Tuesday night’s “Inside Amy Schumer,” the second episode of the sketch comedy’s second season, nailed military rape culture, sexual double standards, and female body-consciousness within just the first 10 minutes. The raunchy Comedy Central breakout is near the front of the pack of new variety programs, but the sly feminist faces one of TV’s biggest gender disparities: the Emmys’ glass ceiling for variety TV.
“Tracey Takes On” was the last female-led program to win Best Variety Series. That was way back in 1997 – 17 years ago. It was also the last such series to be nominated. Since 2000, men have had a stranglehold on Best Variety Series, with comics like soon-to-retire David Letterman, Jon Stewart, Conan O’Brien, and Stephen Colbert taking most of the accolades. (I’m not counting ensemble shows like “Saturday Night Live” with several male and female players featured more or less equally.)
But at a time when women are establishing themselves more and more prominently as the driving forces of TV comedy – like Tina Fey (“30 Rock“), Lena Dunham (“Girls“), and Mindy Kaling (“The Mindy Project“) – it’s about time the TV academy recognizes that women are good at sketch comedy too.
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“Inside Amy” resembles FX’s “Louie” in how it alternates comic scenes with relevant stand-up routines, like Tuesday’s incisive bit about how advertising preys on women’s insecurity, followed by a scene in which a group of girlfriends pass moral judgment on their eating habits before gleefully cannibalizing the waiter – can you imagine how many calories are in one waiter?
Amy Schumer is also self-effacing, and candid about sex without reducing it to cheap shock-value; her interview with a sex columnist about the tricks of the trade seemed genuinely curious and bemused. Even better was last week’s discussion about the perils of being a cameraman on a porn set.
Can Schumer break through? Let’s consider the factors working for and against this Gold Derby Emmy MVP.
It’s well-liked by critics. TV Guide’s Matt Roush said of its second season, “This show and its blithely, brashly irreverent star are on fire.”
Airing in the spring, “Inside Amy” is well positioned; it will be fresh in the minds of voters when they’re casting their ballots in June.
As mentioned above, it doesn’t pay to be a woman in variety television at the Emmys.
There is shockingly little turnover among Variety Series nominees, where shows like “The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report,” “Saturday Night Live,” and “Real Time with Bill Maher” are checked off by rote year after year.
But if Emmy voters are interested in finally breaking that glass ceiling, they don’t need to look any further for justification than the below scene from Tuesday night’s show. Watch and learn: