The first thing I think of, when I think of “Inside Amy Schumer,” is a peculiar conversation I overheard this March, where I found myself on a beach of spring breakers. I’d spent the day overhearing the sophomores from Michigan State to my right talk about the boys at Pi Kappa Alpha (“PIKE!”) and the co-ed group of physician’s-assistant trainees behind me do shots as they giggled over the exact, urban dictionary definition of “truffle butter.” None of it was particularly relevant to me, but it was all fascinating—I’m many years removed from college gossip.
Then, over to my left, a shirtless guy wearing shades and ignoring the sparkling waters of the Gulf Coast to look at his phone said something that did interest me. Did you see, he said to his friends, that Hannibal Buress is getting his own show on Comedy Central? His friends, and he himself, and me, 20 feet away, all agreed: Awesome news. They went on to discuss how great Buress is in “Broad City.” He’s the best part of that show, a friend said. The rest of that show, I don’t know. It’s too weird. The first guy responded. “Dude: Chicks aren’t funny.” “Chicks aren’t funny,” the friend responded in agreement. Then he turned to the girl sitting on the cooler next to him, a blonde in a bikini who had not, so far, joined in the conversation. “You’re kind of funny, sometimes. But chicks aren’t funny.”
This was a conversation stripped of context, bent through my subjective experience, and absolutely unverifiable by a third party. Maybe they were all being deeply ironic. But that line, “chicks aren’t funny,” was seared into my brain. It’s an argument that you can’t reason with; you can’t get around it, you can’t dig into it. I had no heroic comebacks in the moment, and I don’t have any retorts now.
But Amy Schumer, I realized, watching the first three episodes of the show’s upcoming third season, is responding. And her return volleys are devastating, brilliant—and yes, hilarious. More so than the many other brilliant female comedians at work today, Schumer is directing her work at the notion of “chicks aren’t funny,” making her humor both about that and a response to that. “Inside Amy Schumer” is a show very aware that men are watching—and one that works to first capture the attention of that assumed male gaze and then take it to unlikely, unsettling extremes.
The best example of this is probably the very first scene of the premiere, “Last F**kable Day,” which features Schumer and a host of hip-hop performers (including Amber Rose and Method Man!) in what looks, at first, like one of those music videos that parodies hip-hop videos (Lily Allen’s “For A Bitch” or Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” are good examples). The ladies are scantily clad, in gold lamé and spandex; butts are being jiggled with abandon. But the lyrics are a little less sexy. “This is where my poop comes out,” Schumer raps, as asses gyrate on-screen. “’Round the corner, fudge is made.” Toilet-paper confetti streams down from the ceiling onto the dancers as she raps the figurative money shot: “This is what you think is hot.” You could read it as a question—maybe it is a question—but it’s also delivered with the assurance of fact.
In this third season, “Inside Amy Schumer”’s satire is sharper than ever, taking the contradictions of our world’s approach to gender and pushing them to the farthest logical extent. She’s not angry—or if she is, it’s buried under a far more effective approach, a mixture of incredulity, curiosity, and a refusal to disappear quietly. Schumer is also pulling a fantastic battery of guest stars into the show—including, in the first few episodes, Josh Charles, Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jeff Goldblum, John Hawkes, and Paul Giamatti. It makes for extraordinary talent packed into imaginative, surreal sketches—think “Saturday Night Live,” but shorter, crisper, and on location.
On top of drawing high-caliber talent and perfecting a voice, though, the third season is also comfortable enough to take fascinating risks. The season’s third episode, “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer,” is an episode-long sketch, one that doesn’t even nod to the theme music of the show until the very end. It’s a parody of the iconic drama “12 Angry Men,” faithfully rendered in black-and-white—but I don’t want to say more than that. Suffice to say that it is astonishing, in scope and execution, and also, by the way, laugh-out-loud hilarious. It’s the perfect sentiment, too, for the show; Schumer’s comedy is directed at those unimpressed, dour men. Eleven of them have already made up their minds, but if one—just one—is willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, then maybe the tide can turn.