Pop Goes The News – “Awards are stupid,” Amy Schumer said Friday, “until they’re given to you.”
At the JFL Awards, inside a ballroom at the Double Tree Hilton in Montreal, Schumer was honoured as Comedy Person of the Year – which she joked was an award “that sounds fake.”
She was introduced by Chelsea Handler.
“I love Amy Schumer. How can I not because we’re practically the same person,” she said. “We’re both funny, forty-something, half-Jewish, large-breasted blonds from what Americans refer to as the Tri-state area.
“We’re both bestselling authors and we’ve both been told we’re too loud, too opinionated and we’re bitches. And that’s just what we say to each other.”
Handler, who hosted a gala at JFL on Thursday night, said her friend is “funny, she’s fearless and she’s an unstoppable force of comedic nature who shines light on all sorts of other comedians, discovers them and then gives them work.
“And no one has given comedy lovers more to laugh and more to marvel at with such a bold and singular voice.”
Schumer used her acceptance speech to reflect on her Just For Laughs debut in the New Faces showcase 15 years ago (“I worked non-stop and hustled since my first time performing in this great city”) and to share what she has learned about the comedy business.
“It’s so volatile and you have to hustle so hard to stay relevant,” she told the crowd, which included many stand-up pros, including Alonzo Bodden, Rosebud Baker and George Wallace.
“It’s extremely complicated to succeed in this business as a female. Whenever someone tells me an actress, a comic or any woman is crazy or difficult, I always wait to see for myself. Because chances are they’re just fine.
“You have to advocate for yourself – something that’s celebrated in men and condemned in women.”
Schumer recognized comics who are “night after night doing what they have to do to get better.”
She added: “It’s a difficult path to choose to be a comic and I think it’s incredibly noble. Stand-up is like any instrument and you don’t get good at it for a really long time… and maybe never.
“It’s hard for women, it’s hard for members of the LGBTQ community, the disabled community and people of colour. We all face very different challenges and I just want to recognize that.”
Also honoured at the JFL Awards was Hasan Minhaj, who was named Stand-Up Comedian of the Year.
“This means a lot,” he said, “and thank you God for giving me another year where I don’t have to host a podcast.”
Jerrod Carmichael, whose Rothaniel earned him Comedy Special of the Year, confessed to being anxious and said “it feels really weird” accepting an award for his work.
“I mean, it feels good. I feel like I deserve it, sure.”
Carmichael spoke about his growth as a comedian. “My first special was a lot of external things, like throwing flames at every target. Looking outside of myself, trying to be dangerous,” he recalled, adding that director Spike Lee wanted to take his name off his 2014 special Love at the Store. “I called his bluff,” he said.
Carmichael said stand-up is an art form – and it’s one he takes seriously. “I think it’s at its best when it’s something that has urgency,” he explained. With Rothaniel, in which he came out publicly as gay, he said he “felt danger in exploring things that have been of consequence to me in my own life.
“I know a lot of stand-up operates under the illusion of danger and I think it’s best when it’s true.”
Picking up the JFL Award for Breakout Comedy Star of the Year was Taylor Tomlinson, who promised to give an acceptance speech that was “genuine and grateful” but also brief. “We’re running late and I’d rather be heroic than hilarious,” she said.
Tomlinson said performing at JFL’s New Faces “really did change my life.”
Before the ceremony, she told Pop Goes The News: “Getting recognized by this festival in different ways over the years is really validating and really incredible and it’s never lost on me how cool it is. Because getting New Faces here is all I wanted for so long and then once I got that, [I got] Variety’s Top 10 and now this.
“It’s just nice to have a festival grow with you and believe in you and help you along the way.”
British comedian James Acaster received the Rising Star award despite his nearly 15 years in the comedy industry and a long list of credits. “Yeah well, let me tell you, this star is going to continue to rise forever,” he told Pop Goes The News before the presentation. “All the other people who are getting awards, their star is stationary. I’m going up, baby.”
At the podium, he delivered one of the afternoon’s most unique acceptance speeches.
“What would the night sky be without its stars? For centuries mankind has looked up at God’s dark canvas and asked themselves what is a star? How do they be and what makes it so? We don’t know,” Acaster told the audience. “Some believe they are made of pure light, others say they are reflections of our very souls. They’re both wrong. They are made of objective talent and comedic skills.
“I know this because I am a star. I win awards because I am the best star and it feels great. A star’s life continues to shine long after they are dead. Thank you for listening to me.”
Pictured (from left): Taylor Tomlinson, Amy Schumer and Chelsea Handler. John R. Kennedy photo