Gender is one of the oldest and most frequently tapped comedic wells: Men do things like X, women do things like Y, and when they get together, Z happens. More often than not, this kind of humor tends to be stale and artless, more concerned with observation than execution. It’s the sort of stuff that belongs on tasteless multi-camera sitcoms, not on a Peabody-winning show like Inside Amy Schumer
But part of what makes Amy Schumer’s brand of gender-based comedy so refreshing is that she manages to craft humor about gender with such precision that you almost forget how basic the underlying jokes are: a lot of straight guys really don’t care about looking nice, a lot of straight girls really are good at manipulation. In a stand-up set, these might be successful but ultimately forgettable bits. But in Schumer’s mind they become launching points for high-concept sketches that make old jokes seem new again.
“Fight Like a Girl” pulls this trick off three times in sketches that are some of the best the third season has offered so far. First, there’s a Say Yes to the Dress / What Not to Wear parody called “Say Fine to the Shirt” about a woman who drags her fiancé Brian (Justin Long) to a department store where a Clinton-Kelly-a-like tries to get him excited about various replacements for his “main shirt” even though Brian would be “fine” with just about anything as long as they can go home as soon as possible.
After an entire era of comedies presenting men who don’t take care of themselves as secretly lovable, it’s nice to see Schumer take aim at their fashion sense and it’s even nicer to see the usually adorable Long lean into his character’s unflattering apathy.
Also, near the end of the sketch, one of Brian’s guy friends tersely weighs in on the chosen main shirt and, in so doing, summarizes many men’s litmus test for an article of clothing in six words: “Pretty cool. Doesn’t look too gay.”
The second sketch in this episode’s mini gender trilogy continues to iterate on the theme of men’s questionable wardrobe choices in what can only be described as Amy Schumer’s Godwin’s law moment: a tour of a future museum in which men’s bad 2010s outfits have been preserved as if they were a global tragedy on par with the Holocaust. There’s incredible attention to detail here like placards reading “Ironic Pseudo Hipster” and a monument built out of “5,200 pairs of Crocs” that brings one visitor to tears.
But it’s the faux-archival audio from one long-suffering girlfriend that sends the sketch over the edge: “First he wore a braided belt and I said nothing. Then came that hat and I said nothing. Then he wore that fucking hemp necklace and I was like, peace.”
Finally, we see Amy go full Mr. Miyagi as a martial arts instructor trying to help some unlucky men understand the true nature of “female emotional conflict.” One by one, she has the men approach her female co-trainer, presenting them with various conversational scenarios they have to navigate and, one by one, they all get taken down.
One man hazards a compliment: “You look really pretty tonight?”
“Oh, just tonight?” Game over.
The only man who succeeds does so by calmly reiterating a therapist’s advice about communication.
“Remember: women can’t deny the authority of therapy and/or Oprah,” Amy announces to the rest of the guys. It’s funny because it’s true, sure, but it’s only hilarious because Schumer presents the observation as a self-serious d?j? instructor.
If it weren’t for some lackluster filler material, these three sketches would easily carry the episode into the hall of Inside Amy Schumer fame. But an opener about strippers at a bachelorette party for dogs is a little too broad for its own good and a sketch about Amy accidentally ordering a mail-order husband skips straight to an absurd, almost half-hearted ending before it can pay off. Still, “Fight Like a Girl” is proof that Schumer is operating on a higher level this season. Her humor might not always seem thematically fresh but it’s almost always repackaged more attractively—and more expertly—than you’ve encountered before.
Samantha Allen is the Internet’s premier alpaca enthusiast as well as a Daily Beast contributor. Follow her on Twitter.