If Amy Schumer: The Leather Special were as funny as it is dirty, it would be the next step in her drunken walk of shame toward world domination.
“Every comic has one moment where they wear leather and they regret it,” says Schumer at the start of the special, dressed in a tight black leather bodysuit. “This is my moment.”
“Don’t know if you guys know, this but this past year I’ve gotten very rich, famous and humble,” she said, and then mentions a revealing photo she tweeted: “Here’s a word that you don’t want to hear when a nude photo of you goes viral. Brave.”
But the one-hour stand-up set, which premiered on Tuesday on Netflix, is mostly full of the unapologetic raunch that’s contributed to her success: detailed descriptions of her messy sex life, vivid references to her bodily functions and other aggressively TMI moments — none of which can be reprinted here.
Schumer’s renown for obliterating narrow ideas about female sexuality, double standards and negative body image with a crude and biting realism is usually reserved for men in comedy. And she does it with an abandon that’s often as boundary-smashing as it is obscenely funny.
The Leather Special not only relies on many of those familiar and explicit themes, but kicks it all up a notch so there’s more of it — with more frequency and extremities. And as it turns out, that’s not a good thing. I’d put an example here, but a series of bleeped out words probably won’t be helpful.
Ironically, the dirtier it gets, the less daring it feels. Part of the problem is that she doesn’t drop in enough context from her life of late, and the material feels like it could have come from a set three years ago. It’s ironic given how much Schumer’s circumstances have changed over the last few years. She’s now a famous comedian, author of a bestselling book, star and writer of the film Trainwreck and the talent that drives Comedy Central’s series Inside Amy Schumer. The sketch show, which has completed four seasons, won a Peabody Award and Emmy last year for outstanding variety sketch series.
Schumer also made news last year during the election when Donald Trump supporters walked out of her Florida show after she called him an “orange, sexual-assaulting, fake-college-starting monster.” Beyoncé fans got mad about her mock Lemonade video (Milk, Milk, Lemonade). Viewers of her show wanted her to apologise after a male show writer posted what were widely perceived as sexist comments on social media.
When Schumer does dial back on the pearl-clutching material, it breaks up the monotony. Her experience at the Peabody Awards is one such moment: “The other people there were like Ebola fighters, and Malala, and our show,” she says of the other finalists there and then proceeds to draw a contrast between her work and that of the young Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai.
“At the beginning of the awards, they showed a little clip of each person’s project. First, they showed a clip of the Ebola fighters in [body] suits, where they go in and save lives. And then Malala, Malalaing. And then they show a clip of our show ... me taking a giant bite of a burger, then going, ‘I’m gonna make some room’ and walking to the toilet. ... Malala being fitted for a glass eye, and then me ...”
Mid-set, Schumer gets as serious as she ever does when she brings up two Louisiana women who were shot and killed in 2015 by an assailant who opened fire during a showing of Trainwreck, injuring nine other people and killing himself.
Schumer says she wanted to raise awareness so that mentally ill people were not able to buy guns, but “no matter what you say, as soon as you say the word gun, what gun nuts hear is, ‘She wants to take all our guns! That shifty Jew wants our guns! Our amendment!’ ... I found out if you’re on the terrorist watch list, you can easily get a gun. So the same guy who is like, ‘Git out of our country, foreigner!’ is like, ‘But while you’re here, please enjoy our firearms, legally.’”
It’s tonally abrupt, but it does find her pushing what she and the audience are comfortable with. Stronger still is when she mentions her failure to look and act like a celebrity. Schumer says she and her sister, Kim, dress like they’re homeless, but the tabloids “still write about us as if we’re the Kardashian sisters [cops a fancy fashion reporter voice]: ‘The Schumer sisters stepped out today. Amy opted for performance fleece and a pleather jacket from Forever 21.’ ... We are the most disappointing people to ever be photographed. It looks like were moving and ran out of bags so we were like, ‘Let’s just wear it all.’”
Schumer’s material on the base, everyday sex/guy/gross body image stuff is still funny, but as her life has gotten crazier and more surreal, it’s these new observations that push her set forward.