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Why Amy Schumer Blocked Me. And Why It Matters

Seven hours before she would take the stage at 30 Rock to host SNL for the second time, Amy Schumer blocked me. This is why.

At some point in 2016, a set of videos surfaced online seemingly proving that Amy Schumer had copied and recycled other comedians’ material. Some called it theft; others “parallel thinking.” Any comedian – or indeed artist – will tell you, it is unavoidable to find similarities or even mimesis between your work and another’s. There are a lot of comedians out there, and a lot of material. But this is more than that – over ten sets, sketches, and one-liners all in with striking similarity to smaller or lesser-known comedians from years earlier. Therefore, the possibility of coincidence seemed to reduce considerably.

As a result of this, the internet reacted explosively. A video on YouTube titled ‘Amy Schumer “Parallel Thinking” Compilation’ has now reached 7.4 million views. Perhaps it was because a comedian of Schumer’s notoriety, a darling of the comedy world, and paving the way for both female and all comedians, could somehow get away with it, and still remain so adored. Her feature film Trainwreck garnered critical and financial success; her stand-up specials saw widespread popularity; as of November 5th, 2022, she will have hosted SNL twice. And yet the evidence seemed to render most people unable to refute plagiarism.

So, finding out that Amy was hosting SNL again this Saturday, I took to my Instagram account @comedy_sesh, which catalogues some of my favourite sets by brilliant stand-ups, to create a post about why I found it abhorrent that Schumer should be so revered while these smaller comedians remain still largely forgotten today. I never expected what would happen next...

Approximately one hour after I posted, I received a Direct Message – Amy Schumer. I was in disbelief. Getting up out of my seat, I opened the message:

I must admit, the first emotion I felt when reading this message was remorse. I could tell that
she had clearly become upset by my post, and making someone upset is never my goal – especially when the person in question has to go live on TV in front of millions that same day.

But rereading it, my mood has changed: not only does Schumer totally reject any position of accountability, but she victimises herself. ‘We should support each other instead of trying to tear each other down’, she says. I find this to be more than a little pious – is there anything that brings people down more than taking other people’s material and not only profiting from it, but obscuring the original creator? But apparently, I’m the bad guy for telling people about it. It were as though she thought I was the one to steal the joke on her behalf. It’s the sort of intimidation you get from a bully that calls you a snitch for telling on them to the teacher.

To put it into perspective, Wendy Liebman made a joke in the early 90s which goes as follows:

“Maybe I’m old fashioned but I like it when the guy pays...for sex.”

Subsequently, in 2015, Schumer made the following joke:

“I’m very old school, I think the guy should always pay on the first date for sex.”

I’m perfectly aware that intonation, expression and delivery can significantly change the whole meaning of a joke, and to reduce it to words on a page is more than a little reductionist, but even if you compare the clips on YouTube, the delivery, as well as the structure, mark a suspicious similarity.
Now, as I write this, Wendy Liebman has 6,031 followers on Instagram. Amy Schumer has 12.3 million. Of course, ‘number of followers’ is crude measure for success, but this is an obvious dichotomy. And still, despite the jokes’ similarities, it is entirely possible that it was a coincidence. The problem is, when you measure it against the countless other examples of “parallel thinking” amidst Schumer’s portfolio, my scepticism begins to fade. And yet the comedian in question that bears such similarity to Schumer’s joke is mostly unknown, without Schumer’s wealth or success, though not an ounce of credit, remorse, or even pity has been thrown in her direction.

I will say, however, the amount of hate that Schumer has received following this surfacing, while not necessarily disproportionate, is often misguided. It is not uncommon that, strewn among the comments of a piece of evidence ostensibly proving her joke-theft, to find a blatantly misogynistic user who seems slyly satisfied to have the excuse to inundate her with abuse. This was so much the case, in fact, that one of the comedians she stole from, Marc Maron, even came to her defence, saying:

"What is happening with Amy, it has nothing to do with justice and nothing to do with comedy. This is about hate. It's about anger. It's about women-bashing. And it's this contingent of culture.”

And this is certainly true. Even beneath my own post, I will see comments that are totally unwarranted, and one thing I was conscious of is not wanting to feed those people with the fodder that fuels them. But unfortunately, the alternative is to bury the truth, which is a truth that Maron and these other comedians must contend with every day. Fear of collateral damage at Schumer’s expense cannot be a reason for protecting her.

Marc Maron, End Times Fun

Another variable worth noting is that the last known time within the public sphere that Schumer’s material mysteriously aligned with another comic’s (to the word) was in 2016. It’s possible that within that time, Schumer has matured, as she has seemingly continued to find success in subsequent years with a comparative lack of ‘parallel thinking’. With this in mind, when I saw that Schumer had written to me, I immediately proposed that, should she wish to apologise to any one of the comics I had cited, or even offer credit, I would openly support her:

“If you apologise to any single one of those comics, I will personally come forth and proclaim my respect for you, as I have made tons of mistakes in my life. No one is perfect.”

Not only that, but I even offered to delete the post, tagging her in a story in which I wrote:

“@amyschumer if you apologise to any of those comics, I will delete that post and genuinely sing your praises. No one is perfect – we should all be allowed a second chance.”

Though, seeing that she had blocked me, I deleted the story, as she would never see it. She will have seen the messages, however, as they sent before she pressed “block”, but obviously she wasn’t interested.

Following this, it’s hard to find reason to redeem Schumer for her artistic and comedic echoes, even if they were six or more years ago. She continues to maintain her innocence, and therefore comes across as selfish, and unwilling to be held unto account. But why Schumer won’t just come out and apologise – even to say that it might have been unconscious imitation of preceding comics, and to credit them – absolutely astounds me. Excluding a certain amount of vitriolic misogynists, I’m sure most people, seeing her apologise for something that happened years ago, would likely be inclined to forgive her. Instead, in blocking out these rumours, she lets them run rampant, and flood beneath her like water rising in the basement.

On a personal level, it saddens me. Growing up, I was a big fan of Schumer’s, and she’s part of what made me fall in love with comedy. To see one of your heroes revealed as something other than perfect is something which I do not celebrate, and certainly does not benefit me. But this isn’t coming from a place of misogyny, nor greed. My love of comedy trumps my love for Schumer, and that is why I was compelled to make this post in light of her continued celebration despite all that has been made known.

So, when Schumer says, ‘we should support each other instead of trying to tear each other down’, that is exactly what I’m doing. I support comedians, not least those that are lesser known, and not millionaires. Silence in the face of their exploitation is what ‘tears’ them down. But by blocking me for speaking out, and supressing the many comedians that have come forth, that is exactly what Schumer is doing.

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