Why I Prefer Amy Schumer to the Rio Olympics or Louis C.K. Any Day

Amy Schumer received an $8-million advance for her first book, out this week, but the fourth season of her TV comedy shows she’s worth the funny money.

Amy Shumer
Amy ShumerCredit: Courtesy

First, since you ask, yes, I did watch the 2016 Olympic Games opening ceremony from Rio. No, I didn’t watch it in real time, at 02:00 on Friday night (or very early Saturday morning, depending on one’s present point of view on life – facing the future or the past), as live broadcasts of sports events do stretch the limits of reality as far as the notion of “real time” is concerned. One watches a game, as it will eventually end with someone being happy and others visibly less so, and one is mildly – or wildly – interested to find out which will be which. But on the whole, one’s life, liberty and pursuit of happiness does not depend on knowing it in real time, since the victory itself takes place in a virtual make-believe realm of “sports.”

With the Olympics opening ceremony, it was not even a question of knowing the score, in its narrow sense. Instead, it was the scope of the score – video-audio-televisual, on its own merit, but also in comparison to (especially) the 2012 London excesses and 2008 Beijing extravagances – and the notion that one is part-and-parcel and a real-time participant in a global community of “celebrators of sports celebrities,” most of them watching it on delay, as the world turns and time zones decide.

It was well worth watching, with the TV cameras providing close-ups and long shots, sophisticated projections on multiple moving screens, and with tens, if not hundreds, of well-trained gymnasts-acrobats-stagehands manipulating beautifully crafted mechanical monsters, creating a highly moving spectacle on screen.

While watching that, I had another glimpse into the future of screen watching as two of my eldest grandsons, Uri (11) and Yair (9.5), were both watching the ceremony on TV with me, each with a tablet in tow and multitasking exceptionally well, following the patterns on the screen from the corners of their otherwise engaged young eyes.

And second, since you ask, no, despite my unmitigated admiration for Louis C.K., I will not be attending either of his stand-up shows in Jerusalem’s Payis Arena on August 18. (Payis, by the way, does not mean “the country” (Spanish); it’s Hebrew for “lottery,” since the Israeli lottery – Mifal Hapayis – helped finance the venue.)

Louis C.K. appears onstage at Comedy Central's "Night of Too Many Stars: America Comes Together for Autism Programs" at the Beacon Theatre in New York on Feb. 28, 2015. Credit: Charles Sykes, AP

The nature of the space, i.e. “arena,” was one of the reasons I didn’t purchase the hot ticket (costing from 280 shekels to 730 shekels – $73-$190 – compared to about $50 in the United States and elsewhere in Europe; Louis is usually very keen on making himself accessible). It’s not the admission price, but the size of the venue (an 11,600-seat sports arena, the local version of Madison Square Garden), that will result in me, the spectator who is used to having his fix of Louis C.K. up close on my own personal screen, having to follow a small dot on a faraway stage, and see his close-up on a huge screen beside or above the stage – an inconvenience, to say the least. As for the comedian becoming politically topical in “real-time” Israel, again, like with the Olympics opening ceremony, I’ll be able to get up to speed on it when, and if, it’s reported on the news soon after the event.

New girl on the block

What that leaves me with is Amy Schumer (HOT Comedy Central, Sun-Thur at 22.30). Or rather, season four of “Inside Amy Schumer.” Alongside Louis C.K., Schumer’s the other TV apparition who has injected, so to speak, a new lease of life into the somewhat tried-and-already-trite routine of a “stand-up-cum-sitcom” TV series, made into a genre by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David (brace yourselves: another series of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is coming soonish).

Schumer is the relatively new girl on the (boys') block, navigating a path blazed by female TV and stage comedians (like Joan Rivers and others), being brazenly candid and outspoken about matters usually kept unspoken – like the most intimate details of one’s sex life, such as it is (which is becoming sucher and sucher, if Schumer is to be taken at her word).

In a way, Schumer is following Madonna – she was the opening act on the pop diva’s last tour – in the art of “outing” the most embarrassing, ridiculous and funny details of one’s sex life and sexuality, demystifying it by laughing at and with it. Madonna put a bit of underwear (the iconic bra – icon + cone) on top, and Schumer drags matters usually kept under cover onto our screens, remaining on top of an otherwise intimate situation. In a way, she speaks and behaves very much like a guy would do, but has a knack for verbalizing it in a way that makes anyone empathize with her (and a sailor blush, if they still do). En passant, it’s interesting to note, following Schumer’s wisecracks about her own sexual experiences, how fast and far we have traveled in terms of subjects and objects to be discussed openly on TV: In the United States, Schumer’s cable TV series is usually broadcast twice an evening: once in prime time, with expletives “bleeped,” and again later with everything “hanging out,” so to speak.

Schumer has become big news back home, with her approval sought by actual TV characters. For example, the mom Lorelai in “Gilmore Girls” (in a trailer for the show’s upcoming four-episode revival on Netflix this November) asks her daughter Rory, “Do you think Amy Schumer would like me?” Rory says no, but Schumer herself tweeted, “I would love her!”

And in these digital days of ours, Schumer’s TV persona harks back to the analogue era of print: Her book of personal essays, “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo” (pace Stieg Larsson’s girl and her dragon tattoo) is also due out this week, on August 16. Which just goes to show how the TV world evaluates and devaluates one’s words’ worth: Three years ago, Schumer sold the rights to a book of personal essays for an advance of $1 million, but then decided to return the check because she was too busy. Two years later, though, she resold the rights, this time for more than $8 million.

In one of those essays, already published in Vogue in June, Schumer sums up the chief assets of her art as the chronicler and trendsetter of current and ever-changing sexual mores (and more): “I have had only one one-night stand in my life. I’m so sorry to disappoint anyone who thinks I walk around at all times with a margarita in one hand and a dildo in the other. Maybe the misunderstanding comes from the fact that, onstage, I group together all my wildest, worst sexual memories – a grand total of about five experiences over the course of 35 years. When you hear about them back-to-back it probably sounds like my vagina is a revolving door at Macy’s during Christmastime. But I talk about these few misadventures because it’s not that funny or interesting to hear about someone’s healthy, everyday sex life.”

Or, to paraphrase Leo Tolstoy’s immortal opening line for “Anna Karenina” (and I’d love to know what Anna would have thought of Amy), “All healthy sex lives are alike; every unhealthy sex life is unhappy in its own – and, in Schumer’s case, funniest – way.”

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