INSIDE AMY'S BRILLIANCE
Amy Schumer Is the Comedic Genius We’ve All Been Waiting For
Season 3 of Inside Amy Schumer is brashly feminist, timely, intelligent, and maybe the funniest thing on TV right now. If nothing else, it’s the most important. Here’s why.
The title of the third season premiere of Inside Amy Schumer, comedian Amy Schumer’s Comedy Central sketch show that just won a freaking Peabody Award, is “Last F**kable Day.”
You know what those asterisks are hiding.
“Last F**kable Day”! A Peabody! Guys, girls, and people tired of the bullshit task of classifying comedy by the gender it purportedly appeals to more: Amy Schumer is the comedy genius we’ve been waiting for. (Yes, all of us.) The start-to-finish comedic middle finger—carefully manicured with a nice coat of erudite perspective—that is Tuesday night’s premiere of Inside Amy Schumer, that is “Last F**kable Day,” confirms it.
Framed with four searing, impeccably crafted sketches and punctuated with what might just be the most illuminating interview with a trans woman that has ever aired on television, the Inside Amy Schumer premiere was, well, everything.
It was modern. It was feminist in a way that was both matter-of-fact and in-your-face important. It was a response to the idea that women aren’t funny, while also ambivalent of the conversation altogether. It was an episode blanketed with gender-specific comedy, but with a reach that was universal. It shamed our biases, our titillations, and our idiocy, and at the same time celebrated those very things.
No comedy series “says something” with as much authority and essential humor. And it all started with a song about pooping.
The opening to the Inside Amy Schumer premiere was a music video mocking the big cultural “moment”—for the love of god—that the ass seemed to have this past year. So brilliantly styled to look like one of those culturally appropriating pop videos that spoof hip-hop videos (think “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift or “Hard Out Here” by Lily Allen), the song begins with Schumer rapping with a bit of glee about how her booty is en vogue. The guys all love her butt!
Then the lyrics elucidate exactly what it is these guys love. In one glorious, disgusting, and fetish-skewering shot, a chorus line of backup dancers bend over in bathroom stalls and begin popping their bums as Schumer repeats over and over, “This is where my poo comes out.” She then begins chanting, “This is what you think is hot,” in repetition until it finally builds to a question: You think this is hot?
The point of the sketch, and of most of Schumer’s sketches, is to present the most asinine (heh) instincts of human nature, particularly in the way we talk and think about women, and then conclude it with a grand, “Seriously?”
But this isn’t the diary of an angry woman, or a Vagina Monologues by way of Comedy Central. Schumer isn’t scolding us or punishing us or even venting. She’s quietly—albeit more loudly and cutting this season than in the previous two—pointing out our hypocrisy when it comes to gender. We’re a culture of contradiction, particularly when it comes to women’s issues, and she’s saying, first, let’s laugh at it. Then maybe we’ll do something about it.
Take the premiere’s second sketch, a tonally on-point spoof of Friday Night Lights, called Football Town Nights. It stars Josh Charles as a Texas town’s new high school football coach. (Schumer stars as his wife, whose wine glass gets bigger and her Connie Britton drawl get thicker as the sketch goes on, y’all.)
Charles tells his teenage squad that he’s going to be doing things differently. There’s going to be a no-huddle offense. Two-a-day practices are mandatory. And there will be no raping.
“But we play football!” one player cries. The rest of the squad chimes in: “But we play football!” “What if she thinks it’s rape, but I don’t?” “What about at away games?” “What if my mom is the DA and won’t prosecute, can I rape?” The town begins to bully the coach for taking something away from the players that they need.
As dangerous and often insufferable as it is to call comedy “commentary,” this is the highest form of it. It comments on how ludicrous the permissiveness of football culture has become. It’s a tricky topic area, spotlighting the talent of the writers on this show. It’s in no way insensitive. It’s in every way hilarious. And it makes a goddamned point. Again, seriously?
There’s also a danger when comedy gets preachy, which in lesser hands is exactly where the night’s marquee sketch, “Last F**able Date,” could’ve gone. But with Schumer at the pulpit, it has you standing in the pews, hand to god, busting a gut at her gospel.
Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Patricia Arquette (!!!) are picnicking in a meadow. Louis-Dreyfus recognizes Schumer. “Are you that girl from the television who talks about her pussy all the time? Come talk about your pussy over here!” (Schumer is nothing if not self-aware of the misconceptions about her comedy.)
As it turns out, the group is gathered to toast Louis-Dreyfus’s Last F**kable Day. It’s the day in the media’s eye where an actress reaches a point that she’s just not sexually desirable anymore. Remember when Sally Field played Tom Hanks’s love interest in Punchline? And then six years later in Forrest Gump played his mother? Hers was somewhere in that frame.
What follows is brilliance—a screed on the state of Hollywood that you’d imagine these women gathered have been raging to get off their chests for years. It’s a come-to-Jesus about the way the industry treats actresses over the age of 40, and one that is so carefully written and absolutely hilarious that it could be the thing that finally makes a difference.
Another bit mocks the hoops women must jump through to attain birth control—Schumer’s character is forced to ask her doctor, her boss, her boss’s priest, a Boy Scout, and everyone on her social media network to approve—while all a child has to do is walk up to a counter and ask for a gun to be given one. “Remember, that’s your right,” the little boy is told.
And Schumer’s interview with trans woman Bailey Jay is the most informative, clarifying, and humanizing interview with a trans person I’ve ever seen on screen. By the time it’s done, you’re convinced that Schumer might just be able to fix the world, once she gets us all laughing with her. (That is what a Peabody gives you, right? The power to save the world?)
Talking about Inside Amy Schumer is always interesting. It’s brashly feminist in a way that’s not afraid of how potentially didactic and off-putting that label might sound. And any of its feminism is so deeply rooted in authentic experience and acute observation, and laced with such irresistible humor, that the messages it sends are universally received. It’s not “for us” or “to make them think.” It’s not lady humor, or narrow, or ever—not once—something that guys wouldn’t enjoy.
It’s gender-specific comedy, sure. But beyond that, it points out injustices or hypocrisies or hilariously ridiculous points of view that we’re probably all well aware that we’re guilty of having, and have been looking for a way to confront. Laughter, it turns out, helps.
There’s this thing these days where a celebrity must be super cool and chill and quippy. Whereas it used to be that we idolized actors we wanted to be, now the ultimate score for a celebrity is to be someone we want to be best friends with. Schumer is something completely different, and better. She’s too smart to ever want to hang out with me or you, and too original for any of us to ever properly fill her shoes.
More, outside of Inside Amy Schumer, she’s a delight—something that’s all the more remarkable considering that she never actually stops saying something important. Or at least goofily groundbreaking.
She flashed her “vagina” to Dave Letterman, probably the first time that word has been uttered on that show. She repeated a bit on Ellen—and for good measure, it’s one of her best ones—about going to Los Angeles to film her upcoming movie, Trainwreck, and confusing everyone in Hollywood by not conforming to their body ideals. She made an entire sketch about female masturbation on the MTV Movie Awards. This girl!
Schumer’s been labeled the sex comedian, and she talks about sex. But it’s more that she confronts sex, and mocks sex, and normalizes sex in a way that a female comedian hasn’t been allowed to do without being ghettoized as the raunchy sex comic. She’s proven that she’s so much more than that, and that having to prove that she is in the first place is bullshit.
There were rumors that Comedy Central seriously, seriously wanted her to host The Daily Show, but she wisely passed to continue making beautiful non-gender-specific-lady-comedy-magic on Inside Amy Schumer. Thank god.
This show is genius. She is genius. Better yet, we suspect we’ve only begun to explore what’s inside her.