Amy Schumer and head writer Jessi Klein continue to reign supreme in delivering hilarious and biting social commentary via Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer on what it’s like to be female. In short: We are expected to be pleasing and compliant. Pleasing to the eyes and ears; compliant to others’ desires and values.
Each of the first four episodes of the series’ third season has tackled this in one way or another, from the most-talked-about “Last F*ckable Day” sketch with Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Patricia Arquette, in which the actresses discuss with great tongue-in-cheek fanfare their shelf life of being considered desirable, to last week’s brilliant 12 Angry Men parody, in which a team of men debate whether Schumer is hot enough to be on TV at all.
A sketch from this week’s episode continues the theme, this time with Schumer donning a tight dress, high heels, and plenty of bronzer to impersonate a Hollywood starlet (she’s introduced as “Amy Blake Lively”) giggling her way through a late-night TV interview opposite a skeevy host, played by Bill Hader.
She plays the ingénue well; her character doesn’t know she’s sexy, and really she’s just a tomboy at heart who likes to wear sweatpants, read comic books, and — OK, she’ll admit it — talk about her favorite movie, Star Wars. To which the fanboys in the audience literally blow their wads.
She hits all the points, recalling the recurring Saturday Night Live “One-Dimensional Female Character” bit featuring Cecily Strong. That type of woman is written to please; this type of starlet Schumer is mocking thinks that’s what’s required of her, as well. And it is, really. For so many, if you want to succeed, you need to play by the rules and be the cool girl. Schumer is skewering these gals, sure, but as a manner of pointing out to them they don’t need to sell themselves so short. (She’s also hammering away at hosts who are complicit in this kind of empty flattery, as too many male hosts take time to remark on woman’s looks or outfit instead of focusing on her work.)
That can often by a woman’s M.O., made clear in the perfect sketch “I’m Sorry” (unfortunately not online). One by one, accomplished women who are members of a panel to discuss their work apologize for little things — for the mic giving feedback, for their throat being dry, for seeming to interrupt someone else. Then they start apologizing for everything — an audience member having a health problem; an assitant spilling hot coffee on one of the panel member’s legs. And then, her legs fall off, and the woman cries out her apologies before dying. She ruined everything! She’s sorry! Two weeks ago, Schumer pulled a similar stunt in “I’m Cool With It” (also not online — DVR the show!), in which a woman goes to a strip club with her male co-workers and doing increasingly absurd things under the mantra “I’m cool with it!”
The message Schumer, Klein, and fellow writers are delivering isn’t new, but its delivery and timing feel fresh. She’s speaking a truth that so many are still afraid or unable to say. Expectations placed on women are so ingrained in our culture, it’s easy for us to not even see them. Sometimes, they stare us in the face, which is why Rachel Maddow included Schumer’s sketch on women jumping through extreme hoops to receive birth control in her May 6 show as she discussed the politics of contraception:
Sometimes, it’s not enough to just deliver platitudes — to tell women “Be yourself!” and call it a day. Even Michelle Obama is tired of that route, taking time in her commencement address to Tuskegee University this weekend to discuss the sexism and racism that has been thrown her way. She tells the students to be themselves, it’s true, but that important message doesn’t ring hollow when it is delivered as a rallying cry. That’s what so many of Schumer’s sketches are: Rallying cries. They can’t be ignored.
There’s a reason the Internet is populated with pieces about Amy Schumer on Wednesdays after a new episode of Inside Amy Schumer airs on Tuesdays. Her work is too important, and too funny, not to share.
Sarah Carlson is Television Editor for Pajiba. You can find her on Twitter.