Amy Schumer Live at the Apollo
(2015; dir. Chris Rock)—The title of Amy Schumer’s second stand-up special hints at a kind of unpredictable, potentially hostile collision between performer and audience not unlike the 2012 Late Show with David Letterman episode where Dave performed to an empty Ed Sullivan theater while Hurricane Sandy raged, or the 1997 Late Night with Conan O’ Brien episode where Conan did his show in front of a studio audience comprised entirely of grade-school kids. Schumer didn’t do her act on Amateur Night; in fact, I’m not sure there’s a single paying customer of color in any of the numerous crowd shots.
So instead of edgy, unpredictable performance art we get a pretty good show from a pretty good comedian still on a serious roll. Schumer is much more relaxed and conversational this time around; the disarming, shock-value-heavy “good girl who says ghastly things” part of her act has largely disappeared. And thanks to her work on Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer, she’s more comfortable dropping into different characters for a snarky line or gesture than she once was. Her continuing growth as a physical comedian is also one of the show’s many highlights.
Mostly Sex Stuff, Schumer’s first special, improved after multiple viewings; Live at the Apollo improves after the first 30 minutes and keeps getting better all the way to the end. Her okay bits are about massage parlors and her awkward adolescence. Her good bits are about low-hanging fruit like beauty pageants and dumb Family Feud contestants. Her great bits are about food and sex, two topics where guilt and shame and pleasure are layered on top of each other like hoagie ingredients or fatigued swingers. The food stuff includes her admission that she’s never forgotten to eat lunch; the sex stuff includes her own discomfort with being labeled a sex comic (“I feel like a guy could get up here and literally pull his dick out and everybody would be like, ‘He’s a thinker!’”). She closes with a riotous and humane disquisition about the humiliating sex positions dreamt up by lonesome horndogs and performed by no one that’s funnier than most of Trainwreck.