It’s not unimaginable that Amy Schumer wept at the end of 2015, for there were no more worlds for her to conquer. In just the last year, she picked up a Peabody and two Emmys for Inside Amy Schumer; made her starring and screenwriting debut on the big screen with Trainwreck; hosted the MTV Movie Awards; released an HBO stand-up special; advocated for gun control with her cousin Senator Chuck Schumer; Jet Skied with her new BFF Jennifer Lawrence; and was heralded seemingly everywhere as a generation-defining voice for her piercing feminist satire and painfully real dissections of female self-hatred.
So what does Schumer have planned after taking over the world? Judging from the return of Inside Amy Schumer on Thursday night, the comedian’s back to basics (albeit now with a few celebrity friends) by making the same kind of sketches that made her famous and crafting a few viral hits along the way. Schumer returns home to her boozy, sex-rapt everywoman persona and takes aim once more at her reliable targets: relationship glitches, the hurdles women have to clear to be “sexy” and “likable,” and the products and messages designed to make ladies feel bad about their bodies.
Even at its most celebrated, Schumer’s Comedy Central series — like pretty much every sketch show on the planet — was a hit-or-miss affair. [Note: Comedy Central and MTV News are both owned by Viacom.] The first two episodes of Inside’s fourth season are a mix of sharp satire, dull political points, unexpected observations, and meandering bits that could’ve used a couple more drafts in the writers' room.
Sketch comedies require optimism: We stick through the bad segments in the hopes that the next one will land us on our backs in laughter. The season premiere needs an extra heavy dose, containing more clunkers than triumphs, with an overlong riff on Hamilton that finds an airheaded version of Amy pitching Lin-Manuel Miranda another “hip-hopera” about flag seamstress “Bethenny Ross.” (Congrats to Miranda for his probably justified Pulitzer win, but it's difficult to laugh along to jokes about a Broadway show no one can get tickets to.)
The premiere does feature one standout sketch, in which Schumer, Rachel Dratch, and Rebecca Naomi Jones star in a fake infomercial about “Yo-Puss,” the first yogurt for women who fear that their normal-smelling vaginas are really a “rancid playground of flavor-causing enzymes and white gravel.” Dratch agrees: It’s a preferable alternative to wearing scented tampons even when you’re not on your period.
Named after “the word you don’t want people to use after a photo of you where your nude goes viral,” the second installment, “Brave,” is an example of the show at its near-best. (Even Schumer’s gotta be stumped about how to top her masterful 12 Angry Men parody.) Julianne Moore, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jennifer Hudson, and Laura Linney make cameos as Best Actress Oscar nominees playing sad wives receiving bad news over the phone in a solid Oscar parody (two months late, but OK), and a recurring bit takes to task men who sleep with their nannies — in whatever form they may appear.
But the sketch destined to ping around the Internet in the next couple of weeks seems to be the one about Guy-gles, a Google Glass-like computerized eyewear that informs women in which guise they should talk to a particular man to get him to actually pay attention: Flirty Victim, Sexy Kid Sister, Flirty Sex Kitten, or Nurturing Mother But Flirty. It’s a brisk, smart, slightly depressing jab at the kind of micro-aggressive sexism you can feel under the skin, but that can be difficult to articulate. The sketch ends with a kicker that’s both droll and deeply uncomfortable — that sticky, sweaty, vaguely nauseating space in which Schumer finds her most urgent inspiration.