There were gobs of uplift packed into “Oprah’s 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus” at Spectrum Center on Saturday — so much so, that at times the event almost felt like a send-up of a women’s empowerment workshop.
A group called Daybreaker led a colorful morning dance party with pearly-white smiles that seemed to glued to its members’ faces. Laila Ali shed tears as she talked about subverting her legendary father’s belief that she couldn’t succeed in a career as a professional boxer. Julianne Hough went all Jane Fonda and turned herself up to 11 as she put attendees through their paces during an almost-incongruous (given that everyone had about 20 inches of space to work within) workout routine.
And the star of the show, Oprah Winfrey — arguably the most recognizable and almost certainly the most popular woman on the planet — shared enough inspirational quotes and stories of her finding her way to happiness to fill the swag bags each ticketholder found at their seats several times over.
Not that all that positivity is a bad thing. Not at all. It’s just … you know, taken as a whole, it’s a lot.
Wedged into the middle of this 5-hour-and-20-minute event, however, was something that had to have been truly special and worth the price of admission for the longtime Oprah fans: a sit-down, talk-show-style interview just like the ones she used to do on the old “Oprah Winfrey Show.”
(The key differences? One, the studio audience, in this case, numbered 15,000 people. And two, it was unfettered by commercial breaks. Although, on some level, the “wellness event” itself really is just one big advertisement for WW, formerly known as Weight Watchers.)
This, by the way, is the third of nine stops on a tour that will continue to make the rounds across the U.S. every Saturday from now till March 7. The structure of each event is the same, and if you sit at the right angle you will also realize that even the script is basically the same — there are Teleprompters running much of the time.
But the one variable is this sit-down interview. In the first city — Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — Winfrey interviewed Lady Gaga. In the second — St. Paul, Minn. — she had Tina Fey. And on Saturday afternoon in Charlotte, Amy Schumer was the marquee guest star.
The 38-year-old comedian and actress is first and foremost renowned for her dirty and profane brand of humor, but she also has a reputation for being unusually self-deprecating, often-brutally honest, and is basically the opposite of being obsessed with having the “perfect” body.
And Schumer delivered on all of that promise … though the dirty jokes and the profanity were toned down to close to a PG rating.
She twerked her way onto the stage, to upbeat music, countering Winfrey’s smart navy-blue, high-waisted pantsuit with a black sweatshirt and a matching pair of sweatpants, both dotted with tiny red roses. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail, her sleeves were rolled up to just below her elbows, and her feet were in gray running shoes with brightly colored accents.
“Amy sent me a text earlier and said, ‘Do you think this is OK to wear?’” Winfrey told the crowd, explaining that Schumer was having a stylist come over and originally was planning to wear a dress. “I go, ‘You should wear whatever makes you feel comfortable.’” So she did. Clearly.
(Later, the topic came up again when Schumer was giving an example of how her husband Chris Fischer’s autism spectrum disorder manifests itself in unfiltered straight talk: “I was about to leave this morning and … I’m like, ‘Is this OK?’” she said, looking for a second opinion about her wardrobe choice. “And he goes, ‘Well, it’s really too late.’”)
Even though Schumer has performed for big crowds in Charlotte before — she did a show at the former Time Warner Cable Arena just over three years ago — she evidently was a little bit nervous early on. But she still was able to turn the jitters into jokes.
“I think as women — I know there are men here, too, and I don’t want to alienate you — but I think as women the expectations on us are so high to always be OK, always look your best … you know, and — and so I — wait, what am I talking about?”
“You’re talking about this process of being kinder to yourself,” Winfrey said.
“Kinder to myself, OK,” Schumer said. “You know, when you’re talking and you look out and you’re like, There are truly 15,000 people here. And Oprah. I’m like, ‘Am I high?’ I’m not high. But I’m like, I think I’m high.”
The conversation eventually swung back around to marijuana again when Winfrey asked Schumer what her superpower was.
“Oh, I can do like a ton of dru —” she joked, cutting herself off before fully committing to the word drugs.
Then Winfrey got in on the fun. “We both have a dream in life, and that is to get Gayle … to smoke weed,” the host explained, referring to her bestie, CBS News anchor Gayle King.
“We’re lookin’ at you, Gayle,” Schumer said. “We’re talkin’ about wellness today, right? Try an edible, Gayle — something.”
“It’s never nice to drug someone. And I’m very against that,” she continued, as Winfrey laughed and nodded. “But if we just made Gayle a couple brownies …”
“Then we’ll Instagram it so y’all can see!” Winfrey said.
Schumer occasionally did go a little deeper, although she always managed to inject humor.
She touched on her battles with hyperemesis and endometriosis during her first pregnancy (her son Gene was born last May), as well as feelings of inadequacy related to having a C-section and using formula.
“We are warriors. All of us,” she told the crowd, which was about 99 percent female. “I mean, for real. That is what I learned. I didn’t just learn how strong I was. I really learned as a whole how strong women are. And, you know, men are great, too, and that’s awesome, and you guys can throw a touchdown. But can you make a baby? We can make a baby with our body.”
Schumer also gave Winfrey additional details about the IVF journey that she’s been sharing on social media, while revealing a somewhat shocking side effect.
“I had my egg retrieval on Monday,” she said. “Which is also the last time I pooped. I said I wasn’t gonna say it, but I did. Yeah, can’t poop after.”
She worked her constipation in again later, in spite of efforts by Winfrey to get her to be serious for a minute.
“What’s the dream for your family?” the host asked. “Will you share that?”
“I will,” Schumer replied. “And that is such a beautiful question. But before that dream for my family, my dream for myself is that I poop today.”
Then she lifted her sweatshirt to expose her belly.
“Look at that,” she said, massaging her skin, as the crowd howled. “Like, it’s just sitting there. It’s not right. It’s not right. … And I know what you’re all thinking. I’ve tried everything. I’ve tried prunes. I didn’t have Smooth Move Tea, but I’m going to. But I was scared if I had it that it would hit right while I was here. And that’s not part of anyone’s vision for 2020.”
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