After two knockout episodes to start the season, you can forgive Inside Amy Schumer for falling a little flat this week. Minus guest appearances from the always-welcome Josh Charles and Eddie Kaye Thomas, there’s nothing exceptionally remarkable about “A Girl Who Can Hang,” which generally treads on familiar ground in sketches that end up being more amusing than funny.
Not coincidentally, the most successful bit is also the shortest: the cold open with Schumer hiding for a surprise birthday party being thrown for her boyfriend. Unaware she can hear him, he speaks frankly to his friend about how he’s no longer attracted to her, and that the long-distance nature of their relationship is the only thing that’s kept him from breaking it off. It’s a fairly standard gag, but it gets a Schumer twist when she jumps out of the giant cake and reveals her character is a soldier on leave from Iraq. Her desperate attempt to save face (and the cake) showcases Schumer’s physical comedy skills—and provides a nice deflating of the feel-good military reunion surprise stories that have become their own cliché.
The runner-up for the night is a commercial for a mobile app called “Hello M’Lady” that helps women manage “those clingy, fragile guys who think they’re dating you,” the type of men most ladies typically refer to as Nice Guys. These are the dudes who watch romantic comedies and take notes, operating under the assumption that doing “nice guy” things automatically entitles them to female affection (which sort of makes them Not Nice Guys). Because they’re not outright jerks, women don’t want to hurt their feelings, but they also have no interest in dating them, either. There are probably a lot of Nice Guys who will see “Hello M’Lady” and wonder what the joke is, lamenting about how these bitches don’t appreciate nice guys like them. And Schumer’s point will have been perfectly made.
In another sketch, a group of what appear to be genuinely nice guys admire a tomboy-ish Schumer and bond over their love of “chicks who can hang,” except that their examples escalate into what are clearly descriptions of other men. It’s a joke you can see coming down Broadway, but the writing picks up the slack with smart specificity punctuated by Schumer’s crude interjections. (There’s a hint of Kristen Wiig’s old gross-out girl character Shanna on SNL when the guys swoon over Schumer’s announcement that she’s going to the bathroom “to make some room.”)
“The Foodroom,” a look at the operations of a McDonald’s-like fast food restaurant as written by Aaron Sorkin, seems positioned to be the night’s spotlight sketch,. But something about it never quite takes off, despite the stunt casting of Charles and the yeoman’s effort he gives to the bit. Given that The Newsroom hasn’t aired since September, it feels a little late to be going after it, and Sorkin’s trademark rapid-fire dialogue and character walk-and-talks have already been abundantly parodied by other shows. Aside from a couple of funny throwaway lines (“What’s next? No more chicken beaks in the everything?”) and the “Bestowed upon you by Aaron Sorkin” end credit, the sketch has good intentions but falls a few apple slices short of a Giggle Meal.
The final sketch of the night plays on another well-worn premise—that calling your cable company is like dialing up the 10th Circle of Hell—and tries to elevate the stakes to darkly comic extremes. Some of the execution details come close to saving it, like the operator’s request for “the serial number of the first modem you ever owned” and Schumer’s well-played existential crisis as she grows more desperate on the call. But overall, there’s not much new on the table here.
The show’s weekly “Amy Goes Deep” segments have been consistent winners so far this season, to the point that I’d gladly subscribe to a spinoff “Amy Goes Deep” web series or podcast. In her interviews, this time with a former phone sex operator, Schumer displays a winning combination of sexual open-mindedness and genuine curiosity. As she herself puts it, she’s “no stranger to a cock,” but she’s not so jaded as to never be surprised by something she hears. And by sprinkling in references to things like NPR’s Prairie Home Companion, she reminds her audience that girls can like sex and still be smart, too.
So, not necessarily an Emmy-submission episode, but still worthy of a few chuckles. At this point, Schumer has created a persona that’s so much fun to spend time with—a chick who can hang—that a weak sketch here or there is far from a deal breaker. You’ve won our heart, Amy Schumer, and we’ll gladly see you back here next week, m’lady.