In the opening sketch of season two of Amy Schumer’s hit Comedy Central show, Inside Amy Schumer, a group of men in a focus group discuss the first season of her show. When asked questions about content and aesthetic style, the men respond with anecdotes about her physical appearance and sexual appeal. In the end, when Amy is asked about how she feels after watching the discussion take place behind a two way mirror, her look or horror is replaced with satisfaction when there’s a consensus in the room that all of them men would sleep with her if given the chance…and if no one had to know about it. This sketch embodies the nature of her show and her comedy style: an overtly feminist viewpoint veiled in stereotypical sexist, hetero-normative jokes and gender-inequality attitudes towards women. Amy Schumer’s comedic style and non-apologetic vulgarity makes her show not only stand out among other female driven comedic programs, but raise the bar for politically and socially minded comedic television in general.
By the end of season one of Inside Amy Schumer, the show was bringing in around three million viewers a week, a higher viewership than most other Comedy Central weekly programs (TV Guide, 2014). So why are people clamoring to watch Schumer’s series? One of the biggest reasons her viewership continues to rise and return week to week is the way she and her writers tackle societal inequalities, particularly involving heterosexual women. The show contains countless sketches about women’s self-deprecation (not for laughs, but for lack of self-esteem), difficulty in asserting themselves in a male-dominated society and work force, and insecurities about their sexual appeal in relationships with men. One of the best examples of how Schumer perfectly parodies women’s overwhelmingly low self-esteem for no valid reason is a sketch in which several friends run into each other on a street corner in New York City and one by one shoot down compliments the others give them despite the compliments being both genuine and accurate. Finally, when one of the girls replies “thank you!” to a compliment, the rest of her friends literally go insane, throwing themselves in front of cars and harming themselves. Obviously, the sketch goes over the top with the way women deny compliments and react when a fellow woman does not, but it serves an important lesson that Amy Schumer is one of the first and most successful at teaching: it’s ok for women to feel good about themselves and one another. In an interview with NPR, Schumer talked about how the sketch came about from women in the writer’s office being unable to accept praise from one another, while men did not think twice about it. Schumer noted, in reference to the common act by herself and fellow women, “I think it might be because we’re afraid of jealousy from other women…I’ve never known a man to do that” (NPR, 2013). Clearly it is overwhelmingly women who struggle in praising themselves and accepting praise from others more so than men, and while Schumer does not attempt to solve the problem, she sheds light on it to get a conversation started.
Similarly to women’s low self-esteem, Schumer tackles sexual and gender discrimination we face as well. Whether it’s being looked over in a work setting when in comparison to a man, or not being trusted calling to fix the cable when it goes out, Schumer points out the many ways and places where women struggle to be seen as equal to their male counterparts. Perhaps one of the more controversial and politically poignant sketches Schumer has created in this realm is one from her current season in which Amy and her boyfriend are playing a military video game. When Schumer takes over the controller and her boyfriend exits the room, her female avatar is sexually assaulted by a male commanding officer avatar. When asked if she would like to report the assault, the game throws several road blocks in her path, from mentioning the male’s family to gain guilt, and filling out mountains of paper work to complete the accusation. Finally, the male character is found guilty. Just when Schumer feels justice has been done in this avatar world, the game announces his commanding officer overruled the charge. This sketch is not only brave, but it is timely for Schumer to produce. One of the greatest problem’s in America’ s military is their sexual and gender discrimination and assault, but it is often swept under the rug or downplayed to shield from criticisms and allegations. In 2010, it was reported by the Department of Defense that 19,300 sexual assaults occurred within the military (ServiceWomen.org). Once again, Schumer sheds light on controversial and difficult topics for society to tackle, particularly revolving around women and the difficulties they face in all areas of life.
Amy Schumer is certainly a groundbreaking comedian, female or not, and is making waves in the television world. Her recent Time Magazine feature proves that she has become a household name, and a force to be reckoned with. No matter how outrageous, vulgar, or politically incorrect her sketches may be, they create a dialogue that would not otherwise be started. Schumer has recognized her rising fame and increased attention and said, “I feel a responsibility because of the women who have done it before me, and the ones who need to do it after me” (Amy Schumer). So look out, fellas. Amy Schumer is not afraid to open her mouth, speak the truth, and even win some of you over.
Deggans, Eric. " 'Inside Amy Schumer', Some Surprising Commentary". NPR. April 22, 2014 http://www.npr.org/2014/04/22/305952940/inside-amy-schumer-some-surprising-commentary
Gross, Terri. “ ‘Inside Amy Schumer’: It’s Not Just Sex Stuff”. NPR. June 25, 2013. http://www.npr.org/2013/06/25/188698578/inside-amy-schumer-its-not-just-sex-stuff
Ratledge, Ingela. “Amy Schumer Gears Up for Season 2 of Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer”. TV Guide. April 1, 2014. http://www.tvguide.com/news/amy-schumer-season2-1079896.aspx
SWAN. “Military Sexual Violence”. 2012. http://servicewomen.org/military-sexual-violence/