It’s hard to mention Amy Schumer’s name these days without getting at least some form of recognition in response. Or, if you’ve suddenly found yourself a hard-core fan, your friends have grown tired of you constantly bringing up her name and achievements in casual conversation as if she is part of your inner circle.
There’s been a lot of press surrounding Amy Schumer in recent months, whether it’s praise for her first feature film Trainwreck, her subversive feminist sketches or her truly excellent tumble on the red carpet in front of a scowling Kanye West, 2015 is quickly transforming into the year of Schumer. Although she has been performing stand-up for years, it wasn’t until the launch of her own comedy series Inside Amy Schumer that her irreverent humour finally became readily accessible to a broader audience.
Inside Amy Schumer premiered on Comedy Central on April 30th, 2013. If you aren’t familiar with the premise, the series combines sketches, one-on-one and street interviews with Schumer, as well as clips from her own stand-up comedy. Schumer is featured in all of her sketches, with the support of a rotating crop of actors and some seriously awesome cameos. The different segments of the show are often loosely connected to one overarching theme of the episode; Season three’s “Babies and Bustiers” critiques beauty pageants with its incredible parody of Toddlers & Tiaras, while Schumer uses her stand-up to point out the futility of insane pageant questions like, “how would you solve ISIS?”.
When I first began my binge-watch of Inside Amy Schumer, it took several episodes before I was able to warm up to the series. While I immediately adored Schumer’s frank, witty and self-deprecating discussion of herself, relationships, body image and her sex life in the stand-up excerpts of the series, the sketches felt a lot flatter. Comedy skits will generally aim for easy laughs, and as such, many can be either hit or miss – as any dedicated SNL fan will tell you.
Season one features a number of over-the-top or gross-out sketches that fail to showcase just how insightful Schumer can be. Mind you, they still bring laughs, but Schumer’s stand-up carries most of the season. There is a definite shift in season two, where sketches are sharper. The series begins experimenting more and more with parodies (“The Foodroom” is a near-perfect depiction of any Aaron Sorkin TV show and equally hilarious) and sketches that further exaggerate the “self-important white girl” stereotype that Amy clearly loves to play for laughs, see: “I’m so Bad”.
Although the first twenty episodes feature heavy feminist undertones, the stellar third season of Inside Amy Schumer is absolutely remarkable for the social commentaries that are threaded through every episode.
The season kicks off with one of my favourite episodes, “Last Fuckable Day” and guest stars the legendary Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Patricia Arquette as they employ Amy to help celebrate Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ “last fuckable day” as an actress. Aside from it being an absolute treat to see these four women share a scene together, the sketch goes to hilarious lengths to highlight Hollywood’s sexism and hypocrisy. The same episode also sees Schumer tackle rape culture in a spot on a Friday Night Lights spoof alongside Josh Charles. These are well-treaded topics, but Inside Amy Schumer excels at putting its own spin on broaching these societal issues. Inside Amy Schumer doesn’t preach, because every time Amy challenges taboos or gender stereotypes, it is first and foremost served with a heavy dose of humour.
The series’ high is almost undoubtedly “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer”, a sketch that runs for eighteen and a half minutes and satirises the 1950’s play and film 12 Angry Men, but instead of twelve jurors debating the innocence of a teenager accused of murder, they are debating whether Amy Schumer is hot enough to appear on TV. There might only be a handful of television episodes worthy of the term “masterpiece”, but I can say with absolute confidence that “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer” is one of them.
Co-directed and co-written by Schumer, the scene is shot entirely in black and white like the film it imitates, and features stunning performances from the likes of John Hawkes, Jeff Goldblum, Paul Giamatti, Vincent Kartheiser and Dennis Quaid. Dildos appear as if from nowhere and phrases like “reasonable chub” are thrown around while reasonable doubt is cast over their small minded beliefs. Most importantly, “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer” directly addresses the critique Amy Schumer has endured since her series first aired and continues into the release of Trainwreck; “She’s not protagonist hot”. It exposes these ignorant, ill-informed opinions as the buffoonery they are; “It’s an undisputed fact that a woman’s value is mostly determined by her looks”, “As it should be”. Oh, and the episode just happens to be really fucking funny too.
It’s hardly a surprise that this episode was nominated for multiples Emmys this year or that Inside Amy Schumer recently won a Peabody award. Schumer has joked that she didn’t know what this award was when she won it, or that she was the least important person at the Time Magazine 100 Most Influential People awards. Amy Schumer has been condemned for her crude humour or simply labelled as a “sex comic”, but these comments only sell her talent short. Her recurring joke, “A guy could come on stage and literally pull his dick out and people would be like, ‘He’s a thinker!’”, is as maddeningly accurate as it is hilarious. Amy Schumer isn’t afraid to call society on its bullshit standards and has proved herself to be an immense influence in the entertainment industry and to her fans. I couldn’t be prouder to call myself one of them.
In the days leading up to the national release of Trainwreck, (if you haven’t done so already) I’d suggest beginning your love affair with this comedienne by watching Inside Amy Schumer right from the start.