But Schumer is actually more than just a very successful comedian. Many have praised her for raising challenging issues through her comedy. For example, in April her TV show featured a sketch
lauded as a brilliant comedic take down of rape culture. Some have dubbed Schumer a "feminist icon"
because she has used comedy to address a range of issues from empowering women to body image positivity.
And on a personal note, I think Schumer is a great comedian and an equally nice person. I first met her about 10 years ago when I was the emcee of a new talent showcase where she performed, at a New York City comedy club. What was so memorable about Schumer was not just that she killed, but even as a newer comedian her material was edgy, funny and made some people uncomfortable. And over the years I have watched her develop into one of the best comedians in the country.
According to a recent article
in The Guardian by Monica Heisey, Schumer has a "a shockingly large blind spot around race." As proof of this accusation, Heisey points to one joke Schumer made when hosting the MTV Movie awards that refereed to Latina women as being "crazy." Heisey writes that this joke "left Jennifer Lopez as unimpressed as the online commentariat." (Because as most know, "JLo" and the online "commentariat" are truly the arbiters of good comedy.)
Heisey also called out Schumer for two other jokes. The first is Schumer's line: "Nothing works 100% of the time, except Mexicans." Her other joke? "I used to date Latino guys. ... Now I prefer consensual."
Now, two or even three writers critiquing a comedian usually doesn't result in an onslaught of national media attention. (Think about how many articles were written about Bill Cosby's alleged sexual abuse over the years before we began discussing it on a national level.) But apparently since Schumer's career is red hot (or perhaps because of rampant sexism aimed at female comedians), numerous national media outlets have reported on the accusations.
On Sunday, Schumer responded by posting a statement on Twitter
that read in part: "I am a comic ... I will joke about things you like and I will joke about things you aren't comfortable with."
She added, "You can call it a 'blind spot for racism' or 'lazy' but you are wrong...Trust me. I am not a racist. I am a devout feminist and lover of all people."
She signed the statement in true Schumer fashion, "Sincerely Amy (a dirty half Jew)"
So did Schumer's jokes "cross the line"? I can't tell you how many times I've been asked that question about comedian's jokes.
That question is clearly answered by the comedian's intentions. Look, we all know the difference between a comedian being playful and one being hateful. If the comic is being playful, even about race, those jokes are the ones we collectively defend. And that is exactly the category Schumer's jokes fall into.
On the other hand, if a comedian is truly being hateful, she or he deserves whatever backlash results, including being fired from a TV show. That's the price you pay for using the comedy stage to spew hate.
For example, while Donald Trump is not a comedian -- not intentionally -- NBC severed its ties with him on Monday for the atrocious comments he made last week
about Mexicans at the kickoff of a campaign for president. He said: "They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists."
Firing him was the right result.
Why the difference in the way I view Schumer's jokes about Latinos? Two things: First, Trump is not a comedian telling jokes about race that are designed to startle us and make us uncomfortable with their outrageousness. Rather he's a person in power -- who would like voters to give him even more power -- making serious remarks demonizing the Mexican people. He even doubled down with a tweet
on Tuesday after NBC dumped him. It said, "Mexico is not our friend,"
and he vowed to "FIGHT!"
Second, this is not the first time Trump has used race to stoke fear and play to the worst biases of his "base." Let's recall his relentless questioning of President Obama's qualifications -- from his birther craziness to his assertions that Obama is Muslim to his demands to see the President's college grades. This is important context as we try to understand Trump's intentions in making hateful statements about Mexicans.
I hope the PC police will take to heart the closing lines of Schumer's online statement: "My fight is for all people to be treated equally. So move on to the next person who is more deserving of your scrutiny and not the girl in your corner."
Schumer is right. The rightful place for our outrage is not against comedians clearly being playful. Rather it should be against the clowns truly peddling hate.