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Amy Schumer and the emergence of the “fake celebrity”

From unknown to household name in seconds, what does Schumer's newfound celebrity say about fame?

03/09/2011 - Amy Schumer - Comedy Central Roast of Donald Trump - Arrivals - The Hammerstein Ballroom - New York City, NY, USA - Keywords:  Orientation: Portrait Face Count: 1 - False - Photo Credit: Mario Santoro / PR Photos - Contact (1-866-551-7827) - Portrait Face Count: 1
03/09/2011 - Amy Schumer - Comedy Central Roast of Donald Trump - Arrivals - The Hammerstein Ballroom - New York City, NY, USA - Keywords: Orientation: Portrait Face Count: 1 - False - Photo Credit: Mario Santoro / PR Photos - Contact (1-866-551-7827) - Portrait Face Count: 1

In her acceptance speech during Sunday-before-last’s Primetime Emmy Awards, Amy Schumer thanked “everyone who has helped [her]...and the girl who gave [her] this sort of a smoky eye…” The young comedian’s career has skyrocketed in the past year — now including a recent Emmy for Outstanding Variety Sketch Series — leaving many people wondering: where did Amy Schumer come from?

The 34-year old Schumer was born in Manhattan, where she lived until her family went through major financial difficulties, and her father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Her father’s illness and later, her parents’ divorce can both be seen as key influences in her somewhat autobiographical movie “Trainwreck.” Released this past summer, the film was one Schumer wrote and had a starring role — with a character also named Amy.

In 2003, Schumer finished her coursework for a theater degree at Towson University (although she didn’t receive her diploma until 2007), and later appeared in various off-Broadway shows and sketches. Although most people know her from her sketch comedy show, “Inside Amy Schumer,” which debuted on Comedy Central in 2013, she considers her 2007 appearance on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” her big break.

Schumer’s recent success parallels the rise of the “fake celebrity” genre of comedian — fans feel more connected to someone who they view accessible and Schumer’s unique mastery of turning self-deprecation into relatability is a major factor in her success. However, Schumer is just as skilled at playing the celebrity game: befriending Jennifer Lawrence, attending red carpet events, etc. But what sets her apart is her self-awareness of her playing this role.

Schumer’s appearances alongside late night TV hosts like Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers make it seem as though she is talking to a close friend rather than giving an interview. Schumer’s openness and the way that she treats even the shortest of interviews like a segment of her stand-up have no doubt contributed to her quick rise to fame.

Even in one of her “Inside” sketches entitled, fittingly enough, “Celebrity Interview,” Amy takes on the persona of Amy Lake Blively — a ditsy, blonde, up and coming young actress and no doubt a jab at actress Blake Lively. Schumer highlights the pointlessness of celebrity interviews and how they are a means for the host to flirt with the young actress rather than actually talk about anything substantial. With this in mind, something becomes clear looking back on her late night appearances: yes, Schumer can flirt and giggle like the best of them, but don’t think she doesn’t know when she’s doing it.

Her keen awareness of what is considered the “norm” for a celebrity and manner in which she breaks that mold can be seen especially in her film “Trainwreck”. Schumer challenges gender norms by throwing a woman into a position normally held by a male protagonist. The female equivalent of a “womanizer” at the start of the movie, Schumer’s character falls hopelessly in love with Aaron Connors (played by Bill Hader). Schumer’s fearlessness to take on romantic comedy, a genre seemingly unchanged by time and space, speaks to her comedic chops.

With news of a possible film collaboration with Jennifer Lawrence coming out within the next few years and the renewal of her show for even more seasons, the future looks bright for Schumer. But if one thing’s for sure — with Amy Schumer, you never know what you are going to get. But whatever it is, it will be a hit.

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