WORTH REPEATING: Deep Inside Amy Schumer 3

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NEW YORKER: Raunchy, rough, a destabilizing mixture of daffy and caustic, Schumer’s series débuted under the radar, in 2013. A blend of standup routines, mostly about sex; person-on-the-street interviews, also about sex; and satirical sketches, the series had an unusually high hit rate for a new comedy show. But this spring is clearly Schumer’s breakout moment. She’s on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, in a parody of the poster for “American Beauty,” blond curls splayed, lying on a bed of minibar liquor bottles rather than rose petals. In July, her romantic comedy “Trainwreck,” directed by Judd Apatow (who has unexpectedly blossomed into female comedy’s fairy godfather), will début. The show’s new season, its third, has a higher profile, too: it’s more star-studded and also more overtly political. The show has always had feminist streaks; now it’s letting the roots grow out. The first episode, which aired two weeks ago, yielded two viral hits, one a perfect “Friday Night Lights” parody, in which Josh Charles plays a football coach who outrages his town with a “no raping” rule, the other a sketch about Hollywood double standards called “Last Fuckable Day,” starring Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Patricia Arquette.

Both skits were timely and also very funny. (“Football Town Nights,” in particular, was a sharp interrogation of football culture, featuring earnest jocks so confused about the coach’s new rule that they pepper him with questions like “But what if my mom’s a D.A. and won’t prosecute?”) That said, there’s a risk to Schumer’s rise—when you’re put on a pedestal, the whole world gets to upskirt you. Now comes the hype, the lash and the backlash and the backlash to the backlash, the hero worship and the red-hot fury—no pressure, Amy Schumer! It’s happened again and again to the new wave of female TV creators, the Tinas and Mindys and Lenas, whose fans want role models as well as artists—a demand that many female comics embrace but that’s rarely required of men. (Louis C.K., whose show is having a terrific rebound season, doesn’t owe his fans anything except comedy.) And yet it’s hard to deny the effectiveness of the speech Schumer gave at a Ms. Foundation event last year, in which she described, in raw detail, a cruddy college sexual encounter. It woke her up to how far she’d sunk—and the way that the world’s focus on “fuckability” can throw her right back into self-hatred. “I say if I’m beautiful. I say if I’m strong,” she told the audience, delivering a sort of mission statement for her show, where she dredges the wreckage of that younger self. […]

Comedy with a message can also easily turn didactic—or, worse, smug. Luckily, Schumer’s show feels built to withstand this pressure, even as it expands its reach, touching on subjects like reproductive rights and equal pay. (Credit is due to the show’s writers, including Jessi Klein, Tig Notaro, and Schumer’s sister, Kim Caramele.) This is mainly because of the grotty, chaotic persona that Schumer has developed, allowing her to poke just as hard at young single women, in their blinkered vanity, as she does at the toxic messages that surround them. In Schumer’s standup, she’s one of them: “sluttier than the average bear,” a binge drinker who knows that blacking out isn’t cute anymore. Her target is the ugliness of urban heterosexual hookups: Plan B, money shots, and other hassles of the age. In this iteration, she’s smart but self-destructive, the sadder-but-wiser girl, who knows how easily desperation can masquerade as freedom. MORE