Whether you like her or not, no one can deny that Amy Schumer had a meteoric rise in 2015. After the razor sharp third season of Inside Amy Schumer and the success of Trainwreck, Schumer went from comedy underdog to household name. Schumer herself jokingly acknowledged that she’ll “only be famous for another six months,” and even worked her overexposure into the promotion of Inside Amy Schumer‘s fourth season. However, is the knowing wink enough? The new Amy Schumer isn’t badly sexting dudes while eating noodles on her couch. She’s best friends with Jennifer Lawrence and getting impossible tickets to Hamilton.
The ripple effects of fame are pretty apparent from the get-go of the new season. In the opening scene of the premiere episode, “Brave,” Schumer trots out the A-list with Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jennifer Hudson, and Laura Linney to comment on the lack of meaty roles for women in Hollywood. It’s not a bad sketch and the message rings true, but one can’t help but compare it to the superior “Last F*ckable Day,” which had real teeth and had a “take no prisoners” vibe. Similarly, a sketch about patriarchal governments making decisions about women’s health feels like a pale imitation of last year’s incredible 12 Angry Men parody. Even in the second episode’s “Most Interesting Woman in the World” sketch, which skewers the notion that women who live like men are vilified for the same behaviors that get men respect and status, it still feels like she’s going for the more tame and obvious jokes. Now that Schumer has her Emmy and is a respected member of the establishment, it seems like she’s starting to play a little nicer. Additionally, instead of hitting the streets to interview regular folks about sex, drugs, and bad behavior, she rounds up her comedy pals to get their opinions. This shift can’t help but feel like pandering, and a way to keep opinions insular and favorable. Schumer could use this as an opportunity to put the spotlight on up and coming comedians, or it could become a pack of yes-men. We’ll have to wait and see how it shakes out.
There are two instances in particular that stick out in the wake of Schumer’s latest bouts in the news. Each episode of the series is sprinkled with small clips of her stand-up routines, with one focusing on how “brave” she is to show her body because it isn’t the stereotypical Hollywood shape. However, all of her jokes about her weight feel disingenuous after she went to the mat with Glamour after being lumped in with plus-sized celebrities. She has also grappled with accusations that she stole jokes, which proved to be exaggerated, but rolling out a skit mocking fantasy leagues that looks an awful lot like one already done on Why? With Hannibal Buress doesn’t look great. Sure, Schumer has the star power to bring out actual football players, but that doesn’t make it a superior sketch.
This is not to say that there still isn’t a lot to like about Inside Amy Schumer. Her sketches are relevant and she isn’t afraid to go the extra mile for the gross out or physical gag. Her commitment to personal embarrassment is best on display in a hilarious sketch where she pitches a hip-hop musical about Betsy Ross to Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda. While I may begrudge her ability to get Hamilton tickets, it’s fun that she could bring the recent Pulitzer-winner onto her show. However, her biggest asset is still her willingness to call out everyday sexism that American women face regularly. In easily the best sketch of the first two episodes, Schumer shows the games that women are forced to play to get things done in the workplace in a clever way, and even acknowledges the deeper struggles facing minority women. Schumer has long been accused of ignoring intersectionality in favor of “white feminism,” so while it is a small bit, it is definitely a step in the right direction.
It feels wrong to say that Schumer’s success has negatively impacted Inside Amy Schumer. She’s done the work and earned every accolade that she’s gotten. In a male dominated field, that is something that’s extremely rare and should be celebrated. But it does feel like we’ve lost something special. Perhaps the thing that we as viewers need to accept is that Schumer isn’t one of us anymore. That’s okay, but she should probably change her schtick a little to adjust. Obviously this is only based on the first two episodes of the season; there is definitely time for the show to evolve in an organic way. I’m still rooting for Schumer, but the vibe of Inside Amy Schumer has changed. While this show is what put her on the map, it may be time for her to move on to bigger things.
Inside Amy Schumer airs Thursday nights at 10 p.m. EST on Comedy Central.