Around this time last year, you may have noticed something strange about Amy Schumer — and I'm not just talking about her meteoric rise from the small screen to the A-list.
Instead, let's sit down for a sec and talk about the definitive shift in Schumer's brand; a shift that began to take place as "Inside Amy Schumer" entered its junior year. Her comedy has always been refreshingly sex (and woman) positive, but it's pretty safe to say that sketches from Season 1 of the Comedy Central hit look a whole lot different than the NRA-backed-senator-exposing, period myth-skewering humor we see week after week in Season 4.
Below — in honor of Schumer's birthday on Wednesday (June 1) — let's examine the steps the Emmy-winning Schumer took to get this far, in hopes that we may one day emulate her brave and ballsy brand:
Mid-aughts-2011: Schumer grinds in the NYC comedy scene — and makes it to "Last Comic Standing."
Schumer, who had a bumpy Long Island upbringing rife with divorce, family bankruptcy and her father's devastating battle with multiple sclerosis, began doing stand-up in her early 20s at New York City's Gotham Comedy Club. She eventually began doing it full-time, developing a persona that Terry Gross once referred to as "an attractive, middle-class, educated single woman who’s a little slutty.”
In 2007, she made it on "Last Comic Standing" and finished in fourth place — using plenty of vagina jokes, of course. This, combined with her growing status as a popular act in NYC, caught the eye of Comedy Central, who asked her to be on its "Live at Gotham" series.
September 19, 2011: Amy roasts Charlie Sheen (and earns a sizable fandom).
After years of blink-and-you'll miss 'em guest spots on shows like "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "30 Rock," Schumer finally reached the masses thanks to her controversial set at Charlie Sheen's 2011 roast. (She applied for a gig on that show as a writer, but got a life-changing job as a roaster, instead.)
Despite her Ryan Dunn jokes causing a major stir, Schumer was asked back the following year to give the same shitty treatment to Roseanne Barr — and of course, finally given her own Comedy Central stand-up special. It must have done well, because soon after ...
April 30, 2013: "Inside Amy Schumer" premieres.
"Inside Amy Schumer" hit Comedy Central with a bang (literally, it was a whole bunch of sex sketches) in April of 2013.
Like many others out there, your humble author passively enjoyed the series for its brazenly honest, woman-friendly material on one-night stands, the female gender's seeming inability to take compliments, and gang bangs — but, much like many of Season 1 reviewers, felt that the show lacked something big to differentiate Schumer from many others out there.
However, ratings were solid enough, and "Inside Amy" was soon picked up for a far-superior sophomore season ... though the best, of course, was yet to come.
May 5, 2015: "Inside Amy" airs "12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer;" becomes critically acclaimed pop culture phenomenon.
Early into "Inside Amy"'s third season, Schumer proved that she was truly willing to go there — and that Comedy Central was willing to take a chance and fund it — when she devoted an entire episode to one sketch, which found a group of men (played by Paul Giamatti, Jeff Goldblum, Vincent Kartheiser, and John Hawkes, to name a few) debating whether or not she was hot enough to appear on television, in a parody of the 1957 film "12 Angry Men."
"There is this strange anger towards women who are comfortable with themselves, who some people feel like they shouldn't be," Schumer told HitFix's Alan Sepinwall about her motivation for the sketch. "The message that's sent to us through the media and Hollywood and magazines is, 'If you're not one of the most beautiful women in the world, you should hide yourself.'"
The episode was a critical hit, earning Giamatti an Emmy nomination for his turn as Juror #10, and Schumer the reputation as THE woman to watch for summer 2015. (Though, to be fair, the Season 3 premiere "Last Fuckable Day" and "Football Town Nights" sketches put her well on that path.)
About the sudden, very positive attention being paid to the show after these sketches aired — and of course, after two years of basically flying under the radar — Schumer told GQ, "We always just have a little message or a comment in everything, but we did embrace that more this year. People being so receptive to it was a total, total surprise ... I truly feel I'm getting a lot of attention right now and it's just a ticking time bomb."
(ASIDE: As a longtime viewer, I both agree and disagree with Schumer's statements. She's always had a message, but there's no denying she found a sharper, funnier, and more relatable way to convey said message in Season 3. She also kept a good deal of her token potty humor without completely relying on it to shock her audience, like she did in Seasons 1 and 2.)
July/August 2015: Amy takes action after two women are gunned down at an opening weekend screening of "Trainwreck."
On July 23, a known misogynist entered the Grand 16 movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana and shot two women to death — women who were enjoying a screening of Schumer's Golden Globe-nominated, the so-called feminist-friendly comedy of the summer.
Schumer, of course, was devastated. Days later, after she took time to mourn and think about next steps, she partnered with her second cousin, New York senator Chuck Schumer, to campaign for stricter background checks for gun ownership in America, as well as mental health funding.
Schumer's gun sense advocacy has continued since the shooting, and has inarguably influenced the fourth season of her television show.
2015: Schumer is named one of Barbara Walters' 10 Most Fascinating People.
... And TIME's 100 Most Influential people, of course.
After a banner year that included her first self-starring box office hit, the critical explosion of her show, tragedy, newfound political motivation, major awards nominations (with some wins) and a burgeoning best friendship with Hollywood's biggest actress, Schumer was a natural choice for Walters' annual TV special.
And while some may say "so what, so was Kim Kardashian," those "some" can suck it — because going from "that lady who got finger-banged by a cabbie" to "Hollywood A-lister known for brutal takedowns of rape culture and Bill Cosby" in a single calendar year is no easy feat. Schumer made these lists based on her own writing and delivery alone, and deserves every ounce of credit she's getting for it.
April 28, 2016: Schumer outs 57 Congressmen who have received gun lobby money.
After the tragedy in Louisiana this past summer, it's undeniable that "Wear Orange"-happy fans were champing at the bit for a razor-sharp Schumer gun control sketch — and boy, did she deliver. "Welcome to the Gun Show!" not only skewered the insane ease in which Americans can purchase firearms, it literally outed 57 congressmen who accepted money from gun lobbies in its lower third at the end of the sketch. DAMN.
"Inside Amy Schumer" Season 4 hasn't garnered the same glowing reviews as Season 3, but this has nothing to do with Schumer's brilliant politically-minded sketches, which include this take-down of the government's absurd relationship with women's bodies. (Instead, critics are tepid on how much the show is focusing on Schumer's rising celebrity, instead of what it's like to be an everyday woman in America. So, in other words, she's become less relatable.)
There's no doubt that, when it comes to humor that is hilarious while also being smart, engaged, and often politically motivated, Schumer is currently the de facto queen — and based on what she told GQ, it's only going to get better with time.
"I know inevitably I'll get more political, just as an adult with changing interests, which is good," she said. "No one wants to hear me talk about who I fucked or whatever for another twenty years."