Amy Schumer has a thing for tipping really well. And the media has a thing for expressing astonishment about it:
Most recently, Schumer gave a $500 tip for an $80 tab in Boston. According to People magazine, she was dressed very casually so as not to draw attention to herself. “She was very nice,” restaurant owner Joe Milano said. “She said to [the server] that she was once a waitress and knew how hard it was.”
In an interview with Howard Stern, Schumer explained how her generous tipping comes after spending 10 years in the service industry. A former struggling performer who waited tables for years now wants to give back. Makes sense, right? But despite her attempts to revert to incognito mode, Schumer’s random acts of tipping still make the news every time.
The first answer is the public’s obsession with fawning over celebrities performing normal acts in extraordinary ways, like tipping, or walking their dogs on a Sunday morning in $1,000 get-ups without appearing hungover somehow. But Schumer draws unusual attention for her gratuity because of who she is — a loud, in-your-face Jewish female comedian who likes to discuss her vagina.
Does any description better contrast the stereotypical good tipper?
That contrast is the crux to the constant attention. A feel-good story is usually boring — but not if it’s about a hated figure. People petting cats is boring. Nazis petting cats, however — that’s internet gold. So a Jewish, female comedian who speaks louder than everyone else in the room offering a generous tip? It’s like the mating call for “alt-right” trolls to swarm. Remember — Schumer’s haters are so passionately vocal, they trolled the ratings for her comedy special until Netflix had to change their ratings formula. And I’ll tell you a little secret: Online controversy elicits clicks, so outlets are more than happy to host the bizarre attention.
Schumer’s raunchy femininity defying Barbie standards is the antithesis of all that is holy in the land of patriarchy. Granted, the constant controversy surrounding Schumer isn’t simply because she’s a woman — she’s been accused of stealing jokes and dabbling in racism and rape jokes as well. But as fellow female comedian (and member of the tribe!) Iliza Shlesinger recently described, when female comedians employ shock value to their shtick — as male comedians do all the time — they’re crucified for it. D*ck jokes are a patriarchal pastime. Vagina jokes aren’t.
And yes, she’s Jewish! Jews are supposed to be greedy! I’ll be honest — I think far fewer people hate on Schumer because of her Jewishness than because of her pointed feminism. But you think the online “alt-right” trolls don’t have that in mind at all when they go after her?
Ultimately, the stereotypes that produce this obsession over Amy Schumer’s tips are based on antiquated stereotypes stemming from historical systems of oppression — Jewish lenders in medieval times forced into usury, and women denied access to work and fair pay for centuries so men take care of the check. The greatest tipper I know, actually, is a Jewish woman — my mother. She demands good service, but these people aren’t “the help.” They are people with names and lives who she will even insist join us for family pictures if they feed her enough cosmos (about two).
My mom and Schumer’s generosity shouldn’t be surprising at all. They exemplify how women know better than anyone else what it’s like to be underpaid or not paid at all for their work. And they follow a legacy of Jews who lead the fight for workers’ rights in the late 19th century and early 20th century (see: this very outlet).
With enough “shocking” tips from Schumer, maybe the surprise will wear off so that people can acknowledge what this case really is: just a well-off Jewish woman who remembers what it’s like to be underpaid and ignored.
Steven Davidson is an editorial fellow at the Forward.