Putting a baby in a bustier is a completely messed-up thing to do, but as this episode of Inside Amy Schumer makes abundantly clear, there’s a lot of weird crap people do to conform to an imagined ideal. “Babies & Bustiers” looks at the odd and often inappropriate ways people perform, and how women deal with those expectations. Most segments are explicitly about pageantry and social acceptance, including “Amy Goes Deep,” where Schumer interviews a former contestant on The Bachelor about her experience in that most artificial romantic drama incubator.

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Two of the night’s best sketches, “Angels,” circle back to Schumer’s preoccupation with the way women obliquely compete. In one, Pinterest-and-pun loving friends played by Nikki Glazer, Greta Lee, and Mandy Schmieder, who seem like they would call each other “gal pals” unironically gather for a wine-fuelled game of sadness-bragging one-upmanship, talking about the increasingly debauched things they would do if they were able to vacate their lives and open a bakery in Maine.

The sketch is wonderfully layered, mocking about a half-dozen female friendship habits at once, from tendencies to validate and justify bad behavior, to the horrifically corny ways women brag about their families, to the way group mentality means the “right” thing is often entirely arbitrary. (The group blithely supports each others’ twisted fantasies but rush to judge when Amy implies she would prefer to live in Oregon over Maine.)

At this point, there could be an anthology episode entirely of Schumer sketches on female friendship dynamics, but it never feels played-out, and its strength is in the precise micro-digs as much as the clever concept.

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The second female friendship sketch is really just about how obnoxious people who won’t stop talking about their rescue pets and fawning over their dogs are. “Dog moms” are an inherently mockable group and the sketch is great at mixing the escalating absurdity of the type of rescues brought in with dead-accurate Dog Mom drivel-quotes. (“Who rescued who?” kills me.)

Inside Amy opens with another sketch skewering the current cultural obsession with butts, but unlike the joyful mockery in “Milk Milk Lemonade,” the “Swanks” sketch gets darker and grotesque. Women suffer internal bleeding to get the right kind of butts. They’re so hell-bent on turning heads that they sacrifice health and feel happy for any male attention, no matter how inappropriate. Michael Ian Black plays the smarmy “Swanks Push ‘Em Downs” salesperson, insisting that the booty solution is worth it despite causing blood to gargle up out of Schumer’s mouth, her attempt to conform to a shifting standard of beauty physically making her bleed. It’s absurd—bordering on disturbing—but the bouncy infomercial framework counterbalances the body horror.

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When it comes to body horror and performing femininity and sexuality, the “Babies & Bustiers” title sketch—a spoof of “Toddlers & Tiaras”—brings both front and center. Schumer plays Amy Merryweather Sherman, a pudgy toddler with fetal Red Bull syndrome, a disease that makes her age five times faster than the normal person. What she lacks in normal hormone levels she makes up for with lots of confidence, and Schumer expertly romps around doing a spot-on impression of Honey Boo Boo. Jennifer Coolidge plays her blowsy, chewable Vicodin-popping stage mother, Cleopatricia Sherman, guiding her through the “Lil Miss Hot As Balls” pageant in Narnia Springs, Indiana.

Schumer is so good at playing Honey Boo Boo, and her deranged, honey-soaked marble-mouth and total lack of self-awareness are spot-on and cranked up. Coolidge could not have been more perfectly cast. Some of the weirder flourishes—Amy Merryweather Sherman only ever Skyping with her dad, her dad having Benjamin Button disease, the dead-eyed way Coolidge propositions the camera man—are great.

But the target of ridicule here is such a low-hanging fruit that it might as well be a dug-up, rotting potato. With a spoof this blatant, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Alana Thompson, who is still a child, and a child who has had a truly horrifying family life as of late, one who will surely have to confront her easily-caricatured public image as she gets older.

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Aside from the target feeling a little cheap, the sketch seems like a missed opportunity to reference the greatest film about a rambunctious child rapidly aging due to a medical anomaly (Francis Ford Coppola’s Jack, of course) and the two parts could’ve been condensed into one. Yet, damn, it’s still funny: Poor Amy Merryweather Sherman hollering into the camera about her mama not letting her eat “like a human being” is memorable, sad, and sharp.

Stray observations:

  • “I didn’t get my dog vaccinated because Jenny McCarthy said it causes pawtism” is strong, strong pun game.
  • Those photos of John Boehner, Clarence Thomas, and George Zimmerman in the “Swanks” commercial were perfect.
  • Remember when The Onion apologized after making a joke tweet about Quvenzhané Wallis? (Probably shouldn’t bring up that dark chapter, but whatever.) The tweet was meant to make fun of how backbiting celebrity entertainment coverage is, but people hated it because it came off less like satire and more like plain mean. I actually thought that tweet was pretty funny. I thought it was insane that people thought Quvenzhané Wallis would see the tweet and feel sad. This makes my reaction to the “Babies & Bustiers” sketch sort of strange, I realize. Alana Thompson probably won’t watch Inside Amy, after all. I think the queasy thing is that if she did watch, she should be offended, since she is quite blatantly the specific butt of one of the sketch’s central jokes, whereas Wallis was just an especially young stand-in for any ingenue on a pedestal.
  • Now that Francis Ford Coppola’s Jack has been brought up, let’s talk about Francis Ford Coppola’s Jack. That movie was horrifying!

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