One of the underlying aspects of Amy Schumer’s comedy is that she fully embraces being a hot mess, to varying degrees of “hot” and “mess.” But if you tuned into the Season 4 premiere of “Inside Amy Schumer” last week, mess overwhelmed hot.
Like all sketch comedy shows, not every piece on the Comedy Central series is as strong as the others. But “The World’s Most Interesting Woman In the World” was swing-and-a-miss after swing-and-a-miss. The specific use of baseball terminology is key, because it’s not like any of these sketches were conceptually bad or lazy. The show tried. The bits just didn’t work.
One particularly embarrassing blunder stands out because of the inherent potential. Schumer, who has proclaimed her love of the Broadway hit “Hamilton” repeatedly on social media, brought in the hip-hop musical’s star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, for an extended cameo as himself. However, unlike other attempts to capture the magic of Miranda’s musical on television, Schumer’s “Betsy Ross” parody was alienating, not inclusive, to anyone hadn’t actually seen the play or memorized all of Miranda’s American history raps.
Also, running at nearly six minutes (way too long), the comedy largely revolved around Schumer performing silly dances and trying to get Miranda’s attention. It’s a format “Inside” utilizes a lot, pairing Schumer with a major star and having them play off each other. When they connect, it works. When the game of the scene is that they’re not connecting, it falls apart.
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The disappointment of Episode 1 might lead you to wonder if Schumer’s intense year of success had compromised the show’s integrity. Fortunately, Episodes 2 and 3 of this season are sharp, focused and funny as hell.
Episode 3, “Brave,” which airs a week from today, is rich with the show’s established skills at tackling issues of gender and sexuality. Sketches including one addressing the treatment of female characters in prestige dramas and a music video parody (a staple of the show) about women playing sexy in men’s clothes. The material should feel quite familiar to “Inside” fans, with plenty of relatable sparks.
Then there’s Episode 2, “Welcome to the Gun Show,” which is where the show really sharpens its knives. The majority of the episode may be the show’s most political yet, with multiple sketches addressing the issue of violence and gun control. Below, the episode’s cold open is brutal when it comes to taking on the lack of restrictions on who can acquire firearms. Note the list of real politicians who take donations from gun lobbies. Schumer isn’t kidding around here.
The resulting episode is an angry and vocal one, right up to the “Amy Goes Deep” interview portion, where Schumer sits down with a representative from the advocacy group “Everytown for Gun Safety.” The reason for this angle, as Schumer reminds the audience during one of the show’s established stand-up segments (which are fewer in number this year, so far) is that this cause is personal. (You may recall last year’s shooting at a movie theater which was showing her film “Trainwreck,” and the comedian’s subsequent press conference last August with New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, her cousin, about gun control.) The episode is “Inside Amy Schumer” operating at its most relevant and intelligent, while not pulling away from the show’s sensibilities.
To be clear, “Gun Show” and “Brave” aren’t at all pedantic — both include sketches that are far lighter and sillier, including a “Game of Thrones” riff that not only lets Schumer do some solid physical comedy with a horse, but uses David Spade in a way that’s not actively annoying. (Confession: I may not be a David Spade fan.) But when the show is at its best, it’s taking on serious issues — like the treatment of women online — through Schumer’s very specific and very funny point-of-view.
While Schumer isn’t the only creative voice involved with the show, it’s always been built around her personality and her persona. The degree to which it’s clear she cares has always been a major selling point. Between Seasons 3 and 4, Schumer became a bonafide movie star, but instead of treating “Inside” like a day job, she’s continuing to use it as a platform. Sometimes she strikes out, but she’s still got a hell of a swing.
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