It’s no small feat to stand out on an episode that features Missi Pyle as a gynecologist whose bland smile never falters as she lists off increasingly bizarre expressions for the vagina, Bridget Everett enlisting an audience member in her unabashed anthem to her own pussy, Questlove effortlessly upstaging Amy Schumer, and Schumer herself diving awkwardly onto a pile of exercise balls.

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But in “Everyone For Themselves,” a recurring Inside Amy Schumer performer does just that. Grace Edwards, seen in “Brave” as the office worker braving her colleagues’ submerged racism, brings bubbly energy to the episode-opening commercial for Shhhh-snacks. Her face brims with pleasure as she sits in a bathroom stall, shoveling in the specially branded silent chips of shame-eaters, and her “Just silently pooping!” has just the right blend of faux-cheerfulness and anxiety.

“Just silently pooping!” (Grace Edwards) (Photo: Comedy Central)

But it’s the birthing group sketch where Edwards really steals the show. Trying to distract her class from the prospect of their babies being assholes, the instructor (IAS writer Tami Sagher) invites them to discuss other fears. Edwards’ blurted “bats” seems like a non sequitur, a single laugh line. Instead, it’s a swerve in the writing—a swerve that works because all the performers keep both the comedy beats and the tension of this premise taut.

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Inside Amy Schumer has an undeniable star (with undeniable star power), but its ability to share the wealth with guest stars and recurring players makes the whole show stronger. Everyone gets a good line in the birthing class. Schumer and her partner worry not about alienation of postpartum depression, but that their baby will “have a shit vibe.” Other class members chime in with similar worries: What if the baby can’t hang? What if it hangs, like, too much? “And what if he does something totally unforgivable, like rape or DJing?” But it’s the bat tangent that opens this up from a funny premise into a truly bizarre, weirdly winning one, and it hinges on Edwards’ earnest intensity.

Sagher gets her own moment in the spotlight as she acknowledges that their fears are entirely justified: Their babies will be assholes and pieces of shit, because (she adds in a sappy, inspirational tone) they are pieces of shit. The focus of this sketch bounces around the room like a well-volleyed ball, or like the bat that circles the group at the end. “Everyone for themselves!” Schumer yells, diving for safety.

That’s the episode title, and it’s the exact opposite of the show’s approach to ensemble work, which is especially evident in this outing. The gynecologist sketch doesn’t really land for me, but Missi Pyle’s amiable instructions got me laughing. Schumer’s embarrassed under-reaction reinforces the effect of Pyle’s unfailing professional smile as she rattles off “sausage wallet” and “lizard mouth,” so her string of grotesque euphemisms gets funnier as she goes on.

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Missi Pyle, Grace Edwards, Bridget Everett biting that whipped cream cap off the canister and spitting it into the crowd, Kim Caramele extolling the virtues of increasingly noncommittal, increasingly expensive levels of a dating app: Even when the individual sketches aren’t great, the performers all get a chance to shine, with Schumer taking quieter (often confused or reluctant) roles.

As Tanya Chambers, reality-show snake doctor, Claudia O’Doherty is brazen, cocksure, and thoroughly inept. Her show consists of doleful prognoses intercut with the cheerful, simplistic announcement, “I fixed your snake!” She ignores her guests’ grief and concerns and focuses on her own appetites (for food or for men). She’s fearless with snakes, but both terrified by and ignorant of other reptiles, knocking Amy’s beloved lizard Lizzie to the ground with a scream and condemning her as a “leg-snake.” (“Lizards are a myth,” the snake doctor tells the camera.) She “fixes” Lizzie through brutal surgery. “I cut off ’is legs, and now he’s just head, tummy, tail, snake.” She’s appalling and hilarious, a riff on reality shows more interested in mawkish drama, sexual tension, and simplistic resolutions than in, well, reality.

Even the segment that seems to showcase Schumer is all about letting someone else steal the spotlight—in this case, without them saying a word. Opening a live segment reminiscing about Rita Moreno singing “Fever” on The Muppet Show, Schumer gives herself a chance “to live out this dream.” Schumer’s no Rita Moreno—not many people are—but she croons out the steamy standard with decent command. Then the performance really begins. This is more than just a star indulging herself and not quite a recreation of The Muppet Show’s gag. The band’s steadfast, deadpan performance underlines Schumer’s hesitations and mumblings. It’s a paradox: By putting herself center stage, she upstages herself thoroughly, and to good effect.

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Stray observations

  • Shhhh-snacks fill the void left by: “your parents, your mom, your dad, both your parents, your bottomless sad love life, your less-than-great hair, and all magazines.”
  • Kim Caramele’s wordless assent to Edwards’ “Just silently pooping!” is a great reaction.
  • Also great is IAS writer Christine Nangle, both as the mom frantically eating conventionally noisy chips and as the It’s Just A Quick What’s Up user, grimacing in self-reproach as she bungles her response: “How’s it—what’s up?”
  • “She’s been very weak. She hasn’t been moving much lately.” “Ugh, you should’ve gotten a snake, they wiggle all over the place!”
  • Sagher: “I think we’re getting into bat territory again and I want to steer us away from that—” Edwards, whispering: “Like a bat.”

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