Arts, Television, Review

Schumer Grows on Audience in Netflix’s ‘Growing’

Amy Schumer’s stand-up special on Netflix, aptly titled Growing, tells the story of Schumer’s growth as a woman and the massive transitions she’s faced this past year. Not only was she recently married, but she’s also pregnant with her first child. Her routine doesn’t gloss over the difficulties of pregnancy, and instead the entirety of her routine unashamedly details the essence of being a woman in all respects, even the most taboo: pregnancy, the expectations of marriage, the female menstrual cycle, and sexual harassment.

After briefly warming-up the Chicago crowd, she dives head first into her pregnancy, laying down the line that, even though she’s now pregnant, a soon-to-be mother, she’s not changing who she is. So, in spite of others’ expectations for her to “grow up,” she disregards outside opinion and continues on with her routine, blurting brash commentary and profanity—her usual comedic fashion.

Schumer consistently loops back to the portrayal of women in media, knowing full well that she doesn’t fit the traditional stereotype. Her stage presence is the polar opposite of how women are told to act: She is uncensored, loud, and her comments veer far from the demure demeanors of women revered in the public eye. Schumer jokes how unfair it is for her to be pregnant at the same time as Meghan Markle of all people. Imagining what it would be like to be pregnant Markle, Schumer enhances this scenario with an exaggerated depiction of the Queen of England, along with a reverberating cry: “Yas Queen!”  

But beneath Schumer’s jokes, it’s interesting to consider how Markle’s pregnancy has been incredibly documented, while Schumer’s wasn’t even acknowledged, though she was photographed throughout the entirety of it. But the media’s restraint on female representation has narrowed the true extent of the female experience. Schumer bluntly criticizes depictions of women in movies as vastly censored portrayals. Being pregnant is hard, and Schumer’s experience hasn’t been pretty. She’s been hospitalized and diagnosed with hyperemesis—extreme nausea and vomiting induced by her pregnancy. Schumer’s candid tales of pregnancy beg the question, who knew pregnancy could be like this when movies and the media don’t show this and women don’t talk about it?

After doling out the details of her pregnancy, she races onto the topic of her husband, American chef Chris Fischer. Though she carries on her routine in a consistent non-filtered fashion, when she gets to the bit where she discusses her husband’s autism, Schumer stumbles: “I have to start this over because I really want to get this right, because I love him very much.”  

When discussing his diagnosis—supplementing the heavy subject with joking narratives about their relationship dynamic—and their anti-climatic proposal, she normalizes her husband’s autism and normalizes the conversation around mental health. In this moment, Schumer is most vulnerable and honest. Despite any initial discomfort and the spectrum of reactions that have been elicited by her choice to reveal her husband’s diagnosis, her inclusion of this material is delivered strongly, near advocational, in her performance.

Schumer’s choice to focus her routine primarily on her pregnancy and her marriage—two whirlwind events that have both recently changed her life—is understandable. Her delivery is raw and, at times, a little reckless, and her jokes always strike an unexpected chord.

But as Schumer approaches her routine’s conclusion, she falls back onto the topics of sexual harassment and women’s rights, topics that are often touched upon by female performers and that Schumer adds no new commentary to. It’s this point in the comedy special when Schumer loses momentum—the bit would have been better served if moved to an earlier point in the special or left out all together.

Though Schumer’s routine ends with trite material, her routine proves to be a powerful comedic performance. Provocative and honest and a little raunchy from time to time, Schumer consistently delivers a laugh, never ceasing to shock. While motherhood may be approaching, she’s adamant that women don’t change just because they’re pregnant, and they shouldn’t have to. It’s certainly a good thing that her sense of humor hasn’t.

Featured Image by Netflix

March 24, 2019