One is a former First Lady who almost became the US President, the other is a brutally honest stand-up comedian who completed a national tour suffering from morning sickness. What could Hillary Clinton and Amy Schumer have in common? Turns out they are friends, and both have given audiences an intimate peek into their lives with behind-the-scenes high-profile documentaries. The Hulu documentary Hillary covers Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the upcoming three-part docuseries, Expecting Amy, follows the newly pregnant Schumer on a 42-city 60-show tour. At Variety’s first Virtual TV Festival, Amy Schumer revealed as much about herself as she did about Hillary Clinton when she Zoomed her for an interview. Here is an excerpt from the exchange.
Amy Schumer: I felt right away when we met, I was very connected to you but there is a big gap between your real persona versus how people have interpreted your persona publicly. Why do you think there is that discrepancy?
Hillary Clinton: I don't really understand it myself to be really blunt with you, because I feel like I’ve been the same person throughout most of my life. But I’m not one to complain. I’ve got lots of great opportunities and I’ve had such an interesting and adventurous life. But my long-time friends say they’re also somewhat confused. They’d campaign for me and have people out of nowhere say, ‘I can’t vote for her, she kills people!’ or something like that.
AS: My documentary is clearly influenced by you and what your work has helped to achieve for my generation because I put all my cards on the table.
HC: I really admire the way that you just put it all out on the table and you are going places where women haven’t gone before. I really see you as a pioneer, not just through your comedy, but through your acting and your writing. You’re somebody who’s willing to say, ‘look, here’s what it’s like to be a woman at this point in history.’
AS: One time, I got to sit next to you at an awards show and the host was singing to you and sitting on your lap and trying to seduce you and people still thought they could invade your space like that and you were so gracious about it. I’ve had people follow me home yelling stuff at me, and the younger version of me would have told those people what I really thought about them. I know it would have gone a very different way without your influence.
HC: At the end of the day, and I say this to young women all the time, no matter what you do, if you poke your head just a little bit above the parapet, you're going to go out into the public arena and you're going to get criticized or attacked. Most of it doesn’t have as much to do with you as the person who's criticizing. I always say, ‘take it seriously, but not personally.’ Look, if there's something that your friends won’t tell you, but your critics will, then you shouldn’t let it drag you down and destroy your spirit but try to learn from it.
AS: So, you don’t let it stop you?
HC: No, and I think about you, Amy, bravely going up and doing stand-up and I don't know how you did sixty shows when you were so sick during your pregnancy. My heart was just broken up into little pieces watching your documentary because I had morning sickness for the first trimester and then I was okay but you were sick the whole time and you made yourself get up and do those shows and travel and take on all that responsibility. I know why you did it, too, because you felt it was the right thing to do when you’d already agreed to do it.
AS: I remember the night of the election, I was psyched because I thought, ‘Hillary’s got us’ and it’s going to be a great party and then the next day, it was some of the worst pain I've ever felt in my life. How did all that sadness and melancholy affect you?
HC: To this day, I have people who break down in tears when they see me; not as often as they did in the first two or three years, but it was such an emotional gut punch. I didn't think I was going to lose. They didn't think I was going to lose. They were just as devastated as I felt, but I also felt a sense of real responsibility, like, ‘how did this happen?’ That's why I wrote a book about it.
AS: Now I’m a mom, it feels like your heart is outside your body and you're holding it. So how do you navigate pursuing your career and not thinking about the time you're losing with your kid?
HC: It’s really hard and it never goes away. I experienced it like every working mom does; you leave in the morning and the baby is crying or the baby has an upset stomach and you don't want to go but you have to because, for me, I had to be in court. I remember when Chelsea was just a baby and was sick, I was so torn I had to leave and go to court.
AS: During my pregnancy, I was hospitalized probably around sixty times, and another sixty times a nurse would have to come to me in a hotel on tour and give me an IV because I couldn’t keep food down and needed fluids. I found out that many women in that position lose their jobs or their marriage fails because you need to be taken care of and it’s brutal.
HC: Amy, did you know right now that a woman in America who is having a baby is 50% more likely to die than her mother was? And that is predominantly women of color and poor women. I saw what happened to Serena Williams, who was fully empowered and had everything she could ever want, but she wasn’t being listened to despite knowing her own body well enough to say, ‘you’ve got to pay attention to me!’
AS: I’ve been working with Christy Turlington and her foundation, Every Mother Counts, and they help women in third world countries who die during childbirth in such high numbers, so they make sure there’s a medical professional there for them. When people ask me what I wanted to say with my documentary, I just want them to know what I’ve learned. I just want them to see how difficult it is to be a woman and a mother and how much women are just told to suck it up and that you do because you don’t want to seem difficult. But that hypocrisy and imbalance is evident in your documentary too, and it’s upsetting to watch.
HC: Chelsea and I wrote a book about gutsy women and Shirley Chisholm had a favorite saying; ‘we deserve a seat at the table and if they don’t have enough seats, bring a folding chair because we won’t be turned away’. I do feel there's a generation of women – activists, public officials, and those who understand that now, and they're not going to insist on being at every table.