Can Judd Apatow Help Amy Schumer Go Mainstream?

amy schumer judd apatow trainwreck

Can Judd Apatow Help Amy Schumer Go Mainstream?

Amy Schumer is a comic’s comic.

Colin Quinn, Jim Florentine, Jim Norton, Robert Kelly and other great established comedians are fans of her work, and have appeared with her in sketches on her Comedy Central show, Inside Amy Schumer.  She has been a guest on Ron Bennington’s Unmasked, took a ride with Jerry Seinfeld in Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, and she has appeared as a guest star on venerated comedy series such as Louie and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

She is one of Comedy Central’s top stars and will be hosting the 2015 MTV Movie Awards in April.
Schumer is a headliner in comedy circles, but she still hasn’t managed to break through to mainstream audiences. That figures to change this summer with the release of Trainwreck, written by Schumer.  Starmaker Judd Apatow is on board as director and producer

amy schumer judd apatow trainwreckApatow has a proven track record of finding unique talent and putting them on the public radar. With The 40-Year- Old Virgin in 2005, Apatow introduced the mainstream world to Seth Rogen, established Steve Carrell as a lead, and re-packaged Paul Rudd to the loveable everyman character Rudd has come to embody ever since. Superbad made Jonah Hill a star and helped introduced Bill Hader to non-SNL audiences.  John C. Reilly, James Franco, Leslie Mann (Apatow’s wife), Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, and Russell Brand all benefitted from Apatow’s Midas touch, with featured roles in films he either wrote, directed, or produced.

Yet Apatow is still widely perceived as the godfather of “bro-mance” comedies – his worlds are largely populated with men who never quite managed to completely grow up. Schumer is an edgy comic with a kewpie doll face and a sailor’s mouth.  Can Apatow turn Schumer into the next Kristen Wiig … or the next Seth Rogen, for that matter? Or will the upcoming collaboration between Schumer and Apatow become the titular Trainwreck?

Here are a few reasons Apatow will be able to help propel Schumer to become a household name.

Because Apatow understands underdogs. At first blush, Schumer is an attractive, charismatic woman from an upscale Manhattan family. She’s not exactly a McLovin in the looks department, or a freak or geek, or a middle-aged virgin. But, while plot details of Trainwreck have not been released, it has been reported that the script is based largely on Schumer’s stand-up, which often contains self-deprecating riffs on her appearance (“ I have the body of a woman but the face of like a child orphan”), her dating life (“The only guy who ever approaches me is always at last call at the bar. What a rapey time.”), and her sex life (“I’ve only been with four people. That was a weird night.”)  Her stand-up persona isn’t Jonah Hill’s ‘Seth’ looking to get laid; it’s about a woman in control of her own life and decisions trying to fit in to a world where kids and a house with white picket fence in the suburbs is the norm. She’s a woman looking to live a life on her own terms – that’s as big of an underdog story as you can write. Apatow can help that character become more nuanced and sympathetic than the stand-up stage allows.

Because Schumer gets the joke. Schumer knows, as a female in the entertainment business, that she is judged on her looks before she even says a word. And she’s willing to play with that convention, even making her appearance a focal point of her comedy. She doesn’t take herself too seriously. Not only is she willing to make herself the butt of the joke, but she’s willing to do physical comedy that other women avoid. Seth Rogen stole scenes when he danced around shirtless in the “Age of Aquarius” scene in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Schumer is the kind of entertainer who would do something similar; to risk temporary embarrassment to hit a comedy mother lode. She’s not a performer who needs to be protected, but one who thrives under new challenges. Apatow can help provide those challenges.

Because of an awesome supporting cast. Comedians Colin Quinn, Bill Hader, Jim Norton, and Jon Glaser are also featured in “Trainwreck,” as well as Academy Award winner Tilda Swinton, Maria Tomei, Daniel Radcliffe, Lebron James, method Man, and WWE’s John Cena. Schumer won’t have to carry the film on her own. There are several other performers who can have standout performances and take some of the pressure off Schumer in her debut starring role. Schumer has standout support.

Because of synergy. Trainwreck is scheduled for release in July. By the time it hits theaters, the new season of Inside Amy Schumer will have begun on Comedy Central. Schumer will have hosted the MTV Movie Awards. And any new release with Apatow’s imprimatur tends to get copious amount of publicity upon its release. There’s bound to be a huge buzz around Schumer by the time Trainwreck hits theaters.

With all that in its favor, Trainwreck has a good chance of surpassing Bridesmaids to become the new gold standard of female-centric comedy films. If that happens, it can also help Apatow shed his “bromance” reputation once and for all. And it could very well the springboard that launches Schumer from Comedy Central to the mainstream.

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Dan Murphy is a freelance writer in Buffalo. Pre-order his new book documenting the rise of women’s wrestling from sideshow to WWE main event on, "Sisterhood of the Squared Circle: The History and Rise of Women’s Wrestling"
Dan Murphy
Dan Murphy
Dan Murphy is a freelance writer in Buffalo. Pre-order his new book documenting the rise of women’s wrestling from sideshow to WWE main event on, "Sisterhood of the Squared Circle: The History and Rise of Women’s Wrestling"