"Ready for dinner"
Amy Schumer’s new sketch comedy show “Inside Amy Schumer” begins tonight on Comedy Central, a female-centric take on bro-comedy, raunchy and dedicated to exploring the ways girls can be crazy. Her persona combines Whitney Cummings’ bawdiness and Mindy Kaling’s entitlement with a self-proclaimed slutty streak (“I am sluttier than your average bear,” she proclaims), a familiar combination that feels original only in flashes. Schumer is sharper than her material.
In one sketch, Schumer plays a girl who starts to plan a wedding with a one-night stand who barely knows her name, going so far as to buy them side-by-side funeral plots. A clueless woman behaving insanely because she’s so desperate for a relationship is both an easy target and an archetype we’ve seen before. (In another sketch, Schumer sits on the couch stuffing pasta in her face, sending unsexy text messages to a dude who gets off anyway. If I never have to see a fictional woman stuffing carbs into her face, it will be too soon.) But Schumer adds a grace note at the very end that should have been the focus of the whole bit: The woman in question is totally unflappable, unperturbed when the guy doesn’t know who she is, moving on immediately to the next dude. She’s not just pathetic, she’s also obliviously overconfident.
This sort of blithe self-satisfaction is a big part of Schumer’s sketch humor. In the best sketch of the first two episodes, Schumer plays a horror show of self-involvement. Three characters share traumatic experiences for a show called “I Endured …” Michael Showalter plays a man whose arms have been pecked off by owls at the Harry Potter theme park; another man’s brother died after they went overboard on a Weezer cruise; Schumer suffered through … a standard airplane flight. “In a 9/11-like twist they didn’t have any chardonnay,” she says, her voice cracking, “and they offered me a pinot!”
In contrast, Schumer’s stand-up, which is threaded throughout the episode, is not ditzy at all, but explicit and matter-of-fact. Schumer riffs only on sex and sex-related subjects, including her familiarity with plan B and her pharmacist’s judgment, women’s lack of interest in having their boyfriends cum on their faces, and how all women have been “a little raped.” (“There’s a gray area of rape,” she says. “It’s not just black and white. Grape happens.”) She is blonde and baby-faced and she gets mileage out of the juxtaposition of her sweet looks and her blue material, a disjunction that has been used to even more startling effect by Sarah Silverman. The poster for “Inside Amy Schumer” (and that title should definitely be read as dirty) has her smiling, seemingly unaware of the fact that her breasts are hanging out of her dress.
“Inside Amy Schumer” also mixes in lackluster man-on-the-street interviews, usually related to a sketch (“Have you ever had a one night stand?” etc.), as well as a longer interview with a real person, first a model and then a stripper. Why a model and a stripper? “Inside Amy Schumer” has a problem not dissimilar to that of lady blogs across the Internet, which begin with the goal of having women write about any and every subject, and slowly, self-selectingly narrow their purview to “women’s subjects.” Schumer can do anything she wants, but she’s curated her sketches and interviews to be about “female” topics, and not just any “female” topics, but ones that could appeal to Comedy Central’s male audience — thus the model and the stripper and the sketches about sex and crazy chicks, Two Girls One Cup, and a Hooters reimagined as a Nutters. Schumer obviously prides herself on being straightforward and edgy, but she’s inadvertently narrowed “Inside Amy Schumer’s” scope.
Willa Paskin is Salon's staff TV writer.More Willa Paskin.