Inside Amy Schumer Makes a Scattershot Return on Paramount+Photo courtesy of Paramount+ Comedy Reviews Inside Amy Schumer
Comedy Central’s Emmy Award-winning sketch comedy series Inside Amy Schumer was a staple of the 2010s wave of feminist comedy alongside Broad City, Another Period, and Idiotsitter. Inside Amy Schumer was the perfect vehicle for the titular comedian’s road to stardom as the confident Schumer and her team delivered progressive female-oriented social commentary on issues with an edgy, absurdist bluntness that often hit hard in hilarity. Skits including “Last Fuckable Day,” “Football Town Nights,” and my personal favorite “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer” (all of which are from the top-tier third season) deconstructed implicit topics relating to beauty, sexism, ageism, gender roles, and wage disparity. While some are dated by ableist language, many sketches still hold up well.
The peak third season was released around the same time as Schumer’s Judd Apatow-directed studio comedy star vehicle Trainwreck, which catapulted her career to the mainstream. Watching Schumer’s celebrity status going from stand-up to Hollywood star in real-time was wild to witness. The series ending right when it did, before comedy made its Trump-era shift in 2016, was for the best. A lot has happened with Schumer since Inside’s initial run ended. She starred in more studio comedies (Snatched, I Feel Pretty), settled down with a hot chef, gave birth to a son, made an inviting docu series that followed her post-series run, wrote and starred in the warmly received Life & Beth, and co-hosted one of the worst Oscars in recent memory. In a nutshell, Schumer has had a lot going for her personally and career-wise. Six years after viewers last went Inside, Schumer is back with a fifth season slash low-key revival of the series that put her on the map in the first place.
Inside Amy Schumer’s jump from the 2010s to the 2020s forces the revival to add a fresh coat of paint in format and tone. Given everything that has occurred within the past few years, Schumer and her team of writers thankfully aren’t particularly focused on playing catchup and beating you over the head with repetitive humor. That’s for other sketch comedy shows to do.
The revival opens with a strong sketch that starts as a commercial parody for a psoriasis medication that turns into a couple’s heated argument about a husband not using his wife’s dingy homemade ceramics. From then on, the initial episode fails to hit the high of its opening sketch. The following sketches involve self-obsessed rich women (including Olivia Munn, Cazzie David, and series veteran Bridget Everett) who think cosmetic surgery and self-care are synonymous, a Hallmark Christmas spoof of red-state small towns, and a chippy college counselor who warns freshman girls about sexual assault. They all are enticing concepts but are often either long-winded about getting to the punchline or lack the edge to make them particularly stand out. It’s heartbreaking to write that, especially when new sketches that speak on urgent social issues relating to assault in colleges, women’s abortion rights, and Texan officials getting scared over a trans-women using a girl’s restroom. Its most direct social sketches have become so common knowledge and the humor is so straightforward it comes off better on paper (or 240 characters on Twitter) than in execution.
Some of the longer sketches often feel like first-draft passes that don’t inject enough jabs and absurdity to take those concepts into memorable territory. They rely on the slow-burn buildup for a punchline to land. While it’s a new factor that I guess is part of the series’ maturer identity, it asks viewers for an arm and a leg. It begs for them, most of whom have gone on to watch TikToks and Twitter sketch videos, to expand their attention span and stick out some of the longer bits that don’t necessarily land. Even if it does garner a huge belly laugh, you have to wait nearly four minutes of buildup—and once that belly laugh arrives, the sketch is over, leaving you wanting more. The Hallmark parody “The Last Noelle” is a prime example of this issue where the biggest laugh comes at the ironic (and intentional) casting of former Veiled Prophet Ball Queen Ellie Kemper as a city girl who is shocked at her midwestern hometown’s Trumpian all-lives matter status more than the reveal itself.
This also carries itself over to the follow-up episodes where thankfully sketches aren’t as overly long, but do one-note jokes about relevant topics that don’t necessarily say anything insightful. One standout, though, is a noir-styled sketch featuring Jesse Williams in a Fart Park. It’s the silliest sketch that plays on the classic series’ strengths, but much like the majority of the new series, it’s also particularly scattershot.
While the sketches vary in quality, the revival shines in spotlighting the array of writers apart from Schumer. The way it’s done is a mixed bag, though. Gone are the interstitials that have Schumer interviewing random strangers in New York about the concept of the sketch they just saw, or spotlighting intriguing figures with distinctive occupations. Now each sketch is followed by Schumer and her team of writers speaking to the camera explaining or doing a one-off riff about the sketch that just played. It gives visibility to series veterans such as Jon Glaser, newcomers like trans female comic Jaye McBride, or Jerry Seinfeld’s daughter Sascha Seinfeld (wooo nepotism), who tackle feminist topics outside Schumer’s cis, straight, millennial white woman’s lens. While its insightful intentions are admirable, it does feel like pointing the finger at “whoever is at fault” if a sketch fails or not and is very tacky. Those random unscripted interviews with everyday people gave the series a more natural, intimate vibe. This sort of behind-the-scenes/patting-one-self-on-the-back energy makes even some of the weakest sketches lower further in quality.
The show works best when Schumer brings the writers into the limelight and gives them time to showcase their strongest suits. Now that Bridget Everett has made a household name for herself following the series’ Comedy Central era, Schumer sheds light on other musical friends of hers. This time, former 30 Rock writer Ron Weiner gets center stage. Each episode ends with Weiner singing original, wholesome, and silly songs about stealing napkins or the McDonald’s Pizza. The songs evoke a VeggieTales “Silly Songs With Larry” feel, which makes them out-of-place given the show’s adult nature.
From the two episodes I screened, the Inside Amy Schumer Paramount+ revival injects resounding maturity but leaves a little too much to be desired. The show’s long-awaited return attempts to recapture the former’s spark while crafting a less raunchy, more inclusive environment. Sadly, its execution is disappointingly scattershot with long-winded and in-your-face sketches that lack an absurdist or nuanced punch that made the series beloved in the first place.
Rendy Jones is a film and television journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. They are the owner of self-published outlet Rendy Reviews, a member of the Critics Choice Association, and a film graduate of Brooklyn College. They have been featured in Vulture, The Daily Beast, AV Club and CBC News.