After an episode last week dragged down by weak stand-up segments, Inside Amy Schumer is back to top form with “Allergic To Nuts.” The episode is named after a sketch where Schumer and Parker Posey go berserk on their waiter over a food allergy. The sketch is high-octane mayhem that takes an idea threaded through the episode to grotesque, surreal heights: the idea that the body, specifically the female body, is a rebellious, unruly thing, something to be dieted and exercised and loathed into a smaller form. Although the tone of the episode is less trenchant than I’m making it seem, the thread of body horror weaves throughout tonight’s show in different iterations, creating an episode with segments that can stand on their own but which add up to a piece of television that feels unified. That’s often a challenge for sketch-based series.
“Allergic To Nuts” is consistently funny from start to finish, and both the opening sketches and the first stand-up segment puncture the absurd ways women are socialized to feel about their bodies and their sexuality. The first sketch features a group of affluent women (similar to the group we saw in last year’s “Compliments” sketch and this year’s “I’m So Bad”) standing by a window and looking down, literally, at strippers leaving work. The women disparage the strippers in the most condescending way possible, assuming that they have bad relationships with their fathers. The reveal at the end is a little obvious (about halfway through I guessed the twist) but the specificity of tone as the women chatter about their healthy food fixations and pole-twirling cohorts is what makes the sketch stand out. And there’s a subtle nod to peanut-allergy hysteria that reappears in the sketch with Posey later in the episode.
Schumer’s first stand-up segment, where she rips apart the Dove “Real Beauty” campaign, is terrific. “They would come out on camera, real unsure. Just like deer in headlights, like ‘This is okay, right? We’re cool with it if you are.’” she says, referring to the women in the commercials. “And the whole thing is Dove just patting themselves on the back, being like, ‘Can you believe how brave we are, putting these dump trucks on television?’”
Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign has been (rightfully) criticized, and while Schumer doesn’t make a particularly original argument against the beauty brand, she points out one of the problems with a funny bit that directly mocks the campaign without sounding preachy or sacrificing laughs. One of the main complaints against the “Real Beauty” campaign focuses on the hypocrisy of the brand advocating for a reformed idea of beauty, while their parent company endorses commercials for other body product lines, like Axe Body Spray, known for flagrantly embracing a sexist worldview to sell similar scented soaps and sprays. Schumer hits on another major problem with the campaign: The women in the “Real Beauty” commercials are treated like they need Dove to tell them that they look acceptable. The commercials assume that women who look like normal human beings are beset by feelings of low self-esteem that only Dove can fix.
The next sketch plays on the idea that women who are not model-thin might have healthy self-esteem, but mainstream culture treats them like “dump trucks.” Schumer’s character gets cast as a voice actor in a movie about meerkats with Jessica Alba and Megan Fox, a kind of anthropomorphic Charlie’s Angels. Or so she thinks. When fictional Schumer enters the recording studio, she discovers her character is a monstrous, slovenly meerkat who spends the movie grunting and shitting. She is horrified—until she discovers how much money she could make. The punchline is fine, but the part of the sketch I found most remarkable is the way the sketch uses Schumer’s looks to make a point: a pretty woman who does not look like a supermodel gets relegated to a sexless role by the media. It makes a great case for why already healthy and attractive women get disgusted by their appearances; the parameters for what constitutes a conventionally “hot” woman are ludicrously narrow as depicted in the media. This sketch builds on the Dove stand-up because Dove’s campaign does not actually challenge the idea that people who don’t look like an airbrushed ingenue can be beautiful. The Dove campaign relies on its audience recognizing that the women featured have bodies they consider shameful (or considered shameful until Dove showed them the light.)
One of the best sketches of the night takes the idea of body shame and the way women are pressured to alter their appearances to conform to extremely strict ideals to its logical conclusion. It is a commercial parody for a rinkydink plastic surgery business called ‘Cut 2 The Chase Plastic Solutions,’ with Scott Adsit playing Dr. Ron Hopkins, head surgeon. The commercial opens with two coworkers talking with a woman made up to look the love child of Jocelyn Wildenstein and a mannequin that was left out in the sun, bragging about her major plastic surgery. The sketch ruthlessly mocks the dual targets of a culture that sells plastic surgery as a reasonable option and a culture that insists that everything be as fast and cheap as possible.
“Allergic To Nuts” strikes a great balance between more explicitly feminist comedy and lighter segments, and every segment truly belongs to Schumer.
- This week’s “Amy Goes Deep” is different than previous installments because Schumer sits with Jim Florentine, Bobby Kelly, Jim Norton, Rachel Feinstein, and Keith Robinson, who some of her long-term comedian friends, instead of just one person. The group chemistry is relaxed and irreverent. It reminded me of a podcast I would most certainly listen to if it existed. They should make that podcast.
- The single fingernail painted black on the magician was a nice touch.
- “I’m 32. If my eyes were a thing, I’d of heard it by now.”