Amy Schumer's rise in comedy coincided with allegations of racial and ethnic insensitivity. Stacey Patton and David J. Leonard wrote in The Washington Post (2015) that Schumer's jokes draw from "shared cultural stereotypes and use dehumanizing language." My analysis of the compilation video of Schumer's racial and ethnic jokes reveals a more complicated, ambivalent picture.
Several of Schumer’s jokes have markers of satire. Incongruities reside in her misuse of ignorant sayings (e.g., “I was hanging out with all my Black friend”), the misuse thus suggesting that Schumer is playing the role of the wise fool. Schumer the fool models ignorant behavior, thus holding a mirror to society that magnifies and exposes discriminatory discourses.
After talking about her Black friend, Schumer imitates said friend, stating, “She was like: GIRL!!!” Schumer pauses briefly and sweeps the imitation away with a wave of her hand, interjecting to the audience, “I won’t do some racist impression.” After marking her performance as racist, Schumer delivers a more drawn out “GIIIIRRRRLLL!” while miming the turning of Double Dutch ropes. The exaggeration is satiric, demonstrating the comic mirror's power of magnifying society's flaws. The scene ends with Schumer shaking her head dismissively, smoothing her dress and touching her blond curls, drawing attention to the ignorant fool’s white privilege.
In contrast to the satiric monologue, Schumer’s joke about Latina irrationality stays at the level of surface meanings, not using the magnifying mirror to encourage the audience to see a new perspective. While hosting the 2015 MTV Movie Awards, Schumer introduces Gone Girl as “the story of what one crazed white woman—or all Latinas—do if you cheat on them.” When the audience does not issue many audible laughs, Schumer uses an ironic device commonly employed by Stephen Colbert in his Report: she doubles down, stating, "That's a fact." But we see no other markers of Schumer's fool persona in this monologue, so this ironic device receives little textual support. The camera closes the vignette by shifting its focus to Jennifer Lopez in the audience who points at herself and looks confused.
In this scene, the comic mirror is not turned on an ignorant society, and Schumer is not a wise fool exaggerating a stereotype to comic effect. Instead, she is a fool who makes a tired, degrading joke that has little resonance with the audience. The mirror in this case reflects Schumer back to us as the object of ridicule.