Inside Amy Schumer

Inside Amy Schumer debuts tonight on Comedy Central at 10:30 p.m. Eastern.

Amy Schumer has built a deservedly great reputation as a stand-up over the past few years, gaining some notice on Last Comic Standing and then breaking out in a bigger way on her own. Schumer’s frequently dirty jokes culminated in a fantastic 2012 Comedy Central special called Mostly Sex Stuff, which is a pretty apt description of her act: Her favorite topics include the morning-after pill and various fluids. She loves to play the carefree, only slightly ashamed hussy, and she does it in a way that’s both biting and funny.

The next stop was either movies or a Comedy Central show (though she made a brief detour as the co-host of Mark Hoppus’ Fuse TV show), and Schumer ended up with a half-hour on the cable net. Inside Amy Schumer takes its biggest cues from Chappelle’s Show, which isn’t a bad thing to emulate. It mixes Schumer’s stand-up routines with sketches in which Schumer generally plays an over-the-top version of herself (or at least someone with whom she shares a name). In general it works, though nearly every sketch wears out its welcome at least a bit.

That’s not really true of the show’s tone-setting cold open, in which Schumer sits on a casting couch and listens to a description of the video she’s auditioning for—the infamous “2 Girls 1 Cup.” While the reference itself is pretty damn dated, the tone the piece takes is smart: It’s all about Schumer’s only slightly incredulous reaction to what she’s being asked to do. (In case you’re unfamiliar, it’s about the most vile-sounding scat-porn imaginable.) She tries to reason with herself that it’s art (“Is this going to be in MoMA?”) or that at least her face will be blurred. But no, it’s pretty much all bad.

Another sketch, “I Endured…” takes the reality-show format and makes it absurd, with various people relaying horror stories from their lives: Michael Showalter is funny as a Harry Potter fan whose arms are eaten by owls (he “who-who”s in an alarmingly amusing way), and Schumer takes some decent material and lights it up with her personality. But the sketch, like another later in the episode about casual racism, just goes on far longer than the joke merits. It’s not bad, it’s just over-extended.

Inside Amy Schumer also throws in some woman-on-the-street interviews—mostly Schumer being funny/provocative with random folks—as well as a tonally strange one-on-one interview with a model sitting at a table. The interview portion seems very oddly tacked on, as if it were flown in from an entirely different iteration of the show—a quick shot of real life in the midst of absurdism. Still, though, there’s something to Inside Amy Schumer, and that something is Schumer herself. Her personality—specifically her coquette-ish handling of strange situations—makes what could’ve been a rockier ride pretty smooth. If the show can figure out exactly what it wants to be—in my mind, it should be even closer to Chappelle’s Show than it is—it could go from solid to exceptional.

Stray observations:

-- “So is this going to be like American Beauty?”

-- A sketch I didn’t mention, about a one-night stand that turns into a next-day obsession, used some of the best split-screen since Pillow Talk.

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