During Amy Schumer’s set at Carnegie Hall Friday night as part of the New York Comedy Festival, she joked about being labeled a sex comic. Her show is, after all, called Inside Amy Schumer.
While sex is a large part of Schumer’s comedic persona, however, her work is wide ranging—and her Comedy Central show has been labeled the “most feminist show on TV.” So before she and her writers took the stage for a panel at the Paley Center for Media Saturday, EW asked Schumer what she would call the show if she were really describing it. “It would be like ‘show to make you laugh, feel like a human and empower both men and women.’ And I think zero people would watch that show, but that is the goal,” Schumer said. “We want people to laugh their asses off and we want to change things.”
During the panel, Schumer explained that she and executive producer Jessi Klein weren’t initially of the mindset “everybody, bras off, we’re going to make our dream feminist-agenda show.” Rather, that’s just who they are—and those attitudes came through. “There has been so much attention for it being a feminist show that we accept the responsibility of that and aren’t pretending,” Schumer said. “I always think of like Miley Cyrus or a pop singer being like, well, I didn’t ask to be a role model. Well, you are, bitch.” Still, Schumer’s show has gotten praise for expertly skewering and calling attention to societal expectations’ effects on female behavior, with sketches like “Compliments” and “I’m So Bad.” (Schumer noted that in the upcoming season there will be a sketch along those lines about the phrase “I’m sorry.”)
Inside Amy Schumer has had a demonstrable impact, as she and the writers detailed. Here are three examples of how Inside Amy Schumer has had a real-world impact.
The liberation of ‘pussy’
Inside Amy Schumer broke down pussy barriers at Comedy Central. “According to executive producer Dan Powell, “dick” could be used “un-bleeped as an anatomical reference, but you couldn’t do that with ‘pussy.'”
“You are allowed to say ‘dick,’ and we just felt this was grossly unfair,” Klein said. Powell made it his mission to get equality for the word.
“That was Dan’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” Schumer said. Powell did research on the “pussy” problem, and wrote a letter [to the network executives]. “It was written like I was writing to my congressman but it was about using the word ‘pussy’ on air,” Powell said. “I guess it struck a chord.” Hence, viewers got the sketch, below, in which Schumer could comment that the animated meerkat she was doing a voiceover for had a pussy.
The “Hello M’Lady” sketch actually came in handy when a guy was acting as a “m’lady” to Schumer herself. The sketch is about an app that helps women manage the men who dote on them despite there being no reciprocal feelings, and then become enraged because they feel they are entitled to those women’s attentions. To Schumer, the sketch has become something “you can just present as evidence and help you deal with your own life.” In fact, she has done just that.
“This guy was just spiraling. I just casually tweeted the Hello m’lady scene a couple of days ago and he reached out, he said, oh my God, and he’s left me alone since then,” Schumer described. “So it was really satisfying.” Writer Christine Nangle, who starred in the sketch along with Schumer, explained that Neil Casey, who wrote and appears in the sketch and has since been poached from Inside Amy Schumer, didn’t want to let anyone with “m’lady” behavior distance himself from the sketch.
“He was like, no, I don’t want this specific kind of guy off the hook,” Nangle said. “I don’t want to make it so crazy or so unrelatable that this kind of guy can look at that character and say, oh, that’s not me, that guy’s crazy. So we kept it laser-focused on the exact kind of guy.” Powell said, “You got the impression that Neil wanted to deal with his friends but couldn’t talk to them personally.”
A Sorkin apology
Inside Amy Schumer‘s “The Foodroom,” which starred Josh Charles, perfectly skewered Aaron Sorkin’s self-important, male-aggrandizing style, and Klein is taking credit for a Sorkin mea culpa. “Without addressing the sketch, he was like,’Um, you know, hindsight’s 20/20 when you make a show, and we’re still figuring it out,'” Klein said. “It was clear. And also we knew through back channels that he had seen it.” (“The Foodroom” aired on April 15, and Sorkin apologized on April 21.)
So how do you parody Sorkin that well? According to Schumer, it’s about “the severity, the importance of every moment. You could all do it right now.” And the script called for “the most important music you’ve ever heard.”