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Amy Schumer described her show as dark, but not mean-spirited.’ (Phil McCarten/REUTERS)
Amy Schumer described her show as dark, but not mean-spirited.’ (Phil McCarten/REUTERS)

John Doyle

Amy Schumer is funny, angry and the voice of the moment Add to ...

You know when you’re watching The Daily Show or The Colbert Report on Comedy and they promote all those other shows – the one about some guy named Tosh, the show called Men at Work and the one called Workaholics? Yep, those shows. They’re mediocre or rubbish. Utter rubbish.

Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy, 10:30 p.m.) isn’t. It’s funny, angry, rude and shocking. It’s also a hit on the originating U.S. channel, Comedy Central. The debut episode last month had stellar ratings especially among 18-to-24-year-old men. Amy Schumer is the breakout comedy star of now – the in-vogue voice of the moment, the talked-about, puzzled-over comedy sensation.

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Why? Well, getting to grips with Amy Schumer is a tricky business. Her TV show is a blend of sketches, segments from her stand-up act and laid-back man or woman-on-the street interviews. Comedy Central says it explores “sex and relationships” and uses an unprintable word to describe its take on life. Schumer herself, who is 31, told Entertainment Weekly, “It’s a dark show, but it’s not mean-spirited. It’s usually just making fun of me.”

Well, no. That doesn’t cut it. A lot of Schumer’s material is angry. A lot of it is meant to embarrass deeply. Yes, sometimes it’s just making fun of foolish women. There’s a good sketch about a woman (Schumer, of course) who has a drunken one-night stand with a guy and by the next afternoon she’s choosing the wedding cakes and buying side-by-side burial plots for then. Meanwhile, we see the guy go about his day clueless that he had any impact on this woman. It’s funny-weird, but vaguely disturbing. Maybe Schumer’s red-hot comedy is female rage disguised as flippancy.

What strengthens the suggestion of rage is Schumer’s fixation on porn. There is one stunning sketch in which she and a Brazilian model are candidates to be in a “Scat Porn” video. The guy who created it gives them instructions on what to do. It’s stomach-churning disgusting. Barely a word of it is printable and the “concept” for the video is so gross that you, the viewer, is left reeling. In the sketch, Schumer merely expresses puzzlement about it all.

Possibly then, that elusive audience of males 18-24 contains porn enthusiasts who enjoy her familiarity with porn but don’t grasp that she’s enraged by it. Comedy is a strange business. Maybe when Schumer says, “I’m a little sluttier than the average bear...” it’s taken at face value by guys who just find Schumer, a comely woman of wit and style, an attractive figure to ogle on TV.

Women may react differently, I suspect, sometimes laughing along at Schumer’s mockery of needy single women but with a skin-crawling familiarity with the clichés. Possibly they root for her savaging of the mind-boggling mundanity of rom-com movies, and may cheer more than laugh when she subtly lacerates the sadistic portrayal of women in pornography.

Like many comics who appear on a new hit show, Schumer is no overnight success story. She’s been doing stand-up for 10 years, competed on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, and made a memorable appearance at Comedy Central’s Roast of Charlie Sheen.

She’s done a few acting jobs, most notably as Angie on the Girls episode, On All Fours. The one where Adam makes his new girlfriend Natalia crawl to have sex with him and then indulges in another of his fetishes. The Angie character, in a brief appearance as Natalia’s friend warns Adam not to hurt Natalia – “That would be like hurting Mother Teresa,” she says.

Maybe the connection with Lena Dunham’s Girls helps explain Schumer’s humour and its power. Girls is often mistaken for a celebration of a way of life for young urban women, when it is actually an acid comedy. Schumer tends to generate this standard description: “Blend of wholesome, girl-next-door looks and edgy comedy” when, in truth she’s a force of female rage.

Sure, there’s a superficial cuteness to some of her sketches. A recurring joke is about going to place called O’Nutters, a sort of Hooters for women, where men in bizarre outfits that show off their testicles fawn over the customers. It’s funny, but done with a manic, sharp distaste for everything that both Hooters and the fictional O’Nutters represent.

Schumer has been grouped with the so-called “cool girl” comics – Sarah Silverman, Chelsea Handler and Whitney Cummings, whose work is described as “edgy.” Schumer doesn’t have an edge, she has the acerbity of disgust. That’s what makes her the voice of the moment, the one that matters. She can be gross, but her show’s not mediocre or rubbish. It’s rage.

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