WHAT IT’S ABOUT Schumer taped this at the Bellco Theater in Denver, wearing black leather (hence the title). Subject matter: Her boyfriend, sex, fame, Bradley Cooper’s girlfriend. This special is part of Netflix’s new huge commitment to comedy — it will stream a new comedy special per week this year, including such other big names as Dave Chappelle, Louis C.K. and Chris Rock.
MY SAY One must prepare oneself carefully before wading into an Amy Schumer TV special. First, square your shoulders. Adjust glasses, if necessary. If a wet suit is handy, put it on — you never know what might come flying out of the screen. Take a deep breath. Say a little prayer. Lean into screen: OK, ready, set, go.
Schumer’s first special for Netflix does not fail to meet expectations, nor invalidate the need for preparation. It’s all there. She’s all there. Every bit of her. As usual, it’s mostly also all one subject, or variations on that subject, along with every imaginable word to describe that subject, along with some physical pantomime or gesture to add texture and meaning to this subject, just in case the words themselves didn’t quite suffice. As if.
A Schumer special can sometimes entail an interior dialogue among who must bear witness, and it goes this way: “Oh don’t tell me she’s gonna go there. Eeew, she went there. Oh, don’t tell me she’s gonna go there. Eww, she went there too.”
Schumer scales one barrier, then the next, then the next after that. You begin to suspect this isn’t a comedy special as much as a hurdles race. Exhaustion sets in — yours. You break out into a cold sweat in that wet suit. Where could this end up? The imagination falters, then collapses in a smoking heap. The imagination clearly does not want to know.
Schumer’s comedy is the comedy of self-debasement and self-abasement, and there are few who do it better. It also demands a pact with the audience requiring a certain degree of self-recognition. The camera pans across those well-scrubbed white faces in the Bellco. They laugh, then squirm. They know what’s she’s talking ‘bout.
Of course, here’s the problem for everyone else: It’s too much. What initially shocks then leads to a numbing sensation. An hour of this? No thanks.
You also know, or should, that Schumer’s a genuine talent with something to say about modern relationships, or modern sex. She also has the reptilian part of some male brains dead-to-center. What I was looking for here was the downshift, or the serious Amy, who uses that abundant talent to slay what really matters. That arrives late in the hour, when she goes into a riff about gun control. It’s terrific, and devastating. But after five minutes, it’s back to you-know-what.
BOTTOM LINE Too much of the carnal Amy, not enough of the smart, cultural critic Amy.