It says something for Amy Schumer’s natural appeal that many of the funniest moments in “Down for Whatever” come during the unscripted segments. The man-on-the-street interviews, which typically serve as filler, tonight featured some of the episode’s best lines, like Schumer asking a couple if they’ve been at a bad-idea wedding and wished for someone to “please Homeland this place.” And her “Amy Goes Deep” interview with a 106-year-old woman succeeded with a charm and sincerity that drew genuine laughs without the need for ironic condescension. Whether it’s intentional or not, it’s a smart move for Schumer to start expanding her brand in this way, slowly taking on a warmer, more accessible persona and evolving beyond mostly sex stuff.
The overall episode plays on the theme of commitment—more specifically the fear of it—and unfortunately, it commits itself to sketches that play on a bit too long in search of the payoff. “Celebrity Spooky Stories,” a takeoff on Lifetime Movie Network’s awful Celebrity Ghost Stories, puts Schumer back in her oblivious, spoiled celebrity character, this time staying at a nice hotel for the first time and assuming the unseen actions of the housekeeping staff are the work of supernatural spirits. (“On top of my pillow is even tinier pillow made entirely of chocolate!”) The joke becomes obvious early, making the rest of the sketch padded and predictable, save for a funny appearance by Schumer’s opportunistic life coach of 12 weeks: “If Amy says she saw a ghost, and agrees to fly me down business class, then guess what? She saw a ghost.”
Similarly so-so is the wedding sketch, in which a drunk Schumer loudly and incoherently takes up the priest’s request for any objections as to why this man and woman should not be joined in holy matrimony. It feels like the writers thought of the punchline first—that the groom admits he’s gay—and didn’t really have an idea of how to get there, so instead they relied on Schumer doing her thing for a few minutes. (The same way I imagine every Vince Vaughn movie has a section of the script that just says, “TBD Vince stuff next five pages.”) Schumer doing her thing is still entertaining, but as a whole, the sketch doesn’t quite seal the deal.
Most successful is the commercial for the “Stolen Years” collection of jewelry, a joke that will ring true and sting hard for any woman in a long-term relationship who’s opened a tiny box with high hopes, only to find a pair of earrings or a necklace or whatever that thing Jane Seymour sells is. In other words: Not an Engagement Ring. The message is aimed squarely at men who take “precious days and months” from women by stringing them along, though you could argue those women are also making the choice to stay in their unfulfilling relationships. Just as powerful as men’s fear of commitment is women’s willingness to take what they can get, and Schumer may be subtly reminding ladies that they deserve better.
Along those lines, Schumer takes on Say Yes to the Dress-type wedding reality shows by flipping the script and planning “My Dream Breakup.” Having decided she’s ready for “something taller,” Schumer revels in choosing the details of where and how she’s going to dump her boyfriend, in large part because usually, “Everyone always breaks up with me.” The writing and production details perfectly capture the scripted drama of the Bridezilla genre, and we get a funny twist on the wedding sketch punchline—this time, that the show’s stereotypical designer who Schumer thinks is her new gay best friend is actually not gay. (“I’m gonna fuck her.”)
The cold open also works, a public service announcement asking viewers to adopt the animals Schumer herself has adopted and can no longer take care of. There’s a rule in comedy about avoiding scenes with animals, but Schumer’s sharp-tongued one-liners contrast perfectly with the innocent faces of dogs, cats, mice, turtles and even a pig (“fat but owns it”). It’s a simple premise made better by a playful execution, and at the end of the day, it just made me laugh. Which I’m pretty sure is the point.
We’re now in the back half of the 10-episode season, which is good because I’m running out of ways to say how strong Schumer is, even when the sketches miss their targets. She and her team have a tough task ahead to keep up the breakneck momentum of the first few episodes, but all evidence points to them being up to the challenge. Schumer’s in this for the long haul, and so are we.