Our Parasocial Relationship With Comedians

There are a few comedians whom I follow so closely, that I feel like I truly know them. This relationship feels genuine, because of the amount of content of theirs I consume, and how honest the content feels. The ones I feel I know the best all have podcasts, which is interesting to note. Marc Maron has hundreds upon hundreds of hours recorded of him interviewing guests, in which he also reveals a lot about himself. Pete Holmes is the same. Bill Burr, a comedian who you might not think of as the kind of guy to wear his soul on his sleeve in his comedy, has a twice weekly podcast that is just him, talking. Sometimes his wife will guest, and rarely he will have another comedian as a guest, but it’s just him. So although he might not rely on personal narrative in his standup, I feel as if I know him because of my continued listening to his podcast. From the podcast I know about his home renovations, his love of his dog who he had to give up because of aggressive behavior and a baby on the way, the baby girl his wife recently gave birth to. I know all of this about him, and of course, I’ve never met him. And I’m sure he only lets me know what he is willing to reveal, that there is a lot about him I don’t know and would never know unless I became best friends with him. (Not likely, but, I can continue to believe that this will happen.)

Because I feel so intimately acquainted with these comedians, I would feel particularly betrayed if I came to find out that they were not as they seemed.

Which brings me to Amy Schumer. Schumer, unlike the guys I just mentioned, has no podcast. She rarely even appears on podcasts or long form interviews like many comedians do nowadays. But because of her tell-all style, I have a similarly intimate parasocial relationship with her. I believe this idea of “she could be my best friend” (which other female celebrities like Mindy Kaling often get told) is what catapulted her into the level of success she has experienced. Her movie, Trainwreck, was semi-autobiographical to the point where it seemed like she had only changed a few spare details of her life.

But what is curious about Amy Schumer is that she has admitted part of this is an act. In Judd Apatow’s book of interviews, Sick in the Head, she admits she’s never had a one night stand. It seems her stories of sexual promiscuity might be largely inflated. This feels like a betrayal. But is it her responsibility to disclose her full self? Or do I just feel like she must because I felt a particular kinship to her. This is a quandary that I want to continue to unpack over the course of my research.