour, which features the stars of her movie doing stand-up across North America through Sunday, is itself kind of a thing. Besides promoting the movie, Trainwreck, opening in the United States on July 17, it is one of the best comedy line-ups of the summer, with Dave Attell, Colin Quinn, Vanessa Bayer, Mike Birbiglia and Schumer.

It is an evening of New York comedy with some Hollywood thrown in, since director Judd Apatow, who returned to stand-up last year after a two- decade hiatus, also performs.

Not all of these comics are as suited to theatres as Schumer, who can effortlessly shift from a dramatic set piece to a chatty intimate style while still playing to the third balcony. Bayer started the evening with a joke that bombed and never entirely recovered, performing bits (like an extensive impression of an imagined episode of Friends) that were dwarfed by the room.

Apatow also had a wobbly start, with microphone problems and a Bill Cosby impression that was not nearly as compelling as his tweets about that comic. But he found his footing with some amiable jokes about parenting that explored his unease about warning his children about drugs or sex or even cheating. "What's better than an unearned grade?" he asked.

Of course, the star of the night was Schumer, whose ascent has been staggeringly fast. It was only 31/2 years ago that Eddie Brill, the booker for Late Show With David Letterman, referred to her dismissively as "that comedian's girlfriend". The comedian, by the way, was Anthony Jeselnik and they broke up years ago.

Schumer has become outspoken, mocking exactly this kind of slight from the gatekeepers.

She has long used stand-up material filled with frank talk about sex. But now, her act anticipates being pigeonholed as merely raunchy.

The reason she has broken out is that in a fragmented comedy scene, she has broad appeal without seeming to try to please everyone. She carefully avoids playing to a niche, veering from political to personal, swagger to insecurity, and heartfelt to obscene.

Her stand-up shows off her acting chops just as her sketch performances reveal the instincts of a stand-up. Just when you think she is one thing, she shifts to another.

New York Times

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2015, with the headline 'Schumer a rising star in stand-up'. Print Edition | Subscribe