The Kim and Amy Schumer show — just rub it in
Amy Schumer’s sister, Kim, looked down at her belly and frowned. She was sitting next to Amy in the car on the way to a fancy event this past spring, unhappy with how she looked. So Amy reached over, placed her hand on Kim’s stomach and rubbed, as if she were one of those Buddha statues. Silently, Kim reciprocated, placing her warm palm on Amy’s tummy.
Now it’s a thing they do.
“It really helps a lot,” Kim said.
“It’s such a waste of time to be stressed about not liking yourself,” Amy said.
Sitting in a dressing room on the Universal Pictures lot, they reenacted the ritual. They do it a lot these days because they’re seldom apart. Not only do they live six blocks from each other on New York’s Upper West Side, but they also work together. At Amy’s request in 2013, Kim left her job as a school psychologist in Chicago and moved to New York to join the writing staff of Amy’s Comedy Central show, “Inside Amy Schumer.” She travels with Amy during stand-up tours — she’s frequently referred to as "#roadmanager” in Amy’s Instagram photos — and served as an associate producer on “Trainwreck,” Amy’s first feature film, out July 17.
But perhaps most important, Kim, 30, has been by Amy’s side as she’s gotten really famous this year. Together, they’ve been able to celebrate her big wins — the “Inside Amy” skits “12 Angry Men” and “Girl, You Don’t Need Makeup” going viral, hosting the MTV Movie Awards — and deal with the inevitable backlash that comes with lots of attention. This month, that’s been controversy over whether Amy, 34, has a blind spot when it comes to race in her comedy. On Twitter, Amy said she was toying with a “dumb white girl” persona but apologized for one joke about Latinos and said she was “evolving as an artist.”
The furor a few months ago, meanwhile, was directed toward some blogger who said there was “no way she’d be an object of heated romantic interest in the real world” like she is in “Trainwreck.” Indeed, Amy is plenty sought-after in the Judd Apatow-directed film, on its surface a romantic comedy in which Amy stars as a sex-loving magazine writer who reluctantly begins to fall for one of her interview subjects. Her sexcapades are awkwardly hilarious — especially one encounter with a gym rat (former WWE star John Cena) who proves inept at dirty talk — as are her clueless attempts at understanding the sports world.
But the film also has a heartfelt underbelly that finds its basis in reality: Amy’s father, onscreen and also in real life, has multiple sclerosis. And she and her sister — actress Brie Larson in the movie — are struggling with his illness while leading two very different lives. Kim (that’s the sister’s name in the film too) is pregnant in the suburbs with her husband and stepson, while Amy is having trouble letting go of the single life, even when she meets a seemingly perfect sports doctor played by Bill Hader.
Off-screen, Kim — whose married name is Kim Caramele — doesn’t have any kids, unless you count her three-legged pitbull mix. But she did wed young, at 23, to a guy she met during her freshman year at Pace University. They got married in a courthouse in Yonkers, N.Y., with Amy serving as the only witness. Kim wore blue.
The sisters have complicated feelings toward marriage. Their parents — Mom was a speech and hearing therapist for the deaf, Dad sold fancy Italian baby furniture in Manhattan before going bankrupt — have each been married three times and divorced when Amy was 12 and Kim was 8. Even when they were married, Amy says, her parents weren’t affectionate, and when they split “our dad had a lot of different female company.” In “Trainwreck,” Dad — played by stand-up comedian Colin Quinn — gives his daughters a memorable childhood lecture: “Monogamy isn’t realistic.”
“Marriage isn’t that sacred to us,” Amy acknowledged. “I wouldn’t play wedding when I was little. Kim would pretend to be a Disney princess waiting for her prince to come. I would daydream about being ‘The Little Mermaid,’ but even then, it was like, Eric is out of my league. Maybe Sebastian.”
She and Kim had just finished a joint photoshoot and had full faces of makeup on, though Amy had swapped her form-fitting Christian Siriano dress and Stuart Weitzman heels for sweatpants and flip flops. Yes, the woman who jokingly refers to herself as a Cabbage Patch doll and a garden gnome now has a fancy stylist who also dresses Kristen Stewart.
Though she’s had a number of serious boyfriends, including fellow Comedy Central staple Anthony Jeselnik, Amy is single. She’s open to getting married — though she revealed she’s turned down two proposals — but is certain she doesn’t want a wedding. After she appeared on “The Bachelorette” this season, ABC executives publicly asked her to consider being the star of the show next season, but she says she’d never do it.
“There’s a part of me that wants to, but I wouldn’t,” she said.
“You wouldn’t be able to really do it because you wouldn’t think you would find your husband,” Kim added.
The right guy
Kim is rooting for Amy to find the right guy. She thinks she’d be “the perfect best friend for somebody because she likes hanging out and watching movies and eating good food and having sex.” So she can be really hard on the guys Amy brings around. There have been some boyfriends Kim has refused to speak to or even look at.
“Like, she’ll date somebody and think he sucks, and deep down I know she thinks this guy sucks but she wants to live it out for a while,” Kim said. “Most friends would still be like, ‘He’s cool. Tell me about your date!’ I am not willing to do that.”
“I love that about her, but I take everything she says with a grain of salt,” Amy said. “She met her soul mate right out the gate, and I’m just like, treading water, finding out everybody’s gay.”
This is one of several ways in which the sisters are different. Kim is brunet; Amy is blond. Kim liked “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” and Pogs; Amy was too old for that stuff. If they’re sharing a hotel room, Kim closes the door when she pees; Amy walks around naked. Kim has had sex with only one man; Amy has not.
“One time, I showed up at Amy’s apartment and Kim was literally sitting in the hallway outside the door,” recalled Daniel Powell, the co-creator of “Inside Amy.” “She just says, ‘Amy’s doing a radio show and talking really graphically about her sex life. I just can’t be in the room for that and hear my sister talk about that stuff.’”
The sisters also have distinct feelings about their father, Gordon, who lives in a hospital in Long Island.
“I barely go to visit him, and Amy goes a lot,” Kim said. “Amy’s good at taking the painful things for what they are and focusing on the good, and I can’t shake the painful stuff.”
Their father was diagnosed with M.S. shortly after he and the girls’ mother got divorced. They were already dealing with the financial fallout of their father’s bankruptcy, which had forced the family to move from a ritzy Upper East Side apartment to a smaller home in Rockville Centre, Long Island. But nothing was really explained to them. They had to move, they stopped getting lobster once a week, they watched the bank come to repossess their father’s car. Same went for Gordon’s illness.
“For years, we didn’t really understand what it was,” Amy said. “We knew it was kind of sad. But then when we got older, it was devastating.”
The sisters invited Quinn to meet their father before he started playing him in “Trainwreck” so the comedian could better understand his situation. And things got real, quick: Shortly after Quinn’s arrival, Amy needed him to help carry her father to the bathroom.
“It was hard because he’s such a lively guy, and he’s pretty young to be in a place where everybody is like 30 years older than him,” Quinn said. “He started talking about his life when he was young and how he was a wild man. He’ll go into details and the girls will be like, ‘OK, Dad. Thank you.’”
“I think because of his illness,” Amy surmised, “he wants somebody to know all of his stories. So he’ll tell me about, like, ‘The only time he was ever tied up.’ Or how he paid for abortions. Stuff I’m really not psyched to be hearing about.”
Recently, he’s started to become more forgetful. He keeps throwing away his cellphone, so Amy has to keep buying him new ones. “But he’s never depressed, is the thing,” Amy said. “Some days he’s really with it, and we have a good visit and I leave feeling good. And other times it’s so painful you can’t even believe it.”
The good days
She’s hoping that Tuesday will be one of the good days. That’s when he’ll don the suit Amy had him fitted in and head to the city for the “Trainwreck” premiere. (Her mom will be there too.) And after the red carpet is rolled out, Amy and Kim will go back to work again — this time, co-writing a mother-daughter comedy for director Paul Feig.
Though the Hollywood life has its perks, Kim says she sometimes misses being a shrink. She misses being “really, really good at her job” and not having to prove she landed a gig just because “she’s Schumer’s sister.” But Amy is good about making her feel appreciated. “She’s a good communicator,” Kim explained. “I’m never, like, ‘She doesn’t know what I’ve done for her!’”
Apatow, who often works with his wife and two daughters, recognized Kim’s input on “Trainwreck” too. He had the sisters move into the Ritz Carlton in Marina del Rey for six months to work on the screenplay — Amy wrote the drafts, Kim helped punch them up — and often used Kim’s joke suggestions on-set.
(The supportive, funny dynamic of the sisters reminds a number of people of a previous generation of influential Hollywood sisters — three in this case — the Ephrons.)
“What Amy has accomplished in the last year? A lot of that is the result of Kim’s contribution,” said the director. “Amy is doing a lot. She has a sketch show and a comedy career, and you need somebody smart who knows you well and cares about you to be able to pull that off. They’re really enjoying this moment, and I think it’s because they have each other to share it with. It’s sad if you don’t have someone you love to turn to and go, ‘Isn’t this crazy?’”
The belly rubs don’t hurt either.
“She doesn’t know how hot she is!” Amy said, urging Kim to show off her body. “Sometimes I’ll take a picture of her and cover her head and be like, ‘If you saw this girl, wouldn’t you think she was hot?’”
“Amy will ask me if she looks OK, and sometimes I’ll say ‘yes.’ And sometimes I’ll say ‘no,’ because she doesn’t just look ‘OK.’ She looks gorgeous, and I need her to hear that,” said Kim. “I do think she’s become more confident. More willing to accept that she absolutely deserves love.”
“When I look in the mirror naked, I feel good. I have a ring of fat here,” Amy said, pointing to her stomach. “I have cellulite. But I feel like such a woman. I know that I look bigger than other chicks on camera. But at the end of the day, when I’m getting in the shower, I feel strong and healthy and beautiful.”
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