The World's Most Interesting Woman In The World (Amy Schumer) (Photo: Macall Polay/Comedy Central)

Inside Amy Schumer’s fourth season premiere, “The World’s Most Interesting Woman In The World,” is the show’s least interesting episode in the show. It packs some laughs and provocative ideas, but it’s disjointed, sour, and underdeveloped. As Marah Eakin points out, “The World’s Most Interesting Woman In The World” grapples with Schumer’s success by lampooning the conceit and complacency that coddled stars can cultivate. In a filmed segment, Schumer invites Lin-Manuel Miranda to her rehearsal studio, putatively to arrange a guest appearance on her series, actually so she can pitch him her over-confident, under-considered hip-hopera about Betsy (or, as Schumer first misidentifies her, Bethenny) Ross. In an instant, she pivots from gushing over the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and Broadway star to “But then I thought ‘… I could do that.’”

What follows is lazy, sloppy, obviously off-the-cuff. The slack assembly and tedious length are the point of this sketch—Schumer’s hubris leads her to believe she can improvise a musical as ingenious and adored as Hamilton—but they’re also its downfall, dragging on with too-long pauses and too few laughs. “Oh, no,” Miranda mutters at one point, “don’t do this thing,” knowing she is going to do this thing. That sums up too much of the episode.

The titular World’s Most Interesting Woman In The World is a take-off on Dos Equis’ recently retired Most Interesting Man In The World: a hard-drinking, hard-living old broad with an insatiable thirst for life (and for alcohol), a cracked croak of a voice, and a leathery sun-beaten complexion. “I don’t always drink beer,“ she tells the camera, “but when I do, I always have to pay for it myself.” Soon, she’s frantically gulping her table-mates’ beers before a bartender can haul her out the door.

At its core, it’s a joke about the gendered double standard that lauds the marks of rough, ripened age in men but scorns them in women. But the sketch undercuts itself. Unlike the august reserve of The Most Interesting Man, The World’s Most Interesting Woman’s iconic past adventures—besting a snake at poker, plotting military strategy with fellow generals, playing the trumpet at Bobby Kennedy’s funeral—contrast with her current desperate bids for attention. Flashing her décolletage, grasping at her companions, guzzling indiscriminately from glasses of beer, she’s the definition of thirsty. It starts as a joke on the culture that scorns her, but ends laughing at her. The voiceover and chyron announcing “Clementine Hospice Care. For women who lived like men” restates the theme too late.

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The obligatory yogurt-commercial parody (yogurt is, after all, the official food of women) is similarly double-edged. Three women dig into their yogurt, chatting about how it appeases their desire for actual desserts and keeps their bowels working. Then Schumer reveals the additional benefit of her favorite brand: Yo-Puss “makes your pussy taste like nothing!”

Again, it starts as a joke on a culture that polices and reviles women’s bodies, with Rebecca Naomi Jones’ smiling follow-up question (“I won’t taste like hot summer Chinatown garbage anymore?”) and the voiceover’s promise that eating vats of their product will permanently remove “the unpleasant and unfair taste.” But the increasingly debasing descriptions become as unpalatable as Rachel Dratch’s grimace makes that five-gallon tub of plain yogurt look. Doubling down on the word “rancid” doesn’t help; neither does Jones’ zinger comparing vaginas to assholes.

Another vagina, a different kind of assholes: The episode’s most incisive sketch shows Schumer waiting for her annual Pap smear, only to find her gynecologist has been replaced by four Congressmen. Their increasingly accusatory questions reek of revulsion, ignorance, and outrage. Reg E. Cathey, failing to comprehend how a sexually active 34-year-old woman remains childless, is a portrait of cresting frustration. “And how many children do you have?!,” he persists, finally booming it at the top of his incredible voice. Another Congressman (Rick Crom) responds to every clarification with an emphatic “ew,” until he breaks and bellows “We’re not the ones on trial here!” For most of its run, it’s a note-perfect, brilliantly escalated indictment of politicians trying to wrest control over reproductive health from the hands of women and doctors. But even this strong sketch ends abruptly, feeling unfinished.

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It’s an uneven episode, but there’s brilliance in the details and timing, like Schumer fiddling at her crotch for an extra beat while her friends wait to test Yo-Puss’ claims, or Dratch going back for a second taste. Miranda’s quiet, immediate extinguishing of excitement speaks volumes, and there’s a startling reveal that Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson has been standing by quietly in costume, ready to provide percussion accompaniment to Amy’s makeshift performance. All the sketches are well-produced, well-cast, and well-acted, but most are disappointingly underwritten, unfocused, or repetitive.

“Are you going to bring it?” Schumer hisses when Inside Amy Schumer writer Kim Caramele (and Schumer’s real-life sister) fails to wow Miranda with her reluctant performance as Betsy Ross’ nemesis. “Because right now, you’re wasting everyone’s time.” As this episode played out, I found myself looking at the screen the way Lin-Manuel Miranda looks at Amy Schumer: with unchecked enthusiasm turning to wariness, then tested patience, and finally exhaustion.

As Phillipa Soo’s Eliza Schuyler Hamilton says of her husband, I don’t pretend to know the challenges Amy Schumer is facing, the worlds she keeps erasing and creating in her mind. “The World’s Most Interesting Woman In The World” is a slightly above-average, occasionally insightful collection of sketches, but “slightly above-average” is damning with faint praise. In three seasons, the show has provided penetrating examinations of double standards, experimented boldly with its format, and repeatedly crafted immaculate pop-culture parodies. Inside Amy Schumer has a chance to cement its legacy as the fourth season opens, but with the laxness of “The World’s Most Interesting Woman In The World,” it is throwing away its shot.

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Stray observations

  • Welcome to season four of Inside Amy Schumer! I’m taking over weekly reviews from Caroline Framke, and Kate Knibbs before her. As Reg E. Cathey cautions Amy Schumer before “the vagina-y part”: “Remember, even though we’re doing this, we are not your boyfriend.
  • Speaking of vaginas (knowing Inside Amy Schumer, we will often be speaking of vaginas), Schumer’s bar-side interview is of Pramala, her long-time waxer. Maybe because Pramala seems bemused, maybe because it’s uncouth to ask about her other clients, they talk less about Pramala’s long experience and more about Schumer herself: whether her taint and her occasional physical responses to hot wax are typical, whether people ask what Schumer’s undercarriage looks like.
  • Mia Jackson has a killer answer to “What movie best describes your vagina?”: “The Color Purple.”

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