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Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Season 2 of 'Inside Amy Schumer' Starts Off with a Banging

Before Broad City exploded onto the scene, comedian Amy Schumer stood alone as Comedy Central's (to steal a term from tonight's Inside Amy Schumer premiere) "feminist-bent on a male-skewering network," serving as both a powerful female force and adaptable demographic-straddler on a channel that has traditionally catered to dorm room bros. Her TV success has depended on — as it often does for girls with a lot of older brothers — out-crassing them on one level then turning that crassness completely on its head on the other; in the first three episodes alone she plays the comic who calls out the objectification of women in fashion magazines then goes on to pose nude for PETA, the meek secretary who then beats a male superior to a pulp, and the attractive tomboy who drives her male suitors to reexamine their own sexuality. Here's a look at the beginning of Inside Amy Schumer's second season, and why it took today's queen of R-rated standup to pull Comedy Central out of the frat house and into the co-ed mixer.

In the opening scene of the new season, Schumer goes the heavy-handed route when acknowledging the longstanding comedy star double standard between men and women. As she anonymously stares from behind a one-sided mirror, a focus group of nearly all white dudes nitpicks and pulls apart her show not on how funny the content is but in terms of Schumer's bangability in her standup segments versus the "skits." While the punchline ultimately comes with her surprise response (after the group is rewarded for their time with energy drinks and beef sticks), Schumer tackles a pile of horrible truths along the way, and she's doubtlessly sat in at least one of these kinds of meetings and learned how to reconcile TV execs' expectations of sex appeal with her own unapologetically brash and bawdy standup act. It's essentially a thesis for the season, which she plays out in a handful of ways over the first few episodes — from sexy but untalented Russian tennis players to girlfriends who try to play a Call of Duty-like video game using the female avatar option, only to be raped by a male soldier then shamed by the government after deciding to press charges. In the video game.

So, like last season, is there a raunchy exterior full of jokes about STDs, abortions, and finger-banging? Absolutely. Are there invasive on-the-street segments and interview portions with people who produce porn and sex columnists who give lazy handjobs? Of course. Is there a whole lot more behind that raunchy exterior — a challenge to the trope that nice ladies can't be dirty, hotness and humor can't mix, or husbands can't tell their poker night buddies their wife sex stories? Definitely. If Inside Amy Schumer's new Comedy Central ally Broad City is the female-driven show that's accessible for both guys and girls alike, then Inside Amy Schumer is the fierce older sister who prefers attack over subtlety and political sucker punching over boy-friendly relatability. Seeing famous male guest stars like Paul Giamatti, Zach Braff, Josh Charles, and Michael Ian Black play into Schumer's alpha female truths only makes the comic payoff even more rewarding.

While Inside Amy Schumer sometimes teeters into overly cynical territory, it's offset nicely by Schumer's standup clips and on-the-street segments, where she asks random pedestrians various sex life questions and comes across as the warmest, friendliest, and most judgment-free version of herself on the series. When restricted to characters it seems that Schumer feels most at home playing the polar opposite of that: the annoyingly insecure and body image-obsessed friend who likes to binge on chicken wings and lobster to the girlfriend who can't play video games like the guys to even the accomplished standup who thinks she's famous enough for, in her own words, "pity-fucking a prom loser." One by one, you can expect these caricatural takes on the secret pleasures and daily struggles of women to not only be turned completely inside-out by Schumer, but rendered outdated once and for all. Before Comedy Central started taking more chances on female-helmed series, Schumer cracked her knuckles and kicked down the door by not going easy on topics of double standards, beauty, sex, and the comedy world at large. Season 2 is more than just funny, and even if the crassness is almost contractual, while the boys are still snickering over boob jokes the network's ladies are gaining tons of powerful momentum, and the R-rated queen is still here to rule them all.

Season 2 of Inside Amy Schumer premieres on Comedy Central tonight at 10:30pm.