By Adair Odom
Rating: ★★ of ★★★★★
It seems as though America can’t get enough of memoirs written by female comedians– Mindy Kaling’s Why not Me?, Amy Poehler’s Yes Please and Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl have all topped the New York Times bestseller list in recent years. These women are different from the stereotypical models and actresses that People Magazine and Us Weekly have taught us to look up to for years. They’re more relatable, they’re well educated, they know how to poke fun at themselves and none of them are the perfect size by Hollywood’s standards.
Like the women mentioned above, Amy Schumer attempts to translate her on-screen humor into literary triumph in her memoir, The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo. In recent years, Schumer has become a household name as the creator, co-producer, co-writer and star of Inside Amy Schumer, a series on Comedy Central. In some chapters, Schumer’s humor carries over to her writing effortlessly, while in others, it simply falls flat.
At the start of her book, Schumer makes it clear that it’s not a self-help book or advice column: “I’m a flawed fuckup and I haven’t figured anything out, so I have no wisdom to offer you,” Schumer writes.
Schumer is known to be funny in a self-deprecating manner: discussing her bathroom habits before shows and talking about sex in a manner that almost seems pornographic. Yet for someone who is unabashedly funny, Schumer doesn’t shy away from writing about the hard things, like her father’s battle with MS leading to a loss of control of his bowel movements in an airport, and losing her virginity in a non-consensual manner. She tells of her mother’s affair and an abusive ex-boyfriend. She doesn’t sugarcoat the hard parts of her story, but she also doesn’t dwell on them.
The disconnect in her novel lies in the lack of organization: one chapter discusses the trials of trying to become a stand-up comedian while the next is a short list of times it is okay for a man to not make a woman come during sex.
Schumer’s novel also lacks a real purpose and can often be confusing about the message she is trying to relate. In one chapter, she says, “I would argue I look exactly like Beetlejuice – the Michael Keaton character, not the Howard Stern one” while another says, “I embrace my power. I say if I’m beautiful.” Sometimes she brags about the number of men she has slept with, other times she seems embarrassed by it.
Schumer discusses the “slut-shaming” that occurred on her press tour for her 2015 movie, Trainwreck, but claims to be fighting for equal opportunity for both genders. If a man can be called a playboy, then there must be a female equivalent, something that Schumer doesn’t seem to notice.
The message is left cloudy and unclear on how she sees herself, as though it changes with each chapter, making it appear as though Schumer is desperately trying to be funny, even though it is often at the cost of her own confidence.
While Schumer’s complete lack of discretion and subtlety regarding sex often overshadow the natural humor that comes so easily to her, it would be wrong to say that Schumer’s novel is humorless. For a novel of 336 pages, the glimpses of humor and moments of authenticity are not enough. While chapters about her relationship with her sister and her father’s life with MS bring you into Amy’s stratosphere, her raunchy exploits and self-deprecating banter feel trite and forced.
If the purpose of Schumer’s novel was to prove her relatability by showing her deep insecurity, then Schumer’s goal was accomplished. But if her goal was to woo me with her humor, I’d say she didn’t quite get there.