Amy Schumer Talks About Her New Show ‘Life & Beth’
Warning: This story contains spoilers for Life & Beth.
Amy Schumer donned a pair of jeans to her chiropractor appointment almost two years back. The seemingly insignificant wardrobe choice—it was summer; she was hot—had a profound effect on her life. Her practitioner noticed her scarred upper thigh at 16 years old. It was the result of an unfortunate surfing accident that required her to have 41 stitches placed in three layers. “He said, ‘Oh my god, this is completely why your body is pulling this way—it’s protecting itself,’” Schumer recalled during a Zoom interview in early March. “He told me, ‘This scar has caused you so much pain for so long.’”
Her wound had technically healed, but she hadn’t fully dealt with the psychological effects of the incident. “The metaphor that you need to deal with the emotional trauma from the past so you can get out of physical pain was not lost on me,” says the 40-year-old comedian, who has long suffered from “excruciating” back and hip pain, as well as endometriosis, a painful disorder in which the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus grows outside the organ. After that visit, Schumer realized that “these things aren’t going to go away if we ignore them—the past is just going to keep hurting you,” she says. “When you get to this age, you better evolve if you want to move forward.”
Schumer’s new Hulu series Life & Beth, Her attempt to let go of her teenage trauma, which is still causing so much pain for her today by streaming March 18 is streaming. Schumer is Beth. She plays the role of a successful young woman, who after suffering from a tragedy in her family, takes a humorous, but also heartbreaking, look back on her teenage years. She returns to Long Island to find herself. There, she encounters a shy farmer played by Michael Cera, who challenges her to become more open with herself.
Life & Beth is a passion project heavily inspired by Schumer’s own childhood growing up too fast with her mom in the suburbs of Long Island, following her parents’ divorce. When it comes to what’s fact and what’s fiction on the show, “I would say it’s 50-50,” she says. Her scar (written as the result of a boating accident) plays a major role in the eight-episode series, as does her adolescent battle with trichotillomania, a mental disorder that involves recurrent urges to pull out one’s own hair. “That’s something that I’ve never discussed before,” she admits. “But it was such a big part of the trauma of that time in my life.”
Shortly after Schumer’s parents separated, her dad lost his once-lucrative furniture business and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a chronic disease that affects the central nervous system. She turned to hair-pulling as a way to cope with stress. She had to use a wig at school because of a rapidly growing bald patch. “It’s been the thing that I’ve been most ashamed of,” she says. “It feels really freeing to finally let go of some of that.”
Schumer was never afraid to use the horrors in her own life as entertainment. Schumer believes that creating art about past traumas is part of healing. “When you deal with chronic, often invisible pain, it’s such an isolating sort of private journey,” she says. “You really have to advocate for yourself—and that’s what I’m doing here.” Yet she understood why those closest to her were nervous to see their own lives recreated for the small screen. “I’m really happy to talk about anything that is about me personally,” she says. “But any parts of the show that are based on anyone, I did run by them.” Schumer’s husband, chef Chris Fischer, acted as an unofficial fact-checker, reading several drafts of the pilot to make sure she didn’t misrepresent their relationship, which was the inspiration for Beth’s unconventional love story. Cera met Fischer, an autistic man, and spent time talking to him.
Life & Beth became Schumer’s way of working through her complicated feelings surrounding her mom’s affair with her middle-school best friend’s dad. “It was really brutal,” she says of the romance, which she wrote about in her 2017 memoir, The Lower Back Tattoo for the Girl. The experience, which ended Schumer’s friendship, made her realize that her parents were only human. “They weren’t invincible,” she says. “You can’t help but let that brutal realization change your whole perspective of them.”
After watching the entire show together, Schumer says her mom was “surprisingly cool” about her interpretation of that difficult time in their lives. “My mom owns her mistakes,” she says. “So any sort of feelings I was holding on to from that time towards my mom, I really don’t have anymore. I feel very lucky that I’m a forgiving person.”
Although it might sound like an absurd joke, Schumer meant that. After becoming a mom in 2019, she realized that she had to “let the old sh-t go” and forgive her parents for whatever they had done in the past. Also, she had to forgive herself. Reminiscing on these difficult years helped her to be more compassionate towards her 13 year-old self. “I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished,” she says. “But that’s who’s still in there, you know? I need to remember that too.”
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