Amber Rose and Schumer on the season premiere.
Comedy Central
By James Poniewozik
April 21, 2015

I could tell you exactly how funny the season 3 premiere of Inside Amy Schumer is (Tues., April 21), but then I’d have to kill it. Explanations are deadly to comedy, not to mention giving away punchlines. And while Schumer’s already released the opening sketch–“Milk Milk Lemonade,” a parody of booty videos guest starring Amber Rose–the episode’s other highlights depend so much on surprise, twists and casting that if I told you–well, then you’d have to kill me.

I will say, though, that the episode’s title is “Last F—able Day,” a play on the idea that every woman in Hollywood has an expiration date, the moment directors fear “your vagina is going to turn into a hermit crab.” (See also Tina Fey’s rule, in Bossypants, that “the definition of ‘crazy’ in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to f— her anymore.”) That kind of awareness–knowing how women are judged, rejecting it, enabling it, toying with it–is the nugget of nuclear fuel that powers Schumer’s feminist sketch machine.

At its best–and the first three episodes of the season among the show’s best–Amy Schumer’s comedy is often intensely about herself. Not in the sense that it’s autobiographical or introspective: it’s about her person, her body, how the world sees it, how she sees it, who feels they have the right to it.

Schumer jokes about being on the cusp between the kind of women pop culture objectifies and the kind it rejects; see the season 2 sketch where she played two opposing tennis players, one hot and girly (and fawned over by the announcers), one lumbering and athletic (and vilified by them). Finding comedy in the mirror isn’t unique to her or even to women comics–Louis CK bases plenty of comedy on his appearance–but the way Schumer does it, not with Phyllis Diller-style self-deprecation but playing in the gray zones of social judgment, is fruitfully uncomfortable.

That sensibility is still there in season three, but it’s honed, assertive and blisteringly satirical, as in a birth-control ad where the boilerplate “Ask your doctor if birth control is right for you” morphs into demands that you also ask your boss, your boss’ priest, and random strangers. Inside Amy Schumer is really a war comedy; this battle is going on inside women, and it’s about who has the right to control them.

Some sketches seem to revisit territory from the first two seasons, like one about a woman enthusiastically going to a strip club with her male coworkers, a sort-of reprise of last season’s “Chick Who Can Hang” sketch. But others take the same themes into an entirely new dimension, like the audacious third episode, “Twleve Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer.”

In the full-episode sketch, a parody of the Henry Fonda jury movie, a dozen men (including Jeff Goldblum, Paul Giamatti and Vincent Kartheiser) are sequestered to judge Schumer physically. At first it’s like a remake of last season’s “You Would Bang Her?”–but it pushes the conceit into absurdity into a faux-melodrama about the male gaze arguing against itself. (“Am I the only one thinking with my dick here!” one furious juror demands.) It’s a satire of how women are assessed, and of how men are socialized to assess them, and of how pop culture presses a standardized, and thus boring, idea of sexiness on everyone. At the same time, it’s both a pitch-perfect satire of Sidney Lumet-style social-issues movies and an effective piece of social issues comedy.

Schumer barely appears in the half-hour-long sketch. And yet her presence, her sensibility, is everywhere here. Like all of Inside Amy Schumer at its best, it’s hot because it’s funny.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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