Tag Archives: Amy Schumer

Socially Conscious Comedy Part II: Key and Peele on Being Black in America

Seeing how I love to pretend that binge-watching comedy sketches counts as research, I decided to follow up on last week’s post about Amy Schumer with a post about Key and Peele.

I find a lot of Schumer’s work funny because I can relate to it. It’s not quite the same with Key and Peele, since I am neither black, nor male, nor American.

Although sometimes their characters aren’t male either.

Even though I have little in common with Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key, I do find their work hilarious. They do a variety of flawless impressions and have a much wider range than Schumer, who generally sticks to one (albeit very funny) schtick.

Like Schumer, they also take on some very serious social issues in their comedy. Since they are both half-black, Key and Peele often touch on the way racism affects the lives of black or biracial individuals. Below, I’ve included three racial inequalities that Key and Peele do a great job revealing via their sketches.

1) Racial Profiling and Police Violence

As a Canadian, the prevalence of police violence towards black Americans blows my mind.  Don’t get me wrong, Canada certainly has our own problems when it comes to police violence. That said, our more recent incidents of violence are due to taser-overuse, rather than unnecessary use of a firearm. It’s uncomfortable to watch cases of police violence when they are discussed on American news, since the focus tends to be on whether or not the victim of police violence “deserved it.” Black victims, even twelve-year-olds with pellet guns, are framed as threatening, in order to excuse why a cop discharged their firearm.

Key and Peele often subvert this “threatening black man” trope in their sketches. In “Flash Mob” and “White Zombies” Key and Peele play non-threatening black men who are mistaken as dangerous by the white people (or white zombies) around them.

Similarly, “Solution to Racial Profiling” mocks the racial double-standard that fames black youth in hoodies as “thugs” while their white peers are described as “misunderstood”.

One of their more serious sketches, “Negrotown,” addresses police violence directly, by imagining a world where police violence and racial profiling no longer existed.

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Socially Conscious Comedy Part I: 3 Important Feminist Issues That Amy Schumer Humorously Highlights

I realize Amy Schumer isn’t for everyone. She’s pretty crude, and some of her sketches shift suddenly from funny to uncomfortable.

She also hasn’t done the greatest job approaching intersectionalism through her humour. While she humbly apologized for racially inappropriate jokes that she made in the past, she recently missed the mark again with race jokes in her movie, Trainwreck. That said, I think Schumer offers some fantastic socially conscious comedy. She’s created a niche as a funny feminism, and has drawn attention to some really important women’s issues through her jokes. Below, I’ve outlined a few of the difficult issues that Schumer addresses on her show.

1) Rape

Rape is never funny. However, the way Western society often responds to rape is an absolute joke. Schumer has perfected the socially conscious ‘rape joke’, not by downplaying the seriousness of the violent crime, but by mocking the ridiculous social circumstances that allow rape to go unpunished.

In “A Very Realistic Video Game”, Schumer draws attention to the way female military officers rarely see justice after being assaulted by a fellow officer.

Similarly, her sketch titled “Football Town Nights” looks at the way athletes’ celebrity status has led entire towns to defend young rapists as though they were victims rather than perpetrators .

2) Internalized Misogyny

There are a lot of ways women police ourselves. We try not to be too cocky, or too naggy, or too loud and obnoxious, or too vain. We are taught to police these behaviours because they will make us less likeable, less dateable, or an embarrassment for our significant others.

Sketches like, “I’m Sorry” or “Compliments” draw attention to the pressure women feel to act coy, even in situations where their male counterpart would be encouraged to be confident.

Meanwhile, “I Have a Boyfriend” and “Hello Mi’Lady” highlight the way women can be manipulated into accepting unwanted advances, since ignoring or rejecting them is considered “bitchy” or “cruel”.

3) Unrealistic Beauty Standards

Schumer regularly takes on unrealistic beauty standards, especially those that target female celebrities.

Her parodic music video, “You don’t need make-up,” mocks (most) men’s misconception of what ‘natural beauty’ actually looks like.

Meanwhile, “Schumerenka vs. Everett” highlights the way women are expected to sustain a certain type of look, even in the athletic world. This is a problem recently highlighted by a racist/sexist New York Times article that framed Serena Williams as masculine, and even animalistic for her physical strength

With her recent rise to celebrity status, Schumer has also experienced her fair share of body shaming. At her first audition, for example, she was told to “either lose weight or gain a bunch of weight” in order to secure a role as either “the fat friend or the romantic lead.” She has also been targeted by Twitter trolls for being “too fat”. Recently, she dedicated an entire episode to these trolls, by having men on her show debate if she was actually hot enough to be on TV.

Rape, misogyny and beauty standards aren’t just ‘lady problems’, they are societal problems. These issues matter, and I’m glad Amy Schumer is drawing attention to them via her show. I’m also glad Schumer approaches these issues with a sense of humour. Humour has a powerful way of helping us self-examine ourselves, and think more deeply about problems we might have dismissed if they hadn’t made us laugh.