(Bridget Everett, Kim Caramele, Andy Cohen, Amy Schumer, Greta Lee) (Photo: Comedy Central)
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Two minutes into “Rubbing Our Clips,” Inside Amy Schumer’s season-ending clip show, host Andy Cohen tells Amy that the hellos will take “about a half an hour.” Her response: “Well, this show is only a half-hour, so, like, let’s move it along.” If only.

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As a framing device for a series of unrelated clips, the Real Housewives reunion-episode send-up is well-crafted and amusing, providing an excuse to revisit decontextualized pieces of previous sketches. But context is part of what makes comedy work. As instinctively funny as many of these performances, premises, and lines are, presenting them as two-second snatches of comedy both draws on their original power in their respective sketches and robs them of it.

That’s not to say “Rubbing Our Clips” is without structure or context. The framing narrative works well on its own, immediately presenting the four women as warring factions. Amy Schumer and Greta Lee sit to Andy Cohen’s left, Kim Caramele and Bridget Everett to his right, and from the opening, each pair smirks contemptuously at the other. Their hostility permeates every aspect of the reunion, bubbling over into furious outbursts punctuated with defensive catchphrases. Lee’s “I pay my bills!” is pitch-perfect, and that pitch is “self-righteous narcissism.” Maybe the best of these eruptions is Schumer and Caramele’s scuffle over whether Schumer does, in fact, have ears. And Caramele’s screeching exhortation to “Check the tapes! Check the tapes!” (caught up by Everett in a meaningless chorus of belligerence) is a perfect segue to, well, checking the tapes.

(Bridget Everett, Kim Caramele) (Photo: Comedy Central)

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The clips are cut together to create a statement beyond their original context. They’re telling a story not about the meaning of individual sketches, but about Inside Amy Schumer itself—about a brassy, daring show that doesn’t shy away from graphic punchlines, that can juxtapose smart jokes with gross-out humor, that isn’t afraid to upstage its namesake or show her in unflattering lights. Unfortunately, it occasionally casts the show itself in that same unflattering light. Featuring the most brutal split second of the titular sketch of “Cool With It” less than five minutes into the finale certainly has an impact; it’s a grotesque reminder that even in its most successful streaks, Inside Amy Schumer has displayed jarringly uneven executions of sharp premises.

Revisiting Schumer’s street interviews reaffirms how varied and fresh those conversations felt, and how the unpredictability of strangers (and Schumer’s equally unpredictable, almost always sympathetic reactions to them) electrified the show’s first three seasons. Season four switched from on-the-street interviews with bystanders to bar-side conversations with Schumer’s friends and colleagues, most of them professional comedians whose practiced patter gives familiar beats to even off-the-cuff responses. The change is understandable, even inevitable; Schumer’s presence on the street these days is enough to cause a sensation, to say nothing of shutting down candid moments. But it’s a reminder of a loss, for the show and the audience.

The staged Inside Amy Schumer reunion cleverly employs the language of reality-show panels. It’s full of guests whose glittery garments, heavy makeup, and bristling resentment contrast with the glib host, incoherent fights ending in reconciliations as treacly as they are insincere, and gratuitous, clumsy mentions of celebrity-branded product lines. Everett’s whispered asides, Caramele’s bellowing confrontations, Lee’s smug poise, Schumer’s naked self-regard, the various male writers, performers, and producers as emotionally distant hangers-on: They’re all familiar behaviors taken to their logical extremes.

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If the entire episode consisted of this conceit, it would be a very solid (if exhausting) piece of entertainment. But it doesn’t. Between the plausible phony reunion—complete with second-tier participants brought in for the second half to perch on second-row stools—and the thoughtfully constructed not-quite-a-story told by the clips themselves, “Rubbing Our Clips” is above average for a clip show, below average for an episode of Inside Amy Schumer, and startlingly vacant as a season finale.

It’s also a disappointingly apt title for this episode. Ending the season—the show’s most uneven season by far—with a clip show is masturbatory, and not always in a fun, self-celebratory way. It’s harmless. It passes the time and provides some entertainment. It relies upon fond memories of past experiences. At its best, it offers a few moments of fleeting pleasure. At its worst, it calls to mind better times long gone. Ultimately, “Rubbing Our Clips” is a bit of a wank.

Stray observations

  • “Remember when you said you would only do eight and phone in the ninth? Remember that?”
  • “Amy Goes Deep” guest CeCe is adorable and effective at making change, and she sounds like a particularly cute Yeardley Smith character. Her interview makes an incongruous interruption in this single-minded episode, and I have to wonder why it wasn’t aired last week, which had no “Amy Goes Deep” segment.
  • Bridget Everett holding back Kim Caramele by the sheer chiffon of her sleeve is a great visual.
  • That’s the end of Inside Amy Schumer’s fourth season, and the show’s been renewed for a fifth. Thanks for reading!

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