It’s a mold-crusted cliché to say something is funny because it’s true, but it’s a cliché for a reason. Audiences respond to honesty. Tonight’s Inside Amy Schumer has several winning segments that work for several reasons. There are guest stars. There’s a brilliant commercial parody.
But despite being named after a director who goes broad, one of the best sketches in “Tyler Perry’s Episode 208” is one of the series’ most subtle. “On Demand” begins where so many of Schumer’s sketches begin, on the couch in the living room of her fictional self’s apartment. This time, instead of talking to God or taking a moonlight rowboat across the Atlantic—which is where sketches starting in the same spot have spiralled out in previous episodes—the action stays in the living room. The sketch is low-key, but keenly observed specificity drives the humor.
The show’s “Amy Goes Deep” section consistently highlights how great Schumer is at drawing candid answers out of people, but the show, as a whole, is not fixated on realism. Many of Schumer’s best sketches this season have barrelled into the grotesque, with unexpected sorties into violence, and rococo twists into surrealism. But “On Demand” is a stand-out sketch because it illustrates Schumer can kill understated realism as well as unabashedly bonkers, high-concept segments. The premise of a couple trying to decide what to watch on cable never dramatically shifts. The stakes could not be lower. There’s no outlandish status swap or twist. It’s funny because it’s just so damn recognizable. Every part of the sketch plays like it could simply be taken verbatim from a couple’s Friday-night debate. I mean that as a compliment. When Schumer and Rory Scovel’s characters list all the things they want to do before bed to figure out how late they can start a movie, the dialogue is so precisely mundane, it needs no garnish. I can’t think of another show that has pinpointed the whole “I want to watch you watch it” thing that happens in relationships. An entire episode filled with sketches in this tone might swerve into mumblecore, but every once in awhile, it’s great to see the Inside Amy Schumer writers craft something exquisite in miniature strokes.
The opening sketch is also strong because it trades in relationship realism, though it’s more uptempo and conventional in its heightening. Schumer’s character is in bed with her boyfriend, talking about mutual friends who broke up. “But they always had that trust stuff,” he explains. “I’m so glad we’re not like that.” Then he goes to shower, and Schumer immediately snoops through his browsing history. Far from discovering a treasure trove of weird porn, she finds a digital trail that makes her boyfriend look like a prince (which is where the sketch veers from realistic to what’s obviously a comic premise). His Google searches include “New hair compliments to give” and “ONLY attracted to girlfriend, no other women.” Schumer gets increasingly giddy about the results but doesn’t stop searching until she sees “How to explain to your girlfriend you’re extremely wealthy.” Then she shouts loving words to her boyfriend—who, as it turns out, is performing a depraved ritual in the bathroom. It’s a wickedly funny opener, and I like how it suggests maybe the woman wasn’t so crazy for being paranoid while making it clear it’s best for everyone if some secret behavior gets kept under wraps. It suggests that because it’s true. Whenever I’ve known friends (or, at a less evolved time in my life, myself) to get snoopy around partners’ Facebook accounts or search histories, people pretty much uniformly did not like what they found. That’s because people sometimes talk shit about their lovers and their friends. Sometimes they look at gross sex stuff. That just means they’re a person, not a villain. In the sketch, the boyfriend does turn out to be into a perverted onanistic thing, but does it really matter?
A later sketch returns to the idea of women freaking out and looking through their partners’ digital history. “Sandra Gel” is fantastic, and it’s everything the “On Demand” sketch isn’t. It’s high-concept (a commercial for a fictional estrogen gel), and instead of observing intimate behavior, it takes on broad-stroked stereotypes about women. “In clinical study, women who used Sandra Gel immediately reported an increase in unfounded suspicions, crying at work, and dishing it out without being able to take it.”
“Tyler Perry’s Episode 208” is a funny episode, and it returns Josh Charles to our television screens. Since I opened this review with a cliché, I’ll close it with another one: Inside Amy Schumer is firing on all cylinders.
- Happywithmygirlfriend.com, unfortunately, does not exist.
- Whale fracking does sound like the worst kind of fracking.
- The accents in “The Nurses” reminded me of SNL skits with Cecily Strong and Vanessa Bayer as the addled women hawking stuff on TV. I wanted them to show up.
- My mom is a flight attendant, so I was excited about tonight’s “Amy Goes Deep.” It was also a strong decision to pair this interview with “The Nurses.” Since the latter pokes fun at an often-thankless job primarily coded as female, the interview balanced it out by providing a megaphone for a real-life woman who worked at an often-thankless job coded as female.