“I really need to stop making so many white girls,” God tells Amy Schumer’s vapid character in “Would You Bang Her,” the confident first episode of Inside Amy Schumer’s second season. Based on how Schumer’s boilerplate entitled biddy acts, it’s hard to disagree with God’s assessment. Inside Amy Schumer examines why this breed of preening, privileged female exists, and how American culture encourages women to act like this and men to act like that. Schumer tells so many vagina jokes she makes Joan Rivers look like Ellen DeGeneres, but her sex-focused humor isn’t about boobs and butts for cheap laughs. References to boners and STDs arise from the comedian’s preoccupation with the way fuckability serves as a self-esteem totem for women, and the way expectations of gender performance can be crushing.
The season’s first sketch re-establishes Schumer’s pointy take on gender politics as the show’s backbone. In it, schlubby-looking male focus group members sit around as a Comedy Central employee asks them to rate Schumer’s show. Instead, they size up her looks.
“I appreciated how it had a sort of feminist bent on a male-skewing network,” one of the schlubs interjects (with what may have been the show’s initial elevator pitch). But he’s not done. “But I must say I would enjoy the routines more if she had like a 10 percent better dumper,” he looks around the table for affirmation, and the men nod. The Comedy Central employee joins in. “Downstairs better… OK, everyone agrees with that, right?”
The men rate Schumer’s looks with such specifically degrading comments that they made me wonder if they weren’t taken from actual audience feedback. As they scramble over their payment of beef jerky and energy drinks, the camera pans back to show Schumer watching the scene behind a two-way mirror. She looks horrified for a moment, but when the network employee comes to give her the results, she smirks into the camera, bolstered by the assessment that yes, some of the guys would bang her. This fictionalized version of Schumer might realize that it’s nonsense for a female artist to buy into this kind of superficial judgment, but realizing it doesn’t make her above it.
In the second sketch, Amy pleads with God (a perfectly exasperated Paul Giamatti) to get rid of her newly discovered herpes. This fictional version of Amy is basically #whitegirlproblems made flesh; Schumer sometimes plays with that aspect of her comedic persona in her stand-up, but sketches like this allow her to take the character even further down a road to hell paved with ignorance and Pop Chips.
The tennis sketch later in the episode, where Schumer plays a fictional version of Anna Kournikova called Amy Schumerenka, satirizes the way the media fawns over sexy female athletes regardless of their athletic ability. Schumerenka loses to a competent-but-unattractive opponent, but still gets showered with accolades and adoration, while the winner is criticized and ignored. It might’ve been one-note, but there are so many funny small details, like the former math teacher who brought her own snacks, or how the unsexy athlete is sponsored by ground beef, that it works. Schumer’s man-on-the-street interview following the sketch underlines how uncomfortably close to the truth this sketch is, as well: One guy seemingly automatically lists Kournikova as his favorite female athlete, another doubts that any female athlete can be attractive because “they’re all a little butchy.” Of course the interviews that make the cut are cherry-picked, but a real person voluntarily said that to Schumer recently.
Not every sketch works: The Schumer-as-docile-1950s-secretary sketch is both too long and not very funny. If the violent climax was meant to be cathartic, it didn’t work. But the next segment, a recurring bit called “Amy Goes Deep” where Schumer does barroom interviews, more than compensates for the episode’s weak portion. Right before closing the episode out with a final stand-up clip, Schumer talks to a pornography cameraman. Her friendly, down-to-earth interviewing style (which is also evident in her man-on-the-street scene) suggests that maybe the true heir to Johnny Carson isn’t one of the snappy white guys from SNL. Schumer can ask the most vulgar, prying questions and make them seem innocuous, and the genuine curiosity she exhibits here underscores how her navel-gazing, selfish comedic persona is just that: A persona adopted by an intelligent, thoughtful comedian. I’d welcome an entire show of Schumer conducting these interviews if it didn’t mean there’d be no time for sketches and stand-up.
Inside Amy Schumer’s tilted version of reality is as specific and grotesque as the lurid hyperkinetic TV-freak playground of Kroll Show, another second season sketch-based offering from Comedy Central. But its voice is distinct: While Nick Kroll’s show eviscerates celebrity culture, Schumer gives the way both women and men internalize gender norms a similarly brutal treatment. “Would You Bang Her” isn’t perfect, but it’s a strong opening episode that reaffirms Schumer’s position as the creator of the most pointedly feminist sketch comedy show yet.
- I’d like to hear a full-length version of “Shrimp U Been Prawn.”
- Glad they did a callback to the first season bit about Amy not caring that show writer (and extremely talented comedian) Tig Notaro had cancer, though I wish we could’ve seen Tig in this episode. More Tig!