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Amy Schumer’s unapologetic, unpolished ‘Leather Special’

| Tuesday, March 21, 2017

1490044791-2a3f1e6bd6ee90cLindsey Meyers

In her recently released Netflix special, “The Leather Special,” Amy Schumer walks onstage in an all-leather ensemble brimming with casual confidence. One of the first jokes she cracks is about her outfit. “Every comedian has a special where they wear only leather and they regret it later,” she quips before veering into a cuss-laced rant about how uncomfortable she feels in the outfit. “Already regret it — already regret it. Very overheated!”

The irony is that, at the same time, Schumer appears radically comfortable onstage. An Emmy-nominated and winning comedian, Schumer possesses a fearless, magnetic stage presence. She’s dynamic and expressive, acting out raunchy scenes with reckless abandon and traversing the stage like it’s her very own living room, or maybe — given the nature of the jokes — her very own university residence hall.

Schumer’s style of joke-telling, and the graphic content upon which her jokes rely, can either land as enormously off-putting or incredibly hilarious, depending on the setting and the audience. True to the theme established in her previous specials, most recently “Mostly Sex Stuff” in 2012 and “Live at the Apollo” in 2015, the bulk of Schumer’s content is raunchy to the extreme. She deals primarily in sex jokes and physical comedy, the vast majority of which are unfit to print here or in the pages of any other publication.

In “The Leather Special,” Schumer hits the ground running, launching into a full 40 minutes of sexually explicit material. It’s shocking and vulgar — especially because as soon as you think Schumer might lay off the sex jokes for a bit, she swings back with a vengeance. It’s shocking, and the shots of audience members’ faces reflect this: they’re laughing with mouths wide open, gaping and a bit dazed.

And that, for the most part, is the point: to subvert boundaries and deliver the exact kind of authentic or explicit content that Schumer wants to communicate, deferring to nobody. In my opinion, however, the raunchiest bits of the show — which comprise the majority of the special — start to feel repetitive around minute 20, and verge on worn-out around the half hour mark.

Luckily, Schumer changes direction for an extended segment about forty minutes into her special, and delivers a heartfelt critique of lax American gun policies. “If you’re blind,” she riffs, “you can walk into a gun store … hopefully,” and then throws out another pointed line, “Can we just work on not giving guns to mentally ill terrorists who are blind and beating their wives?”

This is the social-justice oriented Schumer that won Emmys for the skit-based TV show “Inside Amy Schumer,” combining Schumer’s absolute fearlessness to take risks with an ability to riff off-the-cuff on social issues in a way that makes them accessible and also poignant. Her speech — and it truly feels like a speech, compared with the rest of the production — oscillates between silly and serious, littered with cuss-words yet delivered with sobering gravitas. In my opinion, while the rest of the show felt trite, these ten minutes succeeded.

Schumer ends the show with a creative callback to her very first joke, which is both surprising and delightful. She continues to make fun of her own appearance by comparing herself to a Victoria’s Secret Angel. The punchline doesn’t come until the very last second, when she flippantly declares that it doesn’t, in the end, matter — “That b—- will never be brave!”

The ending exemplifies many of the characteristics of the show as a whole — an occasionally confusing mix of sincere and insincere, of self-deprecation and self-appreciation delivered jointly in quick succession along with moments of pointed social critique paired with looser slapstick bits. That being said, Schumer is correct in that her humor warrants attention — she’s already gotten significant online hate for the show, and it’s sure to continue in the coming months. Being Amy Schumer requires a distinct brand of bravery, one which Schumer possesses in good measure.

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