Stand-up comedian Amy Schumer isn't always "on," but if you give one of year's biggest breakout stars the opportunity to crack wise, she will pounce at the opportunity.
In light of her one-hour comedy special, "Mostly Sex Stuff," as well as high-profile guest spots on Comedy Central roasts, Howard Stern's radio show and the Emmy-winning FX series "Louie," I asked her about how she has blown up this year.
"Physically, I've been eating around the clock," joked Schumer, who headlines five stand-up shows this week at Levity Live in West Nyack. "I want my silhouette to match my career."
She also answered the question seriously, claiming not much has changed in the past few months, despite a higher profile.
"I have a nicer apartment," she said. "It's the same [otherwise]. I'm still on the road. I'm still writing jokes and doing jokes in Manhattan, but now I have a day job, too -- working on my TV show [Comedy Central's 'Inside Amy'] -- on weekdays."
But don't let her response fool you: It has been a career year for Schumer, who has been getting laughs since she was a 5-year-old trying to play it straight in a stage production of "The Sound of Music" on Long Island.
"Every time I would say a line, everybody would laugh, and the lines weren't funny, so I just felt, like, kind of humiliated," she recalled. "Then the director [asked] me, 'Why do you get upset?' And I said, 'Because they're laughing at me.' And she was like, 'No, they're laughing because you're funny, and you're cute, and everybody loves you.' And I was like, 'Oh!' So, it was really broken down for me, at age 5, that laughter was good."
Among those who have laughed with her are her parents, who, Schumer said, have always supported her pursuit of comedy.
"There was no plan B. I was like, 'I'm going to major in theater,' " said Schumer, a Towson University graduate. "And they were like, 'Great!' They weren't like, 'What?! Law school!' "
Her parents didn't push her to go into politics, either, though her father's cousin, Chuck Schumer, would go on to become a U.S. senator.
"I think there would be no chance that I could be a politician, just because I have been on [Stern's radio show] twice now," she said. "There's an audio record of a lot of people I've slept with."
Known for her unflinching takes on sexuality and other risque topics, Schumer said she's often reluctant to discuss the darker situations she has faced, let alone joke about them.
"But those things sort of make me talk about it," she said. "The most intimate things about myself, I joke about on stage. So, yeah, that story about that cabdriver's [sexual act], I had a lot of shame around that, and now, like, everyone who's ever listened to 'Opie and Anthony' knows that; it's like a famous tale now. And, certainly, my dad having [multiple sclerosis], or being date-raped -- that's stuff I want to play with, because I find something I think is funny about it. And maybe it helps somebody else feel less alone ... Maybe it's about me trying to take control over a bad memory of a sad thing. I'm sure that's a part of it."
Comedic risk-taking was one of the skills she honed following her experience on the fifth season of "Last Comic Standing," NBC's stand-up comedy competition.
"The best thing that came from 'Last Comic Standing' was the tour, because I really struggled on that tour," said Schumer, who finished fourth that season. "It was like comedy boot camp. It was a 42-city tour. It was like two or three shows a night, and I was struggling and not doing well at all. But by the end, I figured out how to do well. I was a much better comedian coming off that tour."
One year later, she was the runner-up on another reality-TV competition, Comedy Central's "Reality Bites Back," which challenged contestants to missions inspired by reality show cliches. In addition to the exposure she received on that show, she befriended its producer, Daniel Powell, who's now an executive producer of "Inside Amy."
Schumer said she's proud of the work that has been done for her new Comedy Central series, whose format will include sketch comedy, stand-up and man-on-the-street scenarios. She praised the "Inside Amy" writing staff, which includes comics Kyle Dunnigan, Jessi Klein, Gabe Liedman, Kurt Metzger and Tig Notaro.
"I picked [some] of my favorite comedians, and I can't believe they all said yes," Schumer said. "I just think they're the funniest people ever."
If the show's a hit, Schumer could become even more famous. But that's not to say that people don't recognize her now.
"When I got a bikini wax, my waxer was like, 'Did I see you ...?' -- she didn't know I was a comedian -- she goes, 'That was you!' " Schumer said. "And I was like, 'What are you recognizing right now?' I was like, 'What's out there that I don't know about?'"
IF YOU GO
What: Amy Schumer at Levity Live
When: 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27
Info: Levity Live, 4210 Palisades Center Dr., West Nyack; 845-353-5400; www.levitylive.com; $20, with a two-item minimum per person; audience members must be 18 or older