Inside Amy Schumer is on a hot streak. “A Chick Who Can Hang” maintains the raunch-coated, barbed verve of the first two episodes, and it is the most consistent episode this season. Even the best sketch shows sometimes feel like the material was strung together at random, because it’s a hell of a feat to develop enough premium material on a weekly basis, let alone arrange it to avoid tonal swerves. If segments of a comedy show can stand on their own, the show format is often sufficient to tie them into a satisfactory episode. But if the bits stand on their own and leave viewers with the impression they were interwoven with purpose, it elevates the comedy. “A Chick Who Can Hang” hangs together as a complete feeling 22 minutes of television.
The episode circles back on unrequited, soured, or misplaced love, on the idea that people can be very wrong about what they want. In the first sketch, Amy plays a returning soldier who decides to jump out of a birthday cake to surprise her boyfriend, only to overhear him talk about how he no longer wants to be with her. The camera stays on Schumer’s face as her expression changes from gleeful to crestfallen to resolutely humiliated. At first, with just Schumer’s face illuminated in total darkness, the lighting in the first moments of the scene recall The Blair Witch Project, or another horror movie. She’s on the phone with a friend, so it’s immediately apparent that she’s hiding as a fun surprise for her significant other, not cowering for her life, but what unfolds is undoubtedly a horror story for anyone in a relationship worried their partner has grown tired of them. As Schumer’s character waits in the dark, inside the cake, she overhears her boyfriend discussing their relationship with his buddy, and discovers he wants out of the relationship. The long close-up shot makes the sketch especially intimate, and succeeds on the strength of Schumer’s reactions.
The second sketch of the night gives the episode its title, and continues the theme of bad romantic choices. “A Chick Who Can Hang” punctures the pervasive idea of the “Cool Girl” girlfriend. As Anne Helen Petersen points out in a remarkable essay about the history of the “Cool Girl,” the trope is teased out by Gillian Flynn in her 2012 novel Gone Girl: “Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.”
This idea of the Cool Girl gets eviscerated in “A Chick Who Can Hang.” Men sit around a sports bar, drinking pints and discussing their ideal woman. “That tomboy thing,” one (Marc Menchaca) says. Another (Dan Soder) invokes a past lover: “She was crazy hot; she could recite all of Boondock Saints verbatim while rebuilding a deck.” They agree the tequila-swilling, foul-mouthed vixen (who remains “crazy hot” despite her trucker-on-a-cheat-day diet and penchant for laying around in sweatpants playing video games and ignoring conventional feminine grooming standards) is where it’s at.
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The men one-up each other defining the Cool Girl until she sounds less like a tomboy and more like a straight up dude. As the scene unfolds, it becomes apparent they want to have sex with other men. I can see how this joke might be read as homophobic (it kind of reads as homophobic when I describe it like that), but it’s not ribbing homosexuality. It’s skewering heterosexual males who perpetuate the myth of the Cool Girl by fetishizing an ideal that does not exist, a woman with the soul of a bro and the body of a superbabe.
The segments that aren’t about bad romantic choices are about other kinds of misplaced passion. A sketch where Amy’s character is put through the call-waiting ringer with a cable company only to row a boat to India to kill herself and the man on the other end lets Schumer flex her onscreen breakdown muscles. Broad City already did a cable company call waiting subplot in “Apartment Hunters” that covers the same ground with a funnier conclusion. Maybe the female Comedy Central comedians all signed up for the same horrible cable plan?
Aaron Sorkin’s zeal for overly passionate dialogue takes a beating in a standout sketch. “The Foodroom” thoroughly parodies Sorkin’s The Newsroom by moving his signature motor-mouthed, earnest characters into the lowest stakes setting imaginable, a corporate fast food joint. It’s not a timely parody, since The Newsroom was canceled months ago, and there’s not much hype for its final season. But the parody is great. It has Josh Charles as J.J., who has the blustery, rushed swagger of a Sorkin alpha male down cold. That’s because Charles starred on Sorkin’s Sports Night, which makes me question whether Sorkin has a better sense of humor about himself than he’s displayed in the past and he signed off on this, or whether Josh Charles has a secret beef with Sorkin.
The Josh Charles Factor would’ve redeemed this sketch in my eyes even if it had been a stink bomb, but it’s not. When Sorkin places his characters in legitimately high-intensity situations, like, say, the West Wing of the White House, their tendency towards solemn and self-aggrandizing statements seems somewhat reasonable. Sorkin’s default male character is a blowhard with unimpeachable moral certitude, and the female character a flibbertigibbet best when she’s steering a man towards greatness. This was more acceptable earlier in his career. His last two television shows, Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip and The Newsroom, tried to apply the same pressure-cooker fervor and antiquated take on gender roles to the process of making a television show. Neither worked, because making a show simply isn’t life-or-death enough to justify Sorkin’s baroquely orchestrated back-and-forths, and people are starting to expect more from their female characters. “The Foodroom” nails the Sorkin cadence so it can highlight how puffed up the underlying worldview is.
Maybe next season Inside Amy Schumer can continue skewering talented but flawed male showrunners and lay waste to Matt Weiner?
- “Hello M’Lady” was killer as well. It’s almost micro-skewering, since it pinpoints such a specific (but loathsome) type of guy.
- “It looks like they’re waiting for Liam Neeson in the bottom of a closet” may be the most apt description of the American Apparel ad aesthetic ever.
- Don’t worry. I already consulted Google to verify that Macklemore Jordans are not, in fact, real.