Inside Amy Schumer begins its second season on Comedy Central Tuesday night, with a sketch in which a focus group of men are asked what they think about the comedian Amy Schumer and her TV show, Inside Amy Schumer. The moderator asks boilerplate focus-group questions that the men unfailingly sexualize. “I thought her tits were great, like really good tits, but her face was just OK. Just so-so face, man” is the response to a query about the show’s balance between sketches and stand-up. “Would you DVR it?” gets a response of “I would bang her, if that’s what you mean.” There is a long side conversation about whether the men would have sex with Schumer if no one had to know about it. As the scene ends, the camera pans to show Schumer standing behind one-way glass, having just watched the room full of men tear her apart. She decides to see the bright side: “A couple of them said they would bang me?”
In its second season, Inside Amy Schumer has become the most consistently feminist show on television, a sketch comedy series in which nearly every bit is devoted in some capacity to gender politics. But Schumer channels her perspective through an onscreen persona that is insecure, self-proclaimedly slutty, crass, selfish, glossy—onscreen, Amy Schumer thinks feminism is the ultimate F word. Thus a sketch like the focus group, in which Schumer, the writer, tackles her objectification, while Schumer, the character, takes comfort in it. This pairing is extremely canny. Schumer hides her intellect in artifice and lip gloss—that’s how she performs femininity. By wrapping her ideas in a ditzy, sexy, slutty, self-hating shtick, her message goes down easy—and only then, like the alien, sticks its opinionated teeth in you.
Schumer is a great observer of the eviscerating, gendered detail, the seemingly innocuous convention that actually papers over hypocrisy and egotism. In her best sketch from last season, a group of women gathered on the street and failed to take compliments from one another: “Look at your cute little dress!” “Little? I’m like a size 100 now. Anyway I paid $2 for it. It’s probably made of old Burger King crowns. I look like a whore locked out of her apartment!” It was a sketch based on real-life behavior, blown up to insane and hilarious proportions, so that you could see the seeming self-effacement for what it was—competition, false humility and, above all, the perverse way women “behaving appropriately” are encouraged to behave.
Schumer has a couple of new sketches in the same format as “Compliments” that are not quite as satisfying, but still nicely showcase her knack for eviscerating small talk. In one, a group of women insist they’re “so bad” because of all the food they’ve eaten, while giving themselves a free pass on all other kinds of abhorrent behavior. A sketch with men chatting about how much they love a guy’s girl gets followed to its homoerotic conclusion. In a great sketch that doesn’t follow exactly the same up-the-ante format, a man (Zach Braff, no less) gets chastised by his buddies anytime he wants to tell sordid sex stories about his wife, whom he loves: His friends think wild sex is only acceptable with women they don’t respect.
The best sketch of the new season has Schumer playing a video game not unlike Call of Duty with a male friend. Schumer picks a female avatar—the friend grimaces at this—who, in the game, is raped by her superior. The guy Schumer is playing with doesn’t believe that it happened. Schumer must have “done something wrong.” Meanwhile, the game starts bullying her—“You were just assaulted by a fellow solider. Do you wish to report?” “Yes.” “Are you sure? Did you know he has a family? Does that change your mind about reporting?”—before sending her to Level 25, which is all paperwork.
In an earlier bit, Schumer egomaniacally decides to take a kid to the prom as part of a PR stunt. It goes horribly wrong, but in the end, she feels like it was worth it because her arms look skinny in the resulting tabloid photo. Surrounding all the skits are snippets from her stand-up, in which she, among other things, looks very polished. Male comedians, generally speaking, dress on a scale from not-trying-very-hard to not-trying-at-all. Female comedians have to look more presentable, and Schumer skews particularly girly: form-fitting dresses, long blond hair, glossy lips. Schumer’s self-presentation, along with the peppering in of low-brow dirty jokes and sketches in which she plays the vapid asshole, are extremely shrewd: Amy Schumer doesn’t “seem” like a feminist who can’t take a joke. On Inside Amy Schumer, she’s the feminist who makes them.