“Women in Comedy” memoirs tend to read like a collection of Thought Catalog posts. They’re sundry junk drawers of personal stories, oblique clapbacks at criticism of them, and goofy listicles. Here are the most common tropes:
-Funny lists. “These Are a Few of My Favorite Things.” “Things I Eat When I’m Drunk.”
-Reflective Lessons for Young Women from the Perspective of Someone Who is Self-Actualized Now
-Humblebrags About Doing the Right Thing With Fame and Money
-Stories About Sexual Assault That Will Ricochet Through the Blogosphere
-What It’s Really Like to Hang Out with __xxFamousPeoplexx__
-Vulnerable Family Stories
I may be in the minority here, but I enjoy the vulnerable, personal memoir stories and could pass on the tales of what it’s like to be famous and hang out with people from SNL. But now I’m critiquing the whole genre! Amy Schumer’s The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, whose title is a play on The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, falls right into this format. It makes with some of the meaty stuff I like. Stories about her father’s alcoholism and her mom’s affair with her best friend’s dad were told with unforgiving bluntness and evocative detail that show she really can write.
At times, she talks about her mom in a way that made me uncomfortable. She reads her old diaries and critiques all the things her mom said to her in a way that made me wonder if they are still talking at all. But that’s not really a critique of her writing, it just seemed like one of those Awkward Things About Memoir. I wish she had described how she negotiated her portrayals of people in her life, the way Mary Karr does.
I would urge people to continue on in this memoir until they get to those raw nuggets of painful family backstory. This means getting past the beginning, which is actually the weakest part of her memoir. The beginning focuses on:
-How she’s actually got great sexual boundaries and only has had one one-night stand ever. (This seems like she just wants to correct her reputation, but as a reader it’s like, ok, good for you?)
-How she’s new money, not old money, which she seems to view as a type of battle she’s had to fight in her life. Feeling oppressed for not being old money seems like something that could possibly make sense in Europe, but in the U.S. this will earn you zero sympathy.
-How she’s actually a total introvert, which is a topic so many bloggers wax poetic about that it’s almost become a joke in and of itself.
-How she gives away most of her money, and leaves $1,000 tips, because that’s what famous people should do.
It’s clear she was excited to start her book by making sure you think she is a great person. Not a perfect person, but someone who has been through some things and learned to love themselves and become a role model to others. This is not out of the ordinary for this genre, but like I said earlier, not my favorite type of content.
Schumer herself has become a bit of a divisive character in the blogosphere, especially after her recent interview with Lena Dunham. If you don’t like the two of them, this book isn’t going to change your mind. If you do, I would spend my money on Lena’s memoir instead.