As Comedy Central bulks up, it’s become so rich I can’t keep up. Almost all of the network’s original programming takes after The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, a funny person personally channeling his creativity into a medium-to-high concept. Since 2005, the network has gradually expanded—Stephen Colbert, Sarah Silverman, Demetri Martin, etc., two of whom notably graduated from The Daily Show—and now there’s Anthony Jeselnik’s loud talk show, Nick Kroll’s mindless reality channel-surfing, and Nathan Fielder’s budget business school. Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s sketch show is the closest to Inside Amy Schumer, although Amy isn’t remotely as interested in form. Both shows combine—you’ll never guess—stand-up and original sketches spun off from that stand-up material. And both focus centrally on demographic distinctions without their protagonists becoming ambassadors. Key and Peele are nerds as much as they are racial minorities, just as Amy Schumer’s persona is as dependent on selfish rich-girl entitlement as it is on shameless self-debasement, I mean, as it is on reacting to gender disparity.
That said, Inside Amy Schumer is loudly and proudly preaching sex-positivity and pointing out privilege. The gender-swapped Hooter’s sketch, in which Amy and some friends take a depressed guy to Nutter’s to cheer him up, is seared into my brain. The stand-up is all about sex and dating, the man-on-the-street interviews are basic cable’s answer to Real Sex, and the Amy Goes Deep segments typically focus on professions like stripping and dominatrix—uh—ing. The funniest sketches tend to stay on-point, like the underground service that helps you shoot glamorous naked not-quite-selfies. My personal favorite is probably the silent movie porno, in which two male producers cycle through It Girls as they attempt to out-slut one another to get ahead. It’s surprising how rare this stuff is on television. Say what you will about Sex And The City—I certainly never related—but all we have now are Chelsea Handler and vagina puns on a show about a muffin shop.
It seems to me that the gender focus slackened as the season wore on, but rewatching the pilot and now seeing tonight’s finale tells the opposite story. When Inside Amy Schumer premiered, it wasn’t at all clear that it would become so pointed. The “Two Girls, One Cup” sketch is only tangentially related—it’s mostly about Amy trying and failing to find some mitigating reason to debase herself for money and then doing it anyway—leaving the clingy hook-up sketch as the lone voice of gender studies, or something, and it’s basically an escalating, albeit not unrelatable, stereotype. Meanwhile, I still don’t know what was up with that Michael Showalter sketch about getting his arms eaten off by owls, although it does establish Amy’s habit of comparing her non-tragedies with the real misfortunes of others (see also: Tig Notaro’s cancer).
Similarly, I don’t know why the finale cedes so much time to Bridget Everett’s titty song, other than the obvious, but it reminds me of, say, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s athletic “Make ‘Em Laugh” rendition on Saturday Night Live, more interested in applause than laughs. And while I’m complaining, I’m not sure anyone needed two big jokes about the real victims of homophobia, the straight girls who fall for gay guys.
What saves that first sketch is the commitment, the weird little details of personal interaction between Amy and her boyfriend that ground the ridiculousness, and the comeuppance. Amy thought she wanted a two-guy threesome and ended up on the losing end, which happens a lot. It isn’t just SNL-style escalation, although Amy whipping out her phone at the end and playing a recording of him—“This feels so right with you, Phil! Phil, Phil, Phil, Phil! I’m penetrating Phil!”—works wonders. Then there’s the Cosmo sex-tip brainstorm session, which is that rare sketch made by Schumer’s performance. That dry, formidable, “Hmm, okay” style works wonders with such an over-the-top premise, and the sexless female revenge point is fun, too. Speaking of which, the ending goes too far into pain for me to consider the comedy, like the gun-waving scene in This Is the End. Personally, I was too busy wincing to see the humor, but at least in this case that’s kind of the point.
Like the “How Will This End?” game-show, in which women predict how their relationships are doomed, the magazine sketch begins with an obvious joke that seems to be at women’s expense—the sycophants contributing to the 35 sex-tips magazines and the silly girls who buy them, the pathetic women who can’t keep a man to save their lives—but flips them. I especially loved the relationship that was doomed because the guy wouldn’t let her have an abortion even after they’d broken up. “I would never pay child support, but I’m strongly pro-life. And don’t argue with me, because I’m not smart enough to defend my position.” It’s easy and broad and preaching to the choir, but the timing is delicious. It’s just too bad Inside Amy Schumer is over for the year, and there’s nothing to carry its torch in the off-season.
Episode grade: B
Season grade: B+
- The Love Tub sketch recalls SNL’s Rock Of Love riff with Amy Poehler as a gassy, one-legged contestant, but again, Schumer’s brash performance wrings every possible laugh out of the material.
- “What if you take a pumice stone, and you hold it over an open flame for, like, an hour, and then you gently grate it up and down his shaft?”