The signature comic gesture of Inside Amy Schumer has always been the reductio ad absurdum. Please forgive me for using a pedantic Latin phrase that I can only bring myself to type because it so perfectly captures what happens within any given Schumer sketch: a single cultural observation about gender is stretched past its logical limits until it snaps.
In the third season’s second episode, there are several such observations: Some “cool” women pretend to have more fun at strip clubs than they actually do, men tend to be lying when they say that women look good without makeup, women often feel invisible if they are not conventionally attractive, and women can be too supportive of freeloading boyfriends.
The sketches based on these observations end, in no particular order, with Amy looking like a deranged clown, burying a corpse, going into a coma, and becoming an anthropomorphic inflatable snowman—and if you can’t tell which conclusion matches up with which observation, therein lies the joy of Inside Amy Schumer. At the end of a sketch, you can retrace its steps but still be surprised by where it led.
All told, “Cool With It” is a bit of a letdown from last week’s star-studded premiere—which deviated from this formula more often—but it’s still a solid episode that puts the blueprint to good use.
The episode is bookended by a clever doll commercial parody and a semi-confrontational “Amy Goes Deep” interview with Noel Biderman, founder of the infidelity dating site Ashley Madison, but the sketches in between never quite reach the absurdist heights of, say, Julia Louis-Dreyfussmoking a cigar while rowing a boat.
The titular sketch follows Amy down the rabbit hole of feigned enthusiasm for a strip club outing with her male coworkers. Amy bobbing her head back and forth while chanting “shots, shots, shots” upon arrival is destined for the GIF treatment.
As far as female-led comedies’ depictions of strip clubs go, too, “Cool With It” is a step up from the Parks and Recreation episode in which Leslie claims she’d never go to a strip club because she’s a feminist and it’s leagues beyond the ever-moralistic Liz Lemon shouting “Let’s go see some naked daughters and moms!” before her own trip to a gentlemen’s club. This time around, the dancers are more disgusted by the female lead—who holds out bills for them between her teeth in order to prove just how “cool with it” she can be—than she is with them. If the sketch didn’t end up relying on the lazy and dehumanizing trope of the dead sex worker, it’d be a perfect skewering of one of heterosexuality’s more bizarre forms of peer pressure.
The highlight of the episode is a song that calls men out on their bluff when they claim that women look beautiful without cosmetics. Most directly, it’s a parody of One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful,” which includes the hollow lines “Don’t need makeup to cover up / Being the way that you are is enough.”
“Girl you don’t need makeup, you’re perfect when you wake up,” the fictional boy band sings, as they encourage Amy to wash her face. But they can’t change their minds fast enough when they see her unvarnished look.
“It’s like I tore up a shag carpet assuming there were hardwood floors underneath…” one of the guys starts to explain in a particularly inspired spoken word section of the song.
As a woman who is sometimes told that she looks “tired” or “sick” when she leaves the house without makeup, I found the whole number deeply gratifying.
Guest star Dennis Quaid knocking back a bottle of Pepto Bismol is the highlight of “Plain Jane, Plainclothes Detective,” a mock procedural in which Amy is literally invisible to the criminals she apprehends because she’s wearing a baggy hoodie with her hair up in a ponytail.
But the best traditional sketch of the week is saved for last. Recurring performer Kyle Dunnigan gives a truly nightmarish turn as a parasitic beatboxing boyfriend who is “almost off drugs” and only “a month from being divorced,” according to his much more put-together and—would you ever guess it—wealthier girlfriend. A beleaguered Amy puts up with him out of fear of disappointing him and on the promise of sex that never materializes.
“I want to so bad, but I need my mojo for my raps right now, you know that,” he tells Amy when she propositions him.
A final blooper reel of Schumer breaking character as Dunnigan raps in her face almost makes up for all of the episode’s minor shortcomings.
In an alternate universe where more women were given the opportunity to write and perform television comedy rooted in their own experience, “Cool With It” might come across as a solid but unremarkable episode. But in our own, it’s a solid and singular assortment of sketches. Three seasons in, the show’s default formula is becoming a little too apparent but those underlying cultural observations are still so novel and the show’s voice still so welcome that it’s hard to fault it for occasionally returning to its old tricks.
Samantha Allen is the Internet’s premier alpaca enthusiast as well as a Daily Beast contributor. Follow her on Twitter.