After a short hiatus, Inside Amy Schumer is back with a sharp, well-rounded episode dismantling fairy tales and the scripts people think they’re supposed to follow.
The episode gets its title from “Foam,” a sketch without dialogue set in a sepia-tinted and ambiguously European cafe, a sort of idyllic world where baristas are strapping, yearning hunks in suspenders and the days are marked with calligraphed placards. A courtship between Amy and the improbably attractive barista plays out in wordless gifts of latte art, a fantasy of exchanging longing looks through espresso machine steam. The whole vibe is very the-VHS-cover-of-Chocolat, swoony and continental and cafe-romance-based. And then, of course, thing fall apart. The latte art is not true love and Juliette Binoche is nowhere to be found.
In her man-on-the-street interview following the sketch, Schumer asks someone if they’ve ever read too much into the latte art baristas make at cafes, and it is my hope that one of the Inside Amy writers wrote “Foam” in a cafe after briefly thinking the barista had a crush and then talking themselves out of it.
The silent scene is one of those standard improv games anyone who sticks around Second City long enough will definitely see, but they’re much more rare on sketch TV shows. The only one that comes to mind is an old silent movie spoof from Saturday Night Live in 1978. One of the special things about Inside Amy is that it goes off on experimental tangents but they never feel forced, and it often succeeds the most when it doubles down on the unusual.
The episode’s best sketch, “Princess Amy,” plays off the trope of a commoner discovering they are secretly royalty. Amy plays a “rancid peasant girl” who finds out she’s a princess and is absolutely delighted to leave her “humdrum life,” as a Disneyfied voiceover follows her from the her lowly farm to a castle. She’s accompanied by Willemby, her royal attache, played by Tim Gunn. The worst thing anyone can really say about Tim Gunn, who is perfect, is that he probably would’ve had the necessary combination of social ruthlessness and impeccable manners to navigate the nuanced and rigid social hierarchy of royal courts, so this casting makes perfect sense. Tim Gunn should be paid to play any role where someone needs a friendly face as they learn the ways of royalty. (A quick internet search of “Tim Gunn castle role” just revealed that Tim Gunn is steadily employed as the voice of a castle steward named Baileywick in the Disney Junior series Sophia The First, so clearly someone else agrees with this assessment.)
Princess Amy quickly learns that royal life isn’t so great for princesses, since she has to marry her first cousin (also played by Schumer) to solidify a legal alliance and discovers her sole purpose is to bear male heirs. She’s eventually beheaded by revolting commoners, and there’s some ridiculous CGI with Schumer’s disembodied head. “I just wanted to be a princess!” the head yells, and it’s silly and gory and deliberately over-the-top, but it grabs at a sadness about the enduring childhood fascination with princess stories, how people keep falling for these stories where it’s somehow glamorous to be a decorative pawn. There’s a point early on where cartoon birds fly near Amy as she sings about being a princess, and I think it’s a deliberate reference to Enchanted, which is one of those movies about princesses that plays with the traditional princess stereotype without actually dismantling them.
Another strong sketch is about how women get called out for being presumptuous if they bring up a boyfriend when guys chat them up, a premise that’ll be familiar to plenty of women who have ever been in a bar.
Amy’s character sends her boyfriend off to pick up a complicated drink order (a “Mexican Russian Mojito Bomb”) and gets dressed down when she mentions him to the guys who chat her up. “You don’t have to slip in that you have a boyfriend. I was just making casual conversation. You’re just a four,” the first guy says, walking away. The next guy demotes her to a three. Schumer’s acting is terrific here; you can see her confidence plummeting. By the time she talks to the third guy, she’s too scared to tell him she has a boyfriend and ends up marrying him. The sketch nails the delicacy of party flirting etiquette and takes it to its extreme conclusion, showing how much it sucks to be scared to ruin someone’s idea of who you are.
I didn’t even get to another solid sketch guest-starring Kathy Najimy, or Schumer’s interview with Magic Johnson’s majestic son EJ! “Foam” didn’t have anything poised for viral success like “Milk Milk Lemonade,” and it didn’t have a masterpiece like “Football Town Nights.” But it was a strong return for a show on a roll.
- Schumer has perfected a certain tone of voice I’m going to call “Wheedling Girlfriend Thinks It’s Charming to Pretend to Be a Baby and She’s Sort of Right.”
- To be fair, well rum is disgusting.
- The first guy who talks Amy up in the boyfriend sketch is played by Brian Babylon. I saw him do standup in Chicago a number of times a few years ago, and he’s terrific. I hope we see more of him.
- “Sad Stevie Nicks” does sound like a good look.