Amy Schumer is just as profane as any man, woman, or drunk robot on Comedy Central. Her new sketch-comedy show, Inside Amy Schumer, finds her auditioning for a role in the porn video “2 Girls 1 Cup” and dragging friends to O’Nutters, a male version of Hooters that features waiters in crotch-hugging outfits. But she’s not just another one of those hot, dirty “guy’s girl” types. Lately, too many of the talented funnywomen who’ve earned their own shows are trying a little too hard to appeal to men, always professing their love of rape jokes and threesomes and Philly cheesesteaks and openmouthed burping — even though most of them are so skinny, they look like they don’t eat human food, much less burp. (Sorry, Sarah Silverman, Chelsea Handler, Whitney Cummings, and anyone else mentioned in trend pieces about “edgy” comediennes.) Many of these women are what the writer Gillian Flynn calls “the Cool Girl” type: Watching them perform, you’re not so much looking at a real person as a character, one that has been dreamed up by a woman who “watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them,” as Flynn put it in her novel Gone Girl. When a Cool Girl tells a cruel joke about other women, she makes all the other Cool Girls in the audience laugh, because, obviously, these jokes aren’t about them — they’re about those other bitches, who totally deserve it. In other words, Cool Girls aren’t that cool.
But Schumer isn’t like that. Her comedy has always been what some women might call FUBU: for us, by us. You might recognize her as the tipsy blonde who warned Adam not to hurt his new girlfriend on Girls. (“That would be like hurting Mother Theresa,” she said. “Except Mother Theresa didn’t blow my cousin.”) But most people know her as the woman who beat a ton of older, more experienced men for fourth place on season 5 of Last Comic Standing. (The other contestants underestimated this adorable, Kewpie-Doll-faced 25-year-old, so she kept winning over and over again.) Six years later, she’s mixing sketches with stand-up and “woman on the street” interviews, creating the rare comedy show with a writers’ room that’s populated largely by women, including former SNL scribe Jessi Klein and Tig Notaro, whose battle with cancer inspired a very brave stand-up gig last year. (Louie C.K. called it “one of the greatest stand-up performances I ever saw.”) Some scenes feel so true, they’ll make you cringe. One skit follows the morning after a one-night stand: Schumer is already sampling wedding cakes, while the guy she hooked up with has forgotten about her so quickly that he’s busy masturbating to the Italian matron on his bottle of Hefty Mama tomato sauce. Another skit features Schumer exchanging some totally inept text messages with a guy she used to date. “What are you wearing right now?” the guy asks. She’s wearing the least sexy thing you could imagine: a kitten T-shirt. Unsure how to reply, she types out the world’s most awkward response: “My tit.” “Whaddya want me to do to you?” he responds. Her answer? “Tell me I’m safe in my apartment.” Lady, we feel you.
The best running joke here is that women always remain so bubbly and eager to please, even in the most humiliating circumstances. (The fact that Schumer kind of looks like junior overachiever Marcia Brady from The Brady Bunch just makes that theme funnier.) Take the bit where she hires a consultant to make her sexy iPhone photos look more attractive. (“Smile like you don’t have Spanx on!” he tells her.) Or check out the stand-up routine where she gives the women in the crowd a hard time for dressing up so nicely for their dates. “Guys are f—ing gross,” she tells them. “If you saw a lineup of the grossest chicks that a guy would f—, you would be blown away. You probably stepped over her to get in this place tonight.” If this show has a message, it’s that we’re all trying too hard, Cool Girls and girl’s girls alike.
There’s something communal about Schumer’s approach to comedy. It’s not just about punchlines. It’s about conversations. And she makes the women around her seem funnier, just by letting them in on the joke. Some of the best moments happen when she’s interviewing people, inspiring the type of real talk you don’t often get to hear once you’ve outgrown the girls’ locker room. “Physically, on a scale of 1 to 10, where do you think you rank?” Schumer asks a model in the first episode. “A seven,” the women responds. “Really?” Schumer gasps. “That’s so sad, because I think I’m a seven.” They debate whether naked photos of manly bits are sexy (“It’s hilarious, but you’re not like, ‘Oh my god, look at this… I wish it were in my body,'” insists Schumer) and they discuss male models. “Honestly, they’re so out of my reach that they don’t even register as attractive to me,” says Schumer. So true!
She only laughs at others occasionally: During one interview, she asks a stripper, “Does your boyfriend have a pencil beard?” But most of the women she talks to are laughing right along with her. You can almost hear them thinking, We’re in this together, kitten T-shirt lady. God help us all. A
Inside Amy Schumer premieres tonight at 10:30 p.m. ET on Comedy Central.
Melissa on Twitter: @MsMelissaMaerz