Every time Amy Schumer comes out with a new sketch, it's impossible not to think about how necessary it is that a female standup comic has the platform on Comedy Central to be as irreverent, truthful, and damning as she wants. It wasn't so long ago that females in sketch comedy were reduced to one-note roles. (Check out “Laugh-In” sometime and note how many times the point of a bit is “Oh, Goldie. Such a space cadet.”)
We picked ten examples of feminism in sketch comedy dating all the way back to the heyday of Carol Burnett. Comb the hair on your Asian-American doll and enjoy.
1. Carol Burnett is “movie star crazy”
One of the enduring treats of “The Carol Burnett Show” is the feminist undertones in many of her sketches. The fact that she's so outlandish and having so much fun is a triumph in itself, but in this sketch, we watch as a tabloid-obsessed wife is chastised by her husband for caring too much about Warren Beatty, Rod Steiger, and other Hollywood icons. How does she handle such criticism? By announcing — through her favorite movie quotes, including “Mr. Skeffington” and “Wuthering Heights” — that her boorish husband is too weak to handle her. Very “Born Yesterday,” this sketch.
2. Madeline Kahn, Jane Curtin, Gilda Radner, and Laraine Newman have a slumber party.
It's not often we get media, let alone comedy sketches, about adolescent girls figuring out what sex is and how they feel about it. Here we see Madeline Kahn playing a know-it-all queen bee who educates her pals on the “realities” of sex. The most touching part, aside from Laraine Newman's final line, is when Gilda Radner tries to understand rape. Written by “SNL” legend Marilyn Suzanne Miller, this sketch is full of great characters and fantastic observations about how confusing it can be for young women to learn about adulthood.
3. Catherine O'Hara is incorrigible in the Dusty Towne Sexy Holiday Special
In this “SCTV” sketch, Catherine O'Hara gives us a fun juxtaposition with the quaintness of her Dusty Towne character, a woman who remains saccharine sweet as she brings up her insatiable sexual desires. If that's not fun enough, Divine stops by to double up the moxie in the room.
4. “Mr. Show” serves up “Indomitable Spirit”
It's short, it's irreverent, and it's awesomely pointed: “Mr. Show” makes a powerful point about the public's perception of womanhood with that irresistible rock supergroup Indomitable Spirit.
5. Abbi and Ilana of “Broad City” decide to be their own feminist heroes.
One day Abbi and Ilana decided to be “feminist heroes” by messaging every guy they knew and attempting to bed them. It didn't go as planned, but the important thing is they rightfully compared themselves to Amelia Earhart.
6. “Portlandia” will teach you everything (and scold you for not already knowing it) in its Feminist Bookstore
“Portlandia” remains one of the funniest shows on TV by mocking that particular demographic of urbanites who mistake self-seriousness for righteousness. Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein's “Feminist Bookstore” sketches are hilarious, and a major part of its success is how Candace and Toni criticize patrons for their insensitivity while usually being too self-absorbed to consider retorts.
7. “SNL” markets Asian-American dolls out of fear.
Cecily Strong narrates this great “SNL” commercial that mocks culturally tone-deaf marketers and their cowardly ways of circumventing risk. Young girls are expected to love the new doll even though the Mattel-type company refuses to give her any identity.
8. Sarah Silverman finally found a penis to match her boots.
Sarah Silverman figured out a way to mind the wage gap: becoming a man! It'll save her money in the long run. The cameo by Michaela Watkins is great too. (She was also awesome on “Veep” recently. You go, Michaela Watkins!)
9. Amy Schumer meets her idols and sends one of them off to sea.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, and Patricia Arquette have plenty of wisdom for their apprentice Amy Schumer. The line about Sally Field is outrageously funny, as is Tina's line about white spiders. Shivers.
10. The Amy Schumer doll is a very inappropriate Chatty Cathy
Finally, a Cabbage Patch Kid for the rest of us: Check out the doll version of Amy Schumer, who needs a responsible mommy to help with urinary tract infections and hangovers. She's the perfect stocking stuffer, aside from the constant vomiting.