Inside Amy Schumer: “Boner Doctor”
B-

Inside Amy Schumer: “Boner Doctor”

Take a Citi Bike home

B-

Inside Amy Schumer

"Boner Doctor"

Season 2, Episode 4

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Amy Schumer isn’t a family-friendly comedian. Her 2012 stand-up special, “Mostly Sex Stuff,” was not named disingenuously. She is raunchy. But her raunch is rarely cheap; in both her stand-up and Inside Amy Schumer, the tension between gleeful vulgarity and the social commentary layered underneath many of the sketches makes Schumer’s comedy compelling. Her willingness to shock combined with her willingness to make a statement is what makes Schumer a vital comedic voice. She will say the grossest thing about a dick that was ever said about a dick, but there will be a point. There are segments of tonight’s episode that are as slyly incisive and hilarious as the other standout segments from this strong second season. 

The strongest sketches from “Boner Doctor” expertly ply apart how fraught female self-esteem can be. A sketch that shows a woman entering a store where women are supposed to buy clothes for the body they plan to have in the future eviscerates the delusional thinking people buy into when they want to lose weight, and the way retailers benefit from those insecurities by propping up that kind of thinking and encouraging totally unrealistic purchases. When Schumer’s character goes to the corner to sadness-eat a muffin, I got flashbacks from the time I tried on a crop top. And another sketch, where supermodel and John Legend-wrangler Chrissy Teigen plays herself as a relationship counselor, unfolds like anyone in a long term relationship’s funniest nightmare, as Schumer’s character’s boyfriend almost instantaneously loses all interest in his partner at the sight of this glamorous fantasy woman. The way Schumer’s girlfriend character worriedly applies Chapstick after seeing Teigen highlights how Inside Amy Schumer can pack so much pathos into small moments. Between that scene and the sketch last week where Schumer played a girlfriend getting her heart trampled inside a cake, it’s clear Schumer could develop a second career as a dramatic actress if she wanted. I’d like to see her in a Duplass brothers movie.

I am digressing because I don’t want to get to why this episode has a B- despite some A material. The sketches in “Boner Doctor” are mostly great. The episode starts on a silly high note with “Boner Doctor,” a commercial where Schumer plays a woman who advertises that men whose erections won’t die down should call her instead of seeking medical attention. It’s vulgar and funny, just like “Finger Blasters,” the commercial parody that opened the show two weeks ago. But while “Finger Blasters” served as a frothy, goofy appetizer before the episode’s darker, more pointed segments, “Boner Doctor” is an appealing opener for an uneven episode dragged down by its stand-up portions.

Schumer’s first stand-up segment riffs on a trip she took with her sister to the W Hotel in Miami, and the sketch that follows pokes fun at the puffed-up customer service at upscale hotels. That first part of the stand-up isn’t memorable, but it’s not the problem. And the W hotel parody sketch, where Rachel Dratch appears as an obsequious hotel employee who pampers Schumer’s character with whale noises and compliments, is funny. Dratch’s mewling sycophant elevates the sketch; the look of contentment she conjures after telling Schumer that Nick Nolte’s step-daughter Willow is DJing is perfect. Also perfect: The hotel has a toilet that has an orgasm every time you flush. The satire of the elaborately fussy details high-end hotels insist upon is spot on. My only complaint about this hotel sketch is the goopy target. Extreme pretension of hotels like this is worth mocking, but this kind of ribbing makes me worried Schumer might be susceptible to Rich People Humor Syndrome (an affliction that plagues Jerry Seinfeld). But no, that’s not why this episode gets a B-.

It gets a B- because the stand-up set threading through this episode leans on cheap racial humor. Much of the set centers on how Schumer thinks hot Hispanic women can get away with acting grumpy, and how their accents are inherently more sexual than white girls-speak. When she says “Lateenya” and rolls her tongue, it reminds me of Lisa Lampanelli going off about “Hispangyics” in her stand-up. Schumer and Lampanelli have both made controversial, racist jokes in Comedy Central roasts, but Schumer is a far superior comedian, and it’s disappointing that I have a reason to make this comparison. Schumer’s show has been so much smarter about racial humor in the past. In the first season of Inside Amy Schumer, the sketch about a class to teach elderly white people how to be less racist and “Urban Fitters,” the sketch that showed Schumer’s character trying to be racially sensitive and failing, both focused on race without being, you know, racist themselves. (“Urban Fitters” also features a pre-Saturday Night Live Sasheer Zamata.) Relying on the tired trope of the too-sexy Latina doesn’t work in Schumer’s bit; it’s definitely not flat-out racist like the stuff Lampanelli says, but it jarred me the first time I watched it, and didn’t get less abrasive as I went back to try to figure out if I’d overreacted or if it was really that bad.

I’d rather Schumer make some missteps than get timid. Inside Amy is going dark and going deep, and that is why this season has been so great. But when Schumer trades on easy stereotypes for laughs, edginess does not equal sharpness.

Stray observations:

  • The kumquat and elderflower julep in the hotel scene looks so delicious. I’d like to see what other over-the-top precious and fancy drink combinations they came up with while writing the scene. Nothing can top the pretentious order of “a single plum floating in perfume served in a man’s hat” from The Simpsons’ “Homer’s Barbershop Quartet,” but I’d assume a number of good ones were percolating in the writers’ room.
  • This isn’t really a stray observation, but a nagging question: Am I being too sensitive about the racial humor, or not sensitive enough? I was also disappointed by the joke in the sketch about “Gym Bummers” that showed the Indian guy wearing jeans who probably wasn’t going to shower. It was cheap. Discussing race should certainly not be taboo in comedy, but the tone of all the race-based humor in “Boner Doctor” didn’t work. Schumer has broached race from the right angle in the past, here’s hoping this is a mistake and not a trait. 

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