“You seem like you’d be really hard to shock, and I’m definitely not going to try,” Amy Schumer says to her interviewee in “Madonna/Whore”’s installment of “Amy Goes Deep.” Sister Mary Alice, who entered a convent at 18 in 1958, blushes when Amy asks whether she’s “made out” in the intervening years, but she’s endearingly frank—about celibacy, about her occasional doubts, and about the benefits, profound or practical, that her vocation offers. “I don’t know a lot of people that can follow their dreams. I don’t know a lot of people that aren’t worried about their 401(k). And they’re the gifts that I have.” In this interview—and in the larger context of this episode—Mary Alice seems like a rare person who knows what she wants and knows how to get it.
“Madonna/Whore” opens with Inside Amy Schumer’s familiar question, this time aimed at male viewers. “Men, has this ever happened to you?” asks inventor and spokesperson Martin Daniels (Michael Ian Black) through a freshly punched hole in a wall. “Of course it has! You’re constantly seething with impotent rage!” Designed to absorb and distribute impact, Punchables wall sponges let hotheaded customers punch away “while doing limited damage to both your walls and the skelature of your haaaaaand.” It’s a simple, funny premise, fleshed out with well-executed testimonials (“And get a load of these other satisfied customer!”), but Black’s performance really lands this sketch. His spiel is a masterpiece of comedic rhythm: by turns nonsensically stretched out or stilted, delivered with up-beat vacancy.
One of the great strengths of Inside Amy Schumer is its star’s willingness to put other actors in the spotlight, whether it’s Michael Ian Black as a smarmy TV salesman or Chris Gethard and Bridget Everett as hosts of competing Sex And The City tours. “We’re going to have the best time of our lives today, okay?” Schumer assures her friend (IAS favorite Maggie Champagne, sometimes credited as Margaret Rose Champagne) to distract her from her ongoing annulment. But they aren’t, because Schumer skimped on the tickets.
Instead of the frothy fun they expect, Gethard treats his customers to a tour of Steve’s favorite haunts, lecturing them on his reliability and… uh, his reliability. Reprimanding his customers for their harmless desire to scarf down cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery and see the location where Samantha got fucked in the ass—to celebrate the four women at the heart of the show—his affable blandness explodes into sputtering venom. (This guy is the target market for Punchables.)
These are perfectly modulated guest performances, only enhanced by the sketch’s visuals. Gethard’s bus is bleak and airless, sealed in its scuffed-up bubble. When Everett cruises by in her open-air tour bus, hooting with contagious fervor, her guests clutching their pink feather boas and toasting with champagne, it’s a punch of bright, brash energy and color against the dreary winter streets.
The titular sketch features Schumer and Dan Soder as a couple coupling for the first time. Doubtfully, he says, “It’s kind of nice not to have to jump through a bunch of hoops to get you into it. Kind of.” What follows is another exploration of women’s sexuality as performance. Trying to gauge what he wants from her, the madonna or the whore, Schumer vacillates between bold and naive personas second by second. This kind of premise can feel more like a object lesson than a joke, but the writing and performances anchor it reasonably well.
Especially effective is Soder’s suspicious “How are you so good at this?” during her strip-tease, Schumer’s shift from limber confidence to clumsy stumbles, and his entire ending speech, which—like the pottery-painting sketch—gets funnier as gets grosser, more ridiculous, and more demanding:
It’s not hard to understand. I need you to be like a sexual Good Will Hunting: You have no formal education, but then you see my dick and you just get it. Now, I need you to be like a combination of Hermione from the third movie and Nicki Minaj. You’re like Dora The Explorer but your passport’s filled to the brim, right? You’re like Maria from The Sound Of Music but also the sex Nazi from Indiana Jones. Also, would it kill you to do a Boston accent?
The most lavish sketch doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the episode, but it looks great. “The Knick, Jr.,” is gorgeously staged, with dark period sets, costumes, and thoughtful background details (like Dr. Thackery’s game of fridge-magnet Hangman that spells out SYPH__L_S). When Schumer arrives, her nose “ravaged by cooties,” Thackery (Harrison Wright) proposes a daring treatment with typical passion—and complete lack of follow-through. The sketch gets most of its mileage from the contrast between the children and its gruesome visuals, and from the goofy, loose chemistry between Schumer and those kids, who adorably chew up the scenery. It’s a trifle elevated by its production values, but it packs a certain dark hilarity.
The pottery-painting sketch didn’t really work for me at first, and it drags throughout. But eventually the sheer accumulation of absurdity got me giggling, starting with Julia Stiles’ deadpan “You know they filmed Mad Max down there? The original one.” The episode-ending outtake emphasizes Schumer’s eagerness to give her guests the funniest lines and the best readings. She’s so keen to get another take of Amber Rose’s “My taint looks like a chew toy,” she doesn’t quite notice Rose is laughing too hard to repeat it straight-faced. Same, Amber Rose, same.
- “Oh, gosh, is this where Carrie put on those hoop earrings and that do-rag and then she made everyone feel racially uncomfortable?”
- “Are we going to get cupcakes?!” “No, we are not, and nobody look over there!”
- Among the accoutrements littering the bed in the aftermath of Schumer and Soder’s two minutes of passion: a mob cab, a firefighter’s hat, some sort of regimental white bearskin or busby, a cane, a tiara, a rubber chicken, an all-day sucker.
- After this episode, I have to wonder if Inside Amy Schumer is intentionally testing basic cable’s allowance for repetitions of the word pussy. (Was any of that bleeped in the broadcast? On my screener, it never was.)
- “Who got your nose?”