Tuesday 12 December 2017

The TV guide: Funny girls

It's an exciting moment for women in comedy with Amy Schumer a perfect example of the irresistible new order

Hottest thing in comedy right now: Amy Schumer
Hottest thing in comedy right now: Amy Schumer

Emily Hourican

Once upon a time - actually, until about a year ago - there was a strange belief abroad that women weren't funny. They could be ditzy, or charming, or funny-cute, and they could laugh along at other people's jokes, but actual real, intentional funny? No.

Then a storm began gathering, whipped up by Kristen Wiig, Bridget Christie, Sharon Horgan, Sarah Silverman, Lena Dunham, Melissa McCarthy, and reaching critical mass with, first Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosting the Golden Globes for the third time and proving that they were far more of a draw than any of the honoured actors, and then, in a final all-out frenzy, the launch of the third season of Amy Schumer's series Inside Amy Schumer.

Amy Schumer is the hottest thing in comedy right now. This third season has vaulted firmly into the mainstream, winning a Peabody and four Emmy nominations. She herself was Glamour magazine's Trailblazer of the Year, and is about to appear in Trainwreck, directed by Judd Apatow, for which she wrote the screenplay and in which she also stars, as a determinedly promiscuous magazine writer.

Amy's thing is that she is blonde, pretty, safe, almost preppy-looking. She wears tight black dresses and red six-inch heels with well-groomed hair. But her cute physical appearance is the Trojan Horse in which she smuggles some of the smartest, most sardonic, challenging and downright funny humour around. Her jokes aren't just clever, they don't just mock sexist stereotypes, they actually make you laugh. As she said in one interview, "People see a female comedian and they're just like, 'Yawn, what else is on?' But they see a chick that's kind of interesting to look at and you see some skin, and at least you'll stay tuned to see what she has to say."

Amy veers merrily between the sublime - such as her sketch about the 'no raping' rule a tough-but-fair new American football coach imposes on the team, to the disgust of townsfolk - through to the ridiculous, like the deliberate tumble she took on the red carpet recently on the way to a party for Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential (of which she is one), landing sprawled at the feet of Kanye and Kim Kardashian, with a loud 'oouff!' of surprise. The fact that Kanye kept his face entirely rigid and refused even to look round, made it all the funnier.

"I think falling is the funniest thing in the world," she later said, as she mocked the entire process, from being nominated at all, to red carpets in general, celebrities, Kanye, and herself.

Nothing is sacred, nothing is too profane, but where Amy really comes into her own is in the sly challenge she offers to pernicious female stereotypes. She mocks every bit of pop culture attitudes towards women, from booty-fixated rap videos, to the notion that women over a certain age are no longer attractive. One sketch has her stumbling on Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in the woods, having a party to celebrate Julia's "last f**kable day" in Hollywood.

It is the combination of raucous ladette humour with a sharp and unforgiving eye for the million small ways in which women are belittled and ignored by media that makes Amy Schumer so irresistible. That said, not everyone loves her. There are those who confuse the humour with genuine racism - her stand-up routine features jokes like "Nothing works 100pc of the time, except Mexicans" - which are a jest too far for some, but for the many who relish seeing reductive stereotypes torn down and trampled on, Amy Schumer, along with the growing army of smart women comedians, is a godsend.

Season three of 'Inside Amy Schumer' is on Comedy Central UK, Tuesdays at 10.30pm. 'Trainwreck' is released on August 28.

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