Success can really fuck over a comedian. Take Amy Schumer, for instance. She rose to fame making jokes about dating stoned losers and having an ass. Now, a hit Comedy Central series and a Trainwreck later, she’s leaving $1,000 tips for bartenders and zipping off on Caribbean vacations with Jerry Seinfeld. She can even, in her words, “catch a dick any time” she wants, what with her reliable (and reliably handsome) carpenter boyfriend.
In other words: It’s become hard to believe that Schumer struggles. While it’s clear she does—she gets annoyed at magazines for using her body to perpetuate bad body images and doesn’t appear to love getting snapped by the paparazzi—it’s harder for something like Inside Amy Schumer, the show that arguably put her in the public eye, to really reflect both who Schumer is now and who her audiences want her to be.
That’s the trouble with the first two episodes of Inside’s fourth season, which premieres tomorrow night on Comedy Central. There are jokes about what it means to be an everyday woman, but they’re sprinkled in among jokes about what it must be like to be Amy Schumer, and it messes with the voice of the show. Schumer is no longer the girl in sweats sitting on the couch ordering Seamless, even if she actually does that all the time. Instead, in the show’s first two episodes, Schumer is self-defined as this Hollywood force, recruiting Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and Questlove to check out her cringeworthy hip-hopera about Betsy Ross before quizzing her longtime bikini waxer about what it’s like to come face to face with her celebrity genitalia. While in the past she flagged down people on the street for candid chats about sex and life, now she’s been condemned to quiz a bar full of her comedian friends, no doubt a victim of her own crowd-drawing success. Even the bits of stand-up Schumer does in the second episode, “Brave,” concern a nearly nude photo shoot she recently did with Annie Leibovitz, as well as the public’s reaction immediately afterward. It’s all just a big reminder that while she might be like the viewers at home in her heart, she’s no longer living our lives.
Though, jokes about famous people being famous can still be humorous, and it is funny to see Schumer perform awkward, horrible, extended raps at Miranda. But would the joke even exist if Schumer didn’t have access to Miranda? Or would a bit in the second episode about football players who have a fantasy regular people league—an idea that Hannibal Buress already did, and did better on his Comedy Central show, by the way—play if there weren’t recognizable football players like Vernon Davis and Michael Strahan willing to hone their acting chops on Schumer’s stage? It’s the classic chicken and egg quandary, only this time the egg is made by Fabergé.
Schumer still goes for the everywoman in other sketches, like one where she’s strapped into gynecological stirrups and facing down the fictional House Committee On Women’s Health or another where, alongside Rachel Dratch, she’s endorsing “Yo-Puss,” a yogurt “that makes your pussy taste like nothing.” As in past seasons of Inside, Schumer is adept at skewering gendered double standards, though nothing in either “Brave” or season premiere “The World’s Most Interesting Woman In The World” comes close to being as sharp or as original as past hits like “Milk, Milk, Lemonade” or “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer.” Instead of really going for the joke, digging in and pushing further like she did with the latter, for instance, she tosses off a few jokes about the lack of roles for women in the cold opener for “Brave,” a bit that happens to also include guests like Steve Buscemi, Laura Linney, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jennifer Hudson, and Julianne Moore. Granted, “12 Angry Men” was a full 22-minute episode and this is just one sketch, but still. There aren’t parts for women. We get it. It’s only a joke—a good joke, at least—if there’s something more. Tell us something we don’t know. Gyllenhaal juggling twin baby dolls while trying to use a phone and start a washing machine is a chuckle-inducting sight gag, but it seems a waste to not push it further, to not use those women to make a point, à la season three’s “Last Fuckable Day.”
These days, comedy series live on the strength of their individual sketches more than the depth of their overall episodes. If Key & Peele or Saturday Night Live can produce one bit that gets passed around the internet for the rest of the week and gets people talking, then that seems like a success. (Just look at Last Week Tonight, for crying out loud. The internet loves that show.) From what we’ve seen so far, Inside Amy Schumer’s fourth season doesn’t have that yet. That’s not to say it won’t happen, but so far, Schumer just feels a little thin.