I’ll get it right out there: Amy Schumer’s latest for Netflix, The Leather Special, is a solid addition to her catalog, and while it may not grow her fanbase in a huge way, die-hards and casual fans alike will not be disappointed.
I’m a fan of Schumer’s comedy- I’d even go so far as to consider myself a mega fan. But aside from getting a sneak preview of the new Leather Special coming out on Netflix, I imagine that I know only a smidge more about her than the average person, but that’s still a pretty hefty amount. And that makes it difficult to say something about her that hasn’t already been said by someone else and better. She’s just so fucking famous now. A result of that popularity is that most fans now have pretty high expectations. Because Inside Amy Schumer is so overtly progressive and feminist, and so pointed and powerful in its execution, fans assume that her special will bring not only better jokes, but jokes that work to solidify her status as the feminist hero she is becoming (despite the Kurt Metzger saga, which is difficult for some (read: me) to forget).
Schumer’s stand up hasn’t yet risen to the high level that her social commentary of her scripted sketch series– Inside Amy Schumer which is smarter, more fully-formed and more effective than what she can do on stage. But she’s still a seriously gifted stand-up. Her ability to be markedly personal and yet somehow universal at the same time is probably her greatest asset. The trailer for The Leather Special gives a pretty good idea of what this special has to offer, a return to her roots with frank sexual content that aims to both shock, but also ring true. What Schumer’s pussy smells like is given a pretty considerable chunk of time in the hour. But there is also evidence of growth: she’s strayed from that ignorant white girl persona that characterized much of her early material. Well…she still employs that baby-girly voice for herself and others whenever she wants to sound stupid or frivolous– and it’s still funny– but it is definitely used less frequently. And outside of the graphic sex stuff, she doesn’t even go for shock value as much as she used to, but some of that can be chalked up to the fact that graphic sex stuff doesn’t really shock like it used to. She gets bigger laughs from more honest and subtle humor: stories that we either can verify as factual experiences, like the word you don’t want to hear when a nude photo of you goes viral- ‘brave’, or stories that just seem true, like her and her new boyfriend just destroying a Parisian bathroom while battling food poisoning.
This special opens with Schumer immediately pointing out what everyone knows- that she’s now super rich and famous. And despite being a movie star, a TV star, and a best-selling author, she still looks very comfortable on stage, even in a skin-tight leather ensemble that she acknowledges is a rite of passage for great comics. But her addressing her insane stardom while much of her material clearly depends upon her relatability is occasionally difficult to reconcile. She relays her astonishment at the fact that Bradley Cooper wants to hang out with her, but we all know that she spends time palling around with Jennifer Lawrence, who is decidedly more famous and popular than Bradley Cooper. But that she can walk that delicate line between discussing her foul smelling vagina with a huge crowd and assuming she is Bradley Cooper’s girlfriend is a testament to how likeable and appealing she is. And the vulnerability that results from the brutal honesty of her more personal material coupled with her recognition of the difficulty in remaining accessible to her audience in the face of such superstardom is what makes her such a skilled comedian.
So, while The Leather Special, consists of the same themes that she’s tackled in the past– double standards, gender norms, and the like– it does provide fresher material. Or at least new ways of saying the same things. And The Leather Special proves that Schumer is still quite adept at skewering double standards as she hilariously points out how absurd it would be to see a man worry about the taste of his jizz the way women obsess over their own “smell” and “taste.”
Overall, The Leather Special is a noticeable improvement on Live at the Apollo, which felt like a rushed attempt to capitalize on her quickly rising stardom at the time. Even though it was taped before the debut of Trainwreck, the HBO special was released at the height of the Schumer craze and as a result, the concert was composed largely of material she had been using for awhile, like on almost every interview she’d done to promote the flick. Not that it isn’t funny, because it is, but her ability to “catch a d” anytime she wants only really kills the first time you hear it. It might not be fair to criticize her for this, since all comedians work out material while on the road, but her arms registering as legs in Los Angeles had been circulating widely for awhile and I just couldn’t laugh as hard the second time around.
No, it isn’t as brilliant as Inside Amy Schumer (to be fair, nothing is as good as Inside Amy Schumer), it’s not Chris Rock’s Bring the Pain, or even Janeane Garofalo’s HBO half hour. It’s likely not the best Amy Schumer can do, either. Which is good news, because it means the best may be yet to come. So, hooray for that. What it lacks in innovation, The Leather Special makes up for with real strong laughs and wonderful physicality. Watch The Leather Special twice- it appealed to me more the second time around. We know what Amy’s capable of. And while this special doesn’t reach those heights, it’s still damn funny and a great time while we wait for Schumer’s masterpiece yet to come.
Amy Schumer’s The Leather Special premieres exclusively on Netflix on Tuesday, March 6, 2017. Watch the trailer here.