The Atlantic

How Comedians Became Public Intellectuals

People look to Amy Schumer and her fellow jokers not just to make fun of the world, but to make sense of it. And maybe even to help fix it.
Source: Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

This week, in a much-anticipated sketch on her Comedy Central show, Amy Schumer staged a trial of Bill Cosby in “the court of public opinion.” Schumer—her character, at any rate—played the role of the defense. “Let’s remind ourselves what’s at stake here,” she argued to the jury. “If convicted, the next time you put on a rerun of The Cosby Show you may wince a little. Might feel a little pang. And none of us deserve that. We don’t deserve to feel that pang.”

Her conclusion? “We deserve to dance like no one’s watching, and watch like no one’s raping.”

Ooof. This is the kind of thing that gets referred to as “,” and her act in general called, in a phrase that reveals as much about her craft as about Schumer herself, “.” But while Schumer’s work is operating at the vanguard of popular comedy, it’s also in line with the work being done by her fellow performers: jokes that tend

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