When sketch comedy is at its worst it is absolutely the worst. Few mediums have the capacity to sink quite as low as the comedy sketch. A bad comedy sketch is nasty, brutish and short and somehow manages to aggravate, insult and bewilder the viewer all in the worst ways.
And yet the line between a great sketch and a terrible sketch is so often thin and nebulous, which makes a truly great sketch all the more impressive. Where a bad sketch show will make you reexamine why comedy exists, a good one will have you reexamining aspects of yourself and your culture you may never have thought about before. You know, like “Dick in a Box.”
Comedy Central has been responsible for both devastating and exemplary sketches. More of the former, no doubt. One sketch from a handful of years ago comes to mind. Before Carlos Mencia’s career was obliterated into dust he had a show called Mind of Mencia. And a sketch called CSI: China.
CSI: China is exactly as imaginative as its title. Mencia is a forensic scientist (like The Flash) whose jurisdiction is wild, whacky China! Not Hong Kong or Beijing, mind you. All of it! China! Unfortunately being a forensic scientist in China is hard because, as the skit reiterates time and time again, all Chinese people look the same!
CSI: China isn’t a bad sketch because it’s offensive, it’s a terrible sketch because it’s offensive to absolutely no end. Is Mencia shedding light on rapid industrialization or China’s ever-escalating international influence or xenophobia or even just how boring CSI is?
He just wants you to know that all Chinese people look the same.
But once in a blue moon Comedy Central strikes gold, as they have with Amy Schumer’s new show Inside Amy Schumer.
Schumer is best known for her decidedly edgy stand-up and her show, save bleeps and blurs here and there, is just as edgy. But where Mind of Mencia ran for the edge with a nonchalant recklessness Inside Amy Schumer approaches it with the finesse of genuinely clever satire.
Much like Chappelle’s Show used Black White Supremacists, crack addicts and pimps to address race relations in the new millennium, Inside boasts sexts, porn and prostitutes in an examination of gender relations circa 2013.
A sketch involving a co-ed special ops mission highlights the roles women are consistently relegated to in action movies and a skit on female point-of-view pornography is equal parts though-provoking, hilarious and utterly horrifying. One particularly brilliant segment depicts an ever expanding circle of female friends meeting on a street corner to participate in an economy of compliments and self-deprecation.
The sketches on Inside Amy Schumer all conform to a decidedly absurd tone, as sketch shows on Comedy Central tend to do. For those looking to keep their intense, academic analyses of society out of their entertainment the show is still enjoyable at face value. But the substance Schumer and her writers are able to bring to a sketch about sexting is there in spades.
It’s a sketch comedy show at its best. Like Chappelle’s Show it brings plenty of laughs, but it does so through a very particular and very intriguing viewpoint. Inside Amy Schumer is a show that lets a twenty something honky such as myself to take a glimpse at society through a different lens. It lends perspective to aspects of being a lady that I wouldn’t normally have thought about.
Also there’s this sketch about a lady who farts when she gets scared and she gets scared a lot.
Sketch comedy at its best.