The latest trend in comedy has been focused on women behaving (or talking about behaving) badly. They pooped in the sink in “Bridesmaids” (don’t tell me that’s a spoiler at this point), they have awkward sex on “Girls,” they curse and get drunk and high and screw around. Somethings the cursing and drinking and screwing around is supposed to pass as fascinating insight into the female psyche. Sometimes it’s supposed to be funny. But piggishness in either men or women isn’t inherently funny.
While pundits argue about whether lowbrow distaff humor delivers a bad message to young women (who are probably too busy plopping drunk photos of themselves on Instagram for future would-be employers to find) or shows that women are breaking into previously unattainable arenas by acting like dirty old men, the argument at the heart of it all is very simple: are they funny?
Thank God Amy Schumer is funny. Really funny.
With her self-described “Amish” looks (she frequently compares herself to a Cabbage Patch doll, but honestly, she reminds me of a much younger version of Vicki on “The Real Housewives of Orange County”), she has a weapon at her disposal which she uses with wit and, yes, surprisingly gentle insight. Her comedy isn’t about alienating men. For all her swearing and semen jokes (whole lotta semen jokes), she touches on themes that will resonate with men and women. It’s no surprise her stand-up special was the second-most watched on Comedy Central in 2012.
Being a funny woman rarely leads to much on Comedy Central. A while ago, a female comic I knew told me it was just an open secret that women shouldn’t even bother to pitch to the network, as a lack of male anatomy (she used a more graphic word here; you can probably guess what it was) pretty much killed her chances. That Schumer has landed her own series is good news. She’s funny. And while she isn’t creating a series as dark and nuanced as Louis C.K., she’s doing something that has its own intrinsic value.
While her interview with a model wasn’t the funniest bit on the show, it cut to some glaring truths about what it is to be a beautiful woman — a 10 who sees herself as a 7, someone who starves herself before Fashion Week, who teases guys who want to date her. Schumer’s ability to joke around with her subject, making fun of the society that creates the model’s reality without skewering the woman in the process, may have been the best demonstration of Schumer’s skills on the show (though the sketch in which “The State”‘s Michael Showalter killed with a bit about insane owls was pretty damn great). She has the emotional distance to make fun of herself and the world around her, which gives audiences a safe way to laugh at themselves as well.
Even when Schumer jokingly describes herself as racist, a dirtbag and slutty (wow, when you spell it out like that, it does sound pretty bad), you sense (or hope) she’s joking about the fake, politically correct world we live in. A sketch in which she can’t bring herself to describe her African-American sales clerk is funny because it’s true. Schumer even manages to make a sketch about a woman auditioning for “Two Women, One Cup” funny because, though technically it’s about one of the grossest viral videos ever, she turns it into a look at what a a horrible, desperate slog it can be to be an aspiring actress.
While I could be nitpicky — for example, most of the stand-up material in the debut episode is rehashed from her stand-up special, so if you’ve seen her on Comedy Central you’ve seen it already — Schumer wins a lot more than she loses.
And, wherever you stand on the issue of women diving headfirst into lowbrow humor, it doesn’t matter. Schumer is just as funny as the boys. Period.