If you’re sick of seeing two people by the end of this week, those two people are likely ANT-MAN’s Paul Rudd and TRAINWRECK writer-producer-star Amy Schumer, both of whom have been on the talk show and interview circuit in force, leading up to the release of their quite excellent films. Schumer is probably getting more exposure for the simple reason that, for many, she’s a new face and talent to them. Sure, she just wrapped the third and, by far, finest season of her Comedy Central series “Inside Amy Schumer,” and she still finds time to tour her stand-up act (including a recent mini-tour with many cast members from TRAINWRECK (as well as the film’s director, Judd Apatow), who also happen to do stand-up.
TRAINWRECK is a more-than-a-little-autobiographical account of a men’s magazine writer named Amy, who has gone her entire life afraid of commitment, until she meets a really good guy (played by Bill Hader), who seems like he might be the right man to stick with for a longer run. Naturally, that terrifies Amy even more. It’s a film that balanced the honest and occasionally dark moments in Amy’s life with genuinely funny stuff involving the odd people she comes into contact with on a daily basis. TRAINWRECK both parodies and embraces the romantic-comedy formula, and you should see it soon.
Schumer and her fellow TRAINWRECK comedy tour comedians were in Chicago a couple of weeks ago, and I had a chance to sit down with her for this chat, which begins with my recollections about seeing her life for the first time many years earlier. Please enjoy my chat with Amy Schumer…
Amy Schumer: Hi, how are you doing? Nice to meet you.
Capone: I’m great, thanks. You might not remember the specific show, but the first time I ever saw you perform in person—I’d seen you on a couple of roasts, I believe—was at the Just for Laughs Festival here, but not your regular show. There was that little secret benefit show at a club called The Hideout, and it was 12 or 15 comics in a row
AS: Yeah, totally. Of course, I remember. I love The Hideout. Was it like John Glaser and Janeane Garofalo.
Capone: Janeane definitely was there. Patton Oswalt, Pete Holmes, Hannibal Buress, Aziz Ansari, pretty much anyone who was town already. Aziz closed it out. But I remember you so specifically and from that point forward, I went looking for clips of you on stage. Your first stand-up special came out that same year. I actually saw the film at SXSW.
AS: Oh, you were at that screening? That was arguably the best night of my life.
Capone: I remember thinking this is the first time I’ve seen her like…
AS: I felt very vulnerable [laughs].
Capone: I guess vulnerable is the best word.
AS: Yeah, that’s how I felt.
Capone: Has it changed at all? Because that was technically a work-in-progress screening.
AS: No, I don’t think it’s changed at all.
Capone: One of the things I’ve always found fascinating about you—and this is not the first time I’ve seen you take use it—but you trained as an actor. You weren’t one of these people that wanted to be a comic your whole life. You wanted to be an actor.
AS: I didn’t know what I wanted to be, but I always did plays.
Capone: I think it shows both in your TV show, and it definitely shows here. There are really dark corners to this story, even though she’s having fun and defending her right to have fun, she’s also broken from the way she was raised. Can you talk about the film as a pure acting experience for you? What did you want to tap into that maybe the show or stand-up doesn’t allow you to?
AS: Sure. I approached it the same way I approached scenes on my show, and my acting training was at a place called The William Esper Studio in New York, and that’s a Meisner-based technique, so it’s living truthfully under imaginary circumstances. And I do that on my TV show, too. So you’re not ever going for laughs. You’re just living it out. This was just the same, but more happens. So when I’m doing it, I’m living through it. Just the way I would prepare for heavier scenes—listening to music and getting myself daydreaming about it and then living it out.
Capone: Did you make the acting part of this easier on yourself by making the character resemble you and experiences you went through?
AS: I just think I’m better at writing those things. But I just start daydream, and some of it was straight verbatim dialogue from my life, and then some of it…I feel like I go under and write what I’m imagining.
Capone: At the same time, when you’re doing your show, you’re not spending months playing the same person.
AS: Right. And I don’t write every scene in my show. It was relaxing playing one character. It was relaxing not filming three full scenes in a day. I love the crew on my show. We are like a family, and we’ve been together for more than three years, because they were all together on “Delocated.” So I’ve known these people for five years, and I love them so much. This crew, I didn’t know. A lot of them worked on every Woody Allen movie, GOODFELLAS. So I was really able to just show up. Even to be just a writer and an actor it was a huge break from what I usually have to do, which is manage everything.
Capone: Were you at all nervous or fearful about writing something that exposes you that much.
AS: I’ve always been very open. I’ve always been an open book. Yeah, it’s a little bit just how I am, and then a little bit of a choice. But no, I was not nervous at all.
Capone: I’m actually going to the show tonight, too. I actually paid money and everything.
AS: Aw, thank you. You always come when it’s for charity.
Capone: That’s true. When you played here last time, I was in Austin at SXSW when you were here last time. But in doing this press tour, promoting something that is so personal, do you feel it gives journalists permission to ask really personal questions?
AS: Yeah, I do.
Capone: Does that bother you at all, or are you like fine?
AS: No, I don’t care. If I’m uncomfortable then I wouldn’t answer it. But I understand it that they feel like that.
Capone: Is the film world something that now you would like to concur as well?
AS: I have no goals. I’ve never had any goals and I still don’t. I just want to create stuff that I’m proud of, that I enjoy doing, that makes people laugh and feel better. But as someone who has had little roles in a couple of movies, I’m not like, “This is all I want to do now. Thank god I don’t have to do that other stuff anymore.” No part of me feels like that. I know this seems like the brass ring, but I like doing my TV show and I like doing standup.
Capone: Would you have as much fun working on something that was less personal, that was just a character you created from scratch that did not have as much of a connection to you.
AS: Whatever I do has to have some sort of connection to me, even if I’m playing a giant toddler on my TV show, it still has a connection to me. But I think this was a very special experience.
Capone: I assume this is the first time you’ve gone through a test screening and premiere.
AS: Oh, yeah.
Capone: Was that nerve wracking having people see it in a raw form?
AS: It was exciting. I was nervous. I would write Judd frantic emails, because he had final cut, and I usually have final cut. And he would be like, “Trust me. Don’t worry. We’re testing. We’re figuring it out.” So I wasn’t nervous about the crowd not laughing, because this stuff is funny. It’s true to my heart, and it’s funny, but I get really attached to jokes or scenes that had to go, and I just wanted to make sure that my character was portrayed in a loving way, in an accurate, fair way, and she was. And all of his comforting me and being patient with me came through. I love the movie.
Capone: You always hear about Judd as a director, and he’s throwing lines or jokes to actors during filming,. How did he help you craft and shape the script?
AS: Well, it was very cool. This is my first movie, and he was encouraging me. “Keep going, keep going.” And it’s like “Okay, here’s the script, and it’s 160 pages.” And he’d be like, “We need to get it down to 130 yesterday. And we need to focus a little bit more on this.” He had ideas for additional scenes, and it’s like, “Get it down.” It’s a lot of trying to do magic. “Take a pass where you focus on the sisters’ relationship. I think we need a scene where we see Bill do surgery.” So he would suggest other scenes that maybe were missing, and he had me write a bunch of scenes that didn’t wind up in the movie. I would say, we probably shot 30 pages that aren’t in the movie. Yeah, for sure, at least. Just re-writing a million times. He would never sit down at the computer, but he would give me suggestions for scenes or say, “I think we’ve been sad for a little bit too long. We need more funny.” So he’s really good about balance.
Capone: This is about someone healing, essentially, in order to get past a certain upbringing and let this nice guy in her life. You also have to worry about, what you said, not being to sad or sentimental about it. Was that part of the process was fine tuning that tonal balance?
AS: He’s so good at that. That’s something he has a handle on. That’s his thing with the audience at the testing and asking questions and the feel you get in the room: “That felt like we could have stayed there a little bit longer and we rushed out,” or “That was way too long to have people sad.”
Capone: I’m sure a lot of people have asked you about this, but I’ve been talking to people about this movie since I saw it in March, and I just keep saying, “I know you won’t believe me when I say it, but LeBron James is the funniest thing in the movie.” Did you have him cast early on?
Capone: If that hadn’t worked out, what would you have done with that character?
AS: Gotten a different basketball player.
Capone: But it kind of has to be him.
AS: You’re right. You’re right. I agree. First of all, that’s the only basketball player whose name I know, and also I just figured we would have to replace him and they would tell me the name of somebody else. But we’re very lucky. He was so funny.
Capone: I want to ask you something about your show. The “12 Angry Men” episode [which receive multiple Emmy nominations yesterday], it blew my mind. Not just as a stylistic thing, but also having the guts to play it out the whole episode and the quality of the actors that you pulled in. I watched it with someone who kept getting angrier and angrier as it went one, and I had to finally say, “You realize that Amy either wrote these jokes or approved the jokes…”
AS: I wrote it! I directed it!
Capone: That episode hit me so hard, I remember specific lines from it, like individual insults, because I’ve never heard them before.
AS: That’s why I wanted to write it. It was my idea to do this, and I wanted to write the whole thing. You don’t want the writers you work with everyday to be like, “Oh, you know how llike your ass is huge?” So I was like, “I got this one.” That was also really therapeutic. It was a lot of work. There was a time when the draft was almost 40 pages. It was just so much work. And then it felt really liberating. Let’s face it, everything has been said. And these guys are so good. It was so fun. It was the best. I’m so proud of it.
Capone: Was that a particular moment of self loathing: “Let’s just tear myself apart”?
AS: No, it wasn’t just for me; it was for all women. Definitely all women in media—girls like Lena [Dunham] and Mindy [Kaling], all women. We’re so evaluated on our looks. I had the idea. I just thought, yeah, that word “deliberation” was in my mind, and that’s the ultimate deliberation. It didn’t come out of a particularly emotional moment oranything like that.
Capone: Well, it was the best half hour of television I have seen this year, without a doubt.
AS: Wow. Thank you. It was brutal.
Capone: Now that you’ve been through the whole movie-making process, if you ever did try to ramp up another film from the ground up like this, are there things you learned from doing this that you might do differently next time?
AS: Great question. I learned a lot just during this process. Even the way I shot my TV show this past year. We used to be so all about getting the script exactly how we want down to the last comma, and debating stuff in the writers’ room. And I was like “We can shoot it both ways. We can shoot both of those lines.” Just that and giving ourselves a little more freedom, having more options. Whereas before, we would decide everything beforehand. I knew nothing and learned everything. I still have a lot of endless stuff to learn. In terms of like, “Don’t use your real mom.” [laughs] I don’t have that yet. Maybe I should have changed a character’s name [laughs]. I get distracted in movies when it’s someone you know, and you hear them say the fake name. It’s kind of distracting.
Capone: One of the things I also love about the TV show, it might be my favorite segments, “Amy Goes Deep.”
AS: Amy Goes Deep!
Capone: I watch those and I think, “She should be hosting a talk show.” It’s not just that you're great at interviewing and so quick on your feet to respond, it’s just you actually listen to what the people are saying and respond accordingly, and nothing shocks you. And I love that you don’t interview famous people; you talk to people that don’t normally get on television.
AS: Oh, maybe a spin-off!
Capone: What do you get out of doing those?
AS: I enjoy them. I love it. I love those. Man on the street…it’s so quick.
Capone: Those are great too.
AS: Thanks. You’re just reminded that a lot of people are sweethearts, and then also, some people are assholes. Let’s just take this moment in time and delve closer into something that we never usually get to find out. We shoot them for like a half hour to an hour. It’s just people I’m interested in talking to. The interviews go a lot better if I like the person, which I would say eight times out of 10 I do. Because there are some where the person is not nice, and it just doesn’t make for good television, I don’t think.
Capone: I bet it would, if it’s clear you don’t like them.
AS: [laughs] Right, yeah.
Capone: You share so many scenes with Tilda Swinton, who is a phenomenal creature of nature.
AS: Yeah, there’s no other way to describe her. She’s a creature.
Capone: Calling her an actor doesn’t quite cover it. Does working with her force you to up your game a little bit as an actor?
AS: My favorite scenes were with her, and it didn’t make me think I had to raise my game, it just made me feel incredibly supported. You’re sitting across from someone, having a scene with them, and they’re really present. I just loved it; we were really living it out. It made us feel so close. I still cant believe I got to do that. The scene where she fires me, that was like one of my favorite scenes to shoot.
Capone: Thank you so much, Amy. Best of luck.
AS: It was a pleasure. Thank you so much. I’ll see you tonight. Enjoy the show. Who are you bringing, your girlfriend?
Capone: She was coming, but she’s now out of town.