Amy Schumer on Her Third Season and Why “Rape Is Good Fodder for Comedy”

The Tribeca Film Festival hasn’t fully embraced episodic television as a cornerstone of their programming just yet — at least, not compared to other fests, like SXSW. But a few shows made their way into the program this year, and one of them was a bit of a no-brainer; with its Gotham-based production, man-on-the-street interstitials, and general New York attitude, Inside Amy Schumer is a very good fit. On Sunday afternoon, the star and several key members of her crew stopped in to show the third season premiere and talk about it.

The show opens with a bit we’d already had a peek at: her spot-on parody of booty videos, “Milk Milk Lemonade,” which supplements the usual twerking and jerking with such anatomical mantras as, “This is where my poop comes out.” In the talk following the episode, Schumer insisted, “It wasn’t that hard to make a music video. It was kinda fun to take some of the thunder out of these great artists, where it’s like, if you make it flashy enough and show an ass — even if it’s about shitting — people will still watch it a lot.” Of her own skill with the mic, Schumer confesses, “I’m delusional with a lotta things, but I do not think I’m a rapper. So [the sketch is] on World Music, this website. They’ve never heard of me, and they all think I’m a rapper. They’re like, ‘This girl sucks!’”

Another episode highlight is “Football Town Nights,” a Friday Night Lights parody with Schumer as Coach’s wife (sipping, in each scene, on a progressively and then comically larger glass of white wine) and Josh Charles — of last season’s pitch-perfect Sorkin spoof “The Foodroom” — as Coach, who shakes up the team with his controversial “NO RAPING” rule. “But Coach, we’re football players!” insists one of the guys, and his wife tries to talk him down: “These folks, that’s just their way.”

“Rape is good fodder for comedy because it’s the worst thing in the whole world, so it’s untouchable,” Schumer announced in the Q&A, while clarifying, “We’re not just like, rape’s hilarious. It’s always a risk, some people will always be upset just at hearing the word, and you can maybe look at that scene and think we’re making light of something serious. We’re really trying to educate, but that’s not always clear. We know what message we want to send, and we also think the premise is funny, and then we’ll go to town.”

The show’s willingness to touch these issues, and to take a stance that’s provocative and tricky and, yes, feminist, was something that happened gradually, according to co-creator and executive producer Dan Powell. “It was always gonna be a feminist show because that’s what Amy is, and that’s how Amy represents herself onstage and in life. But I think when the show first started, we were just generally doing a sketch show that was sort of an extension of Amy’s stand-up. But through the first season, when we started working on sketches like ‘Compliments,’ those were the ones that people were really talking about. It started to feel, as we went into Season 2, like this is the type of material that people are responding to.”

“I think that we thought our sort of feminism, it still felt like something we had to sneak in,” Schumer added. “We do follow Daniel Tosh’s show on Comedy Central, so we’re trying to retain viewers and get viewers and also make the show that we wanna make. So we thought we were kinda tiptoeing… but then it was like, ‘I guess everyone sees what we’re doing.’”

“Maybe one person at Smith College will, like, decipher our secret codes!” chimed in head writer Jessi Klein.

Amy Schumer, Ryan McFaul, Kim Caramele, Kevin Kane, Jessi Klein, Dan Powell, and Sara Vilkomerson at the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of "Inside Amy Schumer"'s third season.

To that end, the season premiere also includes an uproarious skewering of both prescription drug ads and the “religious liberty” birth control fight (“Ask your doctor if birth control is right for you. Ask your boss. Ask your boss’s priest”), and a terrific scene in which Schumer stumbles upon three of her heroes — I wouldn’t dream of revealing who — celebrating what Hollywood has determined is their “last fuckable day.”

As far as what lies ahead, Schumer says, “We really went nuts this season and just broke any sort of rules we had set up.” And that’s not just in terms of content (though she did tease “a scene where there was somewhat of a support group, and none of the girls would say what had happened, but they’re all wearing Cosby sweaters”); Schumer also thought up, and (for the first time) co-directed, an episode-length parody of 12 Angry Men, replicating that film’s set, style, and black and white photography. The premise? “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer,” she said, and “they’re deciding if I’m good-looking enough to be on television. And it’s John Hawkes, Paul Giamatti, Jeff Goldblum… it’s heavy-hitters, playing it very much like the real deal.”

And when it comes to such high-concept ideas, “it’s a little dangerous now,” according to producer Kevin Kane, since “nobody’s here to say no.” Schumer said of the resulting episode, “I’m more proud of that than, I think, anything I’ve ever done in my life.” And she seems just as proud of the rest of the season. “I hope you guys watch it,” she told the sold-out Tribeca crowd. “Don’t just come here to watch it.”

Inside Amy Schumer returns Tuesday night on Comedy Central. The full “Tribeca Talk” is available here, via WYNC. The Tribeca Film Festival runs through April 26.