Amy Schumer can be great when she goes goofy, but if “I’m So Bad” says anything, it’s that Inside Amy Schumer shines when it dips into darker material. Whoever arranges the order of the segments (Schumer herself?) decided to ease viewers into tonight’s episode with a few light-hearted segments before walloping them with some seriously, wonderfully dark shit.
The episode starts on a silly high note, with “Finger Blasters,” an exuberant, innuendo-filled parody ad for frozen snack food that’s one big, gross, obvious metaphor for manual sex. The commercial calls to mind an especially risqué SNL parody, although if it aired on NBC, the dip containers probably wouldn’t have so closely resembled the shape of a certain female body opening, and the teenage actors would’ve been swapped out for older cast members. Schumer’s first stand-up segment discusses how women’s magazines can cause self-esteem crises in their readers and give people horribly off-base sex advice. Like the “Finger Blasters” commercial, the material is funny, but familiar. The frivolous inanity of lady mags like Cosmo is well-trodden stand-up and blogger fodder.
The first two bits are just a warmup, though. “I’m So Bad” gets its claws out in the night’s third segment, where Amy tries to play her boyfriend’s war-themed video game and her female soldier avatar gets raped by a superior in the barracks. When she tries to explain what happens, the boyfriend insists it’s not possible because it never happened to him. When she reports the assault, her character is made to fill out paperwork and sit through a Pentagon trial of her attacker (who is eventually let off by his commanding officer.) Amy’s character freaks out about the video game rape, but the boyfriend insists she did something wrong and shouldn’t play anymore. Neither the boyfriend or the video game gets any sort of comeuppance; Amy’s character just acquiesces and lets the man play the video game for men. It’s a dark scene; the way the video game soldier is treated and the way Amy’s protests are ignored establishes a continuum of misogyny and begrudging acceptance of that misogyny. Amy’s character doesn’t become an activist for military gender equality or dump the schlub. The scene just ends as it began, with her watching him play video games. Schumer might play characters with little political awareness, but this show has a political side. This scene hails its audience not to act like the people on the screen.
The next scene is equally dark. A group of affluent women mournfully recount their unhealthy food choices, along with a litany of increasing villainous non-food-related misdeed. “I’m sooo bad,” they protest about sneaking Pringles and mini-muffins, while blithely mentioning how they recently cyber-bullied children and psychologically tortured burn victims. It recalls the first season’s brilliant “Compliments” sketch, as both poke apart an especially toxic behavioral habit women have and heighten that behavior until things turn unexpectedly violent. While this sketch was strong, I could’ve done without the violence at the end (I really hate gore, though, so perhaps my aversion to the ending says more about my wimpy constitution around fake blood than anything else; the rest is great.)
Another standout sketch follows: Schumer plays the wife of a man (Zach Braff) hosting a poker game contrasts the way men expect each other to talk about their significant others with the way men talk about their casual sexual conquests. Braff’s devoted husband just wants to tell his group of pals (including show writer Kurt Metzger) how he and his wife get freaky, but the poker buddies are disgusted by hearing about their married friends’ sex life. They have absolutely no problem objectifying their meaningless encounters in graphic detail. The only limit to the conversation is based on marital status, not the level of explicitness. This sketch stands out because it prods at the trope of men with madonna/whore complexes quite pointedly, but it’s done in a way that feels fresh. The twist at the end, where Amy’s character catalogs a kinky list of sex acts, gives the sketch an extra squeeze of perversion. While “Finger Blasters” could’ve been a spot on SNL with a few adjustments, this sketch felt very specifically like it could be nothing other than an Inside Amy Schumer creation.
The decision to pair the women eating sketch with the poker sketch was wise, because the one-two punch of twisted friend hangouts showcases how Inside Amy Schumer is equally adept at skewing gendered group dynamics for men and women, and it makes the similarities and differences between the two groups more obvious. Both groups are myopic; both bandy about abhorrent comments in hopes of social approval. In the first sketch, a shared obsession with consuming the right food dominates the conversation; in the second sketch, the men chomp down the nachos and unhealthy snacks brought to them by the wife without hesitation. But both groups seek validation from their peers by cataloging a perceived vice: For the women, it’s eating. For the men, it’s sex. In the sketch about the women, they are blinded to their true misdeeds by fixating on what they put in their mouths. In the sketch about the men, they refuse to acknowledge how unfair it is to create the madonna/whore binary because that would ruin their conquests. The inability of these groups to recognize the fundamentally absurd premises of their communal interactions serves as the catalyst for humor, and a catalyst for thinking about how groups of friends can egg on bad behavior.
This second episode of the season was more uneven than the debut (I found the Amy-goes-to-prom sketch somehow both boring and over-the-top) but still consistently impressive. And next week we’ll have Josh Charles making an appearance, so any The Good Wife fans looking for a fix know where to watch.
- “You’re the one who wanted to pose naked and say it was for a good cause so you didn’t look like a whore even though that’s secretly why everybody does it.” Sick PETA burn.
- Tonight’s “Amy Goes Deep” segment has sex columnist Mandy Stadtmiller on as guest. Like last week, I could’ve watched an extended version.