Inside Amy Schumer Hasn’t Changed, But the Reaction to It HasPhoto by Mark Seliger / Comedy Central Comedy Features Inside Amy Schumer
This is an obligatory sentence about how famous Amy Schumer is now: She starred in Trainwreck last summer and landed her own HBO special. For regular people, that’s three hours of comedy released over the course of four months.
But for bizarre Internet people who act as if they have been forced to watch every one of Schumer’s 11:30 talk show appearances Clockwork Orange-style on a loop for the past year, that amounts to “Peak Schumer” or “Schumer Mania” or “Schumer saturation.” Remember when a performer could be in more than one thing per year without us turning on them?
One of the many cruelties of entertainment media, it seems, is that after we fall in love with a person, we help create the demand to see more of them, only to punish them for going back to work. That certainly seems to be the case with season four of Inside Amy Schumer.
In an early and not particularly favorable review, for example, the A.V. Club asked, “Will Inside Amy Schumer Crumble Under the Weight of Its Own Success?” That same question has been phrased differently by other outlets in advance coverage of the show, most succinctly: “Will success spoil Amy Schumer?”
Having seen the first two episodes of season four, I can report that this is mostly handwringing for the sake of a convenient narrative that probably won’t come true.
Yes, Amy Schumer is a household name by now. Your grandma even watched her movie on demand a few months ago. But like a lottery winner who doesn’t quit their day job, she’s come back to Comedy Central to deliver 20 plus minutes of sketch comedy a week for the next few months. And instead of ignoring her fame, she’s found ways—some subtle, some not so subtle—to fold it into the show.
But beneath those acknowledgments, the bones of Inside Amy Schumer are still just as sound. If you laughed at sketch comedy about gender, dating and vaginas last year, you’ll still laugh at it now.
In the season four premiere, the comedian hits all of her usual marks. For the Dos Equis parody ‘The World’s Most Interesting Woman in the World,” she makes her body into an inscrutable punchline, donning a silver wig, a leopard-print bustier, a shiny tassel blazer, and a studded eyepatch.
In “Relationship Center,” featuring Chris Parnell, she tackles a very specific but very relatable moment in modern dating: Not wanting to admit that you don’t have the energy to have sex at the end of the night.
There’s some of the feminist political commentary that we’ve come to expect from the show too, in the form of a sketch in which U.S. congressmen interrogate Amy at her annual pap smear exam.
“When was the date of your last lady curse?” they ask. “And how many blood diapers did you use?”
In other words, Schumer didn’t reinvent the wheel nor did she develop a new set of topical interests during her hiatus from Inside Amy. Making millions of dollars can change your life but for some reason it doesn’t magically endow you with the ability to turn your relatively old cable television show into a transcendent and completely novel experience.
Indeed, some of the early disappointment with season four seems to stem from disbelief that a performer who successfully segued three seasons on Comedy Central into a bona fide film career could still produce sketches that don’t land. In that sense, she’s less the victim of success than she is the victim of bizarre expectations based on a retroactive and rose-colored memory of her previous work.
I think it’s safe to say that, apart from “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer,” there has never been a perfect episode of Schumer’s show. But that’s the nature of making sketch comedy: You try out a lot of different ideas in a short span of time. Some of them land, others don’t. The average grade for season three on Paste was a B. What matters most is the ratio of hits to misses, as well as the performer’s commitment to the material however it is received.
While season four’s first two episodes have some misses—including an overlong Hamilton-inspired bit featuring Lin-Manuel Miranda—that ratio is still reasonably high. Remember, too, that even in the middle of Schumer-geddon last year, there were plenty of episodes that were just plain bad like “I’m Sorry,” which was essentially a retread of previous sketches.
Schumer does not always innovate—as is the case with any comedian, her wellspring of ideas has become familiar over time—but her strengths as a writer and performer lie elsewhere, particularly in her almost perverse ability to give herself over completely to an idea or a bit.
And with regards to her level of commitment, Schumer is still performing with the same level of abandon she always has. Even in the lackluster Hamilton sketch, it’s hard not to crack a smile when she begins her Betsy Ross rap with any hint of irony vacated from her face: “How does a woman who does not know how to sew / learn to sew / and then go on to sew / a flag for her country?”
If anything, she seems to be trying even harder to embarrass herself in this season, referring to the taste of her vagina as “hot summer Chinatown garbage” in one sketch and lighting her farts on fire in another. The A.V. Club watched those same sketches and somehow determined that “Schumer is no longer the girl in sweats sitting on the couch ordering Seamless.” I don’t know. I can still see it.
But more importantly, it doesn’t matter what Schumer eats or how many more zeroes have been added to her bank account balance since 2015. People inside a media bubble are going to draw lines between the trajectory of her career and the potential quality of the show largely for the sake of an angle because, frankly, it’s a good angle.
But anyone tuning in cold is going to get the same blend of pussy jokes and social commentary that Schumer and her writing team have been reliably producing for four years now. If a weekly half-hour of that mixture is “Schumer saturation,” so be it.
Inside Amy Schumer’s fourth season premieres on Comedy Central tonight at 10 PM ET.
May Saunders is a professional dog walker living in Minneapolis and an occasional freelance writer. In her spare time, she enjoys hanging out with her cat, who does not need to be walked. Follow her on Twitter.