Tonight’s episode of Inside Amy Schumer, “Down For Whatever,” has a laid back-sounding title. Based on its name alone, I’d assume the episode would skewer the “Cool Girl” mythology the show went after in “A Chick Who Can Hang.” A Cool Girl is always “down for whatever.” It’s something chill people say before they casually slackline on a Sunday, a catchphrase that signifies an easy openness. This episode’s easygoing title belies what it contains: a series of sketches all connected to the thing most likely to make people freeze and clench up. Loneliness, heartbreak, and death are all covered. Fear is a recurring theme in “Down For Whatever.”
In the opening parody commercial, Schumer’s character is surrounded by a drooling menagerie of pets she wants to offload. Her litany of insults at the animals is funny, but what makes the sketch is the bleak undertone, underlined by the final disclaimer: “No animals were harmed during the filming of this commercial. But they will eventually die. We all will.”
A few sketches deal specifically with the fear of never marrying, presenting three nightmare scenarios about failed commitment. One, a commercial parody of diamond commercials called “DeFears,” shoots a few targets at once. It opens like a generic jewelry ad, with tasteful black-and-white shots of a beautiful woman lounging in a white boyfriend shirt, soaring violin in the background, adjectives like “sophisticated” laid out in cursive over the scene. Instead of receiving the expected rock, the woman in the video gets a toe ring. The voice-over skewers men who won’t commit and fritter time away from their partners, who assume they’ll eventually marry. The decision to title the parody commercial “DeFears” emphasizes how absurd it is to find reassurance in a ludicrously overpriced piece of jewelry in the first place. Imbuing expensive rings with the power to signify love is blasted just as much as men who can’t commit.
While “DeFears” squares off against male fickleness, a reality TV show parody called “My Dream Breakup,” where Schumer plays a woman planning her breakup, takes on reality shows that fetishize wedding culture. It’s a straightforward parody of shows like Say Yes To The Dress, with a fussy planner making sure every detail of Schumer’s character’s breakup is perfect. It verges on being one-note, though Schumer is getting so damn good at playing the distorted, dizzily sociopathic version of herself, it’s fun to watch. When her character casually mentions she’s never broken up with someone before because people usually break up with her, the episode’s theme of fear resurfaces. This character creates an elaborate, choreographed breakup because she’s vain. But she also represents people who blow trivial events out of proportion as a defense mechanism. Maybe she’s one of the women whom the “DeFears” commercial would be aimed at, and she’s decided to wound instead of waiting to get wounded.
Back to the wedding fear. A third sketch touches on this again. It comes later in the episode and shows a relationship further down the line. It opens on a beautiful, traditional-looking church wedding, with the bride and groom at the altar. When the priest asks if anyone objects to the marriage, Schumer’s hot mess character stands up and delivers a rambling speech about how the two shouldn’t get married, even though she’s too drunk to remember why. After some inspired lines as the boozy bad friend, Schumer still can’t remember why she’s calling off the wedding, but at the last moment, the groom makes an admission. He’s gay. The sketch draws out the ultimate nightmare for both the wedding and marriage-minded: Not only does the relationship implode on the big day, but it implodes because the groom is fundamentally not attracted to the bride. Schumer’s sloshed sorority sister is an equally grim incarnation of fear of never pairing off, the desperate, lonely lush.
The wedding-related sketch trifecta impresses by how it progressively examines many different ways to be scared of never pairing off, and combined with “Celebrity Spooky Stories” and the ASPCA parody, the episode has a strong anchoring theme and a feeling of continuity.
The “Amy Goes Deep” segment diverges from tonight’s preoccupation with fear, especially the fear of being alone. Schumer interviews a 106-year-old woman named Downing who went to the same college as her. The interview is captivating because the woman is game and articulate, and because it’s rare to see someone that age talking on television, especially laughing off questions about condoms. The interview made me uncomfortable at times because she looks so much like a grandmother, I felt protective. Schumer treats Downing the same way she treats all of her guests, engaging in a friendly interview but not shying away from talking about sex, drinking, and race. But why should she? Downing never appears offended at any point, although she does look genuinely worried when Schumer jokes they’re in a rough neighborhood. She isn’t asking for deference because of her age; I suspect she enjoyed being talked to like a normal person and not like a relic. Her answers were charming, and they tempered the theme of fear by showing someone aware that she is close to death, who appears to be comfortable with having lived her life, who is still “down for whatever” enough to pop up on Schumer’s show.
- “On top of my pillow was another pillow, made entirely of chocolate.”
- Schumer spoils the second season of Homeland during her man-on-the-street interviews. Be forewarned.
- The snippets of spooky phrases Schumer says during “Celebrity Ghost Tales” is great. “Noises. Shapes. Shadows. Hello? Weird dolls. Ghost hands. BYEEEEE.”
- “Spencer’s actually cool. He found my phone.” Those pet disses were great.
- “I know in my heart I’m ready for something taller.”
- Schumer’s bits on race earlier this season didn’t work, but her final stand-up joke lands. “Grandpa, that can’t be the joke anymore. That was the joke when you were younger, like, ‘Oh, watch out, black people, hold on to your shit.’ That’s the joke, that black people steal shit? White people stole black people.”