Great Sense of Schumer

OMG - What a title! I'm super smart and funny.

Anyway...

2016 has been a generally terrible year, but it has also been the year of me reading books by celebrity women, so that must balance out some of the horror, right? I've enjoyed Caitlin Moran telling me how to be a woman, Lena Dunham making me feel better about my mental health problems, even Patti Smith reminding me of the romance of the creative life. I would recommend all three writers very highly.

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by [Schumer, Amy]What's interesting is that I'm not a massive fan of any of those three people generally. Caitlin Moran is funny but I often have to approach her columns with a massive pinch of salt; Dunham is from a liberal America that I barely recognise; Smith makes amazing music but often comes across as a pretentious prick. The lack of personal connection didn't stop me enjoying their works and is a reminder that you can admire someone's art even if you don't agree with them on many things/anything. And it was with that caveat that I picked up Amy Schumer's The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo.

I like to think that I have a GSOH (I recently told my husband a joke about Mad Cow Disease that made him cry with laughter [side note: my sense of humour is rarely tasteful]) but Schumer doesn't usually tickle my funnybone. Not her fault - we're just different creatures - and yet this book made me chuckle particularly consistently throughout. Apart from when it made me cry. More on that later.

Schumer is reluctant to call this an autobiography, but it is made up of short autobiographical essays on everything from mother issues to being a "woman in Hollywood". She doesn't pull any punches: bad sexual experiences are related in all their sticky glory, and she calls out both her parents for the mistakes they made when she was younger. The reader is treated to something painfully honest, and it's relatable exactly because of that. We might not all have had issues with well-endowed hockey players, but her tales of early sexual encounters, the rise and fall and rise again of her body confidence, and her love/hate relationship with her family will all have aspects that resonate. Personally, I was hooked as soon as she described what it means to be an introvert: not that you're shy and retiring, but that there are times in the day when you just need to be alone, times when you physically and mentally must recharge before facing the world again. An introvert can still take their clothes off on TV (although I would rather not) and be in the limelight for a living, yet their creativity is often at its height when alone. Hearing a successful woman support this, saying that you can still make it without having to plaster the fake smile on 24/7 is about the most liberating thing I've heard all year. 

But with this honesty comes some stories of real pain. Schumer details the deterioration of her father from MS, explaining how humour is about the only way to deal with some of the humiliations of physical illness. However, it's towards the end of the book that the tears flowed for me. Two young women were murdered during a showing of Schumer's 2015 film Trainwreck, and she writes about these two women and what their deaths meant to her in a touching and heartfelt tribute. Schumer now works with the gun control lobby, hoping to restrict access to weapons for those who may be a danger to themselves and others. For readers who might think the book is all vagina jokes and body shaming, such tragedy comes as a real shock. But Schumer's integrity and honesty shine through all the stories, funny and otherwise, allowing the book to feel like a cohesive whole despite its varying content. 

Schumer is never likely to be my favourite comedian but I sincerely hope she continues to write. She might despair about being thought of as a female comedian and female writer but more voices like hers are necessary for these male domains to be more gender balanced. And maybe then she can just be a writer and comedian, as she fully deserves.

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