Wednesday night, Amy Schumer sent a very cryptic tweet. In response to a call on social media for the comic and Inside Amy Schumer star to sever her professional relationship with comedian and Inside writer Kurt Metzger, Schumer tweeted, “I didn’t fire Kurt. He isn’t a writer for my show because we aren’t making the show anymore.”
Almost immediately people began speculating that the show had been cancelled, despite the fact that it had already been renewed for a fifth season on Comedy Central. Schumer came back to explain that the show wasn’t cancelled, she was just focusing on her upcoming standup tour and book (The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, out this week) and as such there wouldn’t be a Season 5 “in the foreseeable future” so she wasn’t working with any writers. Oh, OK. But that doesn’t really address the issue–and it’s one Schumer is in a unique position to address.
I didn’t fire Kurt. He isn’t a writer for my show because we aren’t making the show anymore. There are no writers for it.
— Amy Schumer (@amyschumer) August 18, 2016
First, some background. For more than three years, some have been criticizing Metzger’s attitudes towards women and questioning why he was writing for Schumer, a staunch feminist. At the time, writers Lindy West and Sady Doyle accused Metzger of harassing them–and when tagged in their tweets looking for remedy, he responded thusly.
@sadydoyle @amyschumer @ComedyCentral They gave me a raise. Does that count?
— Kurt Metzger (@kurtmetzger) June 28, 2013
Fast-forward to this week, and Metzger is the spotlight again. After another comic was banned from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater amid allegations of rape and sexual assault, Metzger took to Facebook to decry the proceedings. (His point in the now-deleted post was that the comic was punished professionally, but that his accusers hadn’t sought legal recourse.)
Following the comic’s initial comments, Schumer received a barrage of tweets asking why she continued to support and work with Metzger (whose Facebook profile currently lists his job as “Former King of Feminism at Stand-Up Comedy”). Eventually Schumer, after blocking users who were asking her about Metzger, weighed in.
I am so saddened and disappointed in Kurt Metzger. He is my friend and a great writer and I couldn’t be more against his recent actions.
— Amy Schumer (@amyschumer) August 17, 2016
Kurt does not work for me. He is not a writer on my show. Please stop asking me about it. His words are not mine.
— Amy Schumer (@amyschumer) August 17, 2016
On one hand, it’s a fair point. Asking her to answer for someone else’s behavior shouldn’t really be the issue. She can’t be responsible for everything every one she’s ever worked with has said, and clogging her @-replies isn’t exactly meaningful discourse. But that doesn’t mean she can’t take the opportunity to address it. The way comedy deals with sexual assault–specifically finding humor in rape–has been a problem for quite some time. (Daniel Tosh came under fire for directing a rape joke at an audience member back in 2012.) In fact, it’s one Schumer addressed in her sketch “A Very Realistic Military Game,” where she plays a Call of Duty-like first-person shooter and attempts to report a sexual assault only to have her attacker’s conviction overturned.
Schumer, while not always perfect at handling criticism, has generally been direct and candid when discussing gender politics, so it’s a shame she won’t be more unequivocal about Metger’s trollish behavior. It’s good that she’s expressed her feelings about Metzger’s recent actions, but being “saddened” isn’t the same as doing something. What Schumer’s effectively saying is Metzger isn’t writing for her because she’s not currently writing a show, not that she no longer wants to work with someone who behaves the way Metzger is behaving. Those are two different things.
Besides, Schumer has waded into the fray before. Her “Cool With It” sketch was a launchpad to talk about pay inequality. Earlier this year when a fan sent a sexist tweet her way, she called him out for slut-shaming. After a shooting during a screening of her movie Trainwreck, she became a vocal gun-control advocate, calling for stricter background checks. And when Congress failed to pass gun-control legislation this summer following the mass shooting at an Orlando gay club, she again used comedy as a salve, releasing a bleak previously shelved sketch highlighting the lack of recourse for victims.
Yet in this, she hasn’t taken a stronger stand. Why? Yes, Metzger is her friend, and yes, she’s currently on a book/comedy tour, but she has a chance to say something more stark, and she’s not. In a piece in yesterday’s New York Times, Doyle–the writer who took Metzger to task years ago–calls it “a real contradiction” that Schumer is willing to write about her own sexual assault in her book but still work with Metzger.
On an episode of Charlie Rose airing today, the host asked Schumer about working with the comic. Her response, as seen in a clip released online yesterday, is that “one of the reasons he’s such a great writer and such a great contributor to our television show is because his views are so different from that of mine and most of the other writers in the room.” She then goes on to express frustration that what Metzger does “comes back to me,” and suggests that the discussion shouldn’t be about her or Metzger, but about sexual assault.
Then, though, she closes the segment by talking about victim-blaming and how it “makes women not want to come forward.” She’s absolutely right about this, but she doesn’t acknowledge the fact that when Metzger says women alleging sexual assault should go to the police instead of people in their community, that’s kind of what he’s doing.
In that same Times piece, Metzger says he never intended for his comments to suggest victims shouldn’t be believed. “That, I 100 percent apologize for,” he said. “My point that I’m trying to make is, trying rape on social media is bad and it has to stop.” He also expressed frustration that Schumer was dealing with so much of the fallout. “You got a problem,” he said, “deal with me.” But part of dealing with Metzger is dealing with Schumer. She might not have writers right now, but her show will come back one day. And when it does, it has an opportunity to address these issues the way it’s tackled so many complex issues before, whether Metzger’s “views” are in the writer’s room or not. If she wants to keep the focus on sexual assault, rather than the online pot-stirring of one of her writers, she can. No, she doesn’t have to–but if she did, we’d be cool with it.