For someone who kvetches off and on about Comedy Central’s lack of original thought, I sure seem to watch a lot of it, including the shows that are well outside the warm nightly sitz bath with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. This means I know a whole lot more than I might even want to know about the miserable-is-funny inner workings of the white, middle-class, Jewish-ish, young American male superego — along with whatever nods toward diversity “Key and Peele” manage to slip in.
I could unpack the network’s demographic cliches in its programming and bore you to tears with one of those cultural thinkpieces. Nothing is less funny than too many words about comedy. Or we could just get down to it and criticize Amy Schumer, one of the rare women to get her own show on Comedy Central, for letting herself become one more example of a certain type of white guy on Comedy Central.
Everything about “Inside Amy Schumer,” the comedian’s new series premiering Tuesday night, follows the network’s letter of the law, combining bits of her stand-up with hit-or-Ms. sketches about sexting, one-night stands, “Two Girls, One Cup,” Hooters and so on — an array of subjects dotted with mold.
“I’m a little sluttier than the average bear,” Schumer tells a comedy-club audience, as a way of launching into a mini-diatribe about how pharmacies make you ask for the “morning-after” pill.
Schumer’s sharpness comes through best in such moments, when she’s in stand-up mode and taking significant risks beyond the genre’s still-customary boundary lines of gender, with such Sarah Silverman-esque observations as “We’ve all been a little bit raped. Just a scoch ?” Meanwhile, her sketches and woman-on-the-street interviews with passersby feel burdened with the task of pleasing a male audience (while enlightening them a scoch). There’s also the unfortunate problem of all that baggage she didn’t pack but is nevertheless required to lug along, each piece of it tagged FEMALE COMIC.
An attempt to skewer the hypocrisy of the Hooters restaurant chain (yes, in 2013) becomes a tepid sketch about a restaurant called O’Nutters, in which Amy’s character brings along a male co-worker to a happy hour where the all-male waiters wear revealingly tight shorts. “Sorry, broham, no beer,” the waiter tells the horrified man. “But we do have skinny-girl margaritas!”
Schumer is at her most funny in segments called “Amy Goes Deep,” in which she interviews other women about their jobs and lives — a stripper, for example. “Does your boyfriend have a pencil beard?” Schumer asks the woman. (No, she replies.) “Does he wear collared shirts with a lot of stripes?” (Uhh, yes.)
IFC’s “Maron” (premiering Friday night) is a sad-sack routine that follows Los Angeles comedian Marc Maron around in quasi-true stories inspired by his dour worldview.
Maron, who in real life had a spotty comedy career in the 1990s, found new purpose several years ago as an appropriately outraged radio host on “Air America” and then as a much-downloaded podcaster, inviting notable guests (Dennis Leary and Dave Foley are two seen here) into his garage studio for rambling and frequently hilarious chats about everything under the sun.
“Maron,” then, is mainly about that, resulting in a downmarket iteration of Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” in which an embittered Maron and his friends act out an unremarkable variety of inconveniences and first-world problems.
Consider my enthusiasm fully curbed — especially when Judd Hirsch shows up in the third episode as Maron’s loser father, a vitamin-salesman living in an RV. The acrimony between the two men doesn’t register as funny or entertaining. Louis C.K. has shown us, on “Louie,” what sort of deeper meaning can be mined in such mutual contempt, but on “Maron” it just feels ugly and dull.
These sketches do play out, and finally we return to the garage for a glimpse of the free-flowing discourse that has made Maron’s podcast a qualified success. This is the television’s way of telling you to turn it off and go look Maron up on iTunes instead.
My comedy-karma punishment for ragging on both shows comes in the form of ABC’s “Family Tools,” premiering Wednesday night — a stinkbomb sent to critics last summer that is now getting the burnoff it deserves at season’s end. This is the network comedy equivalent of packing peanuts, and it’s stuff like this that makes you want to run straight back inside Schumer’s awkward embrace or hang out all afternoon while Maron moans about his ex-wife.
J.K. Simmons, who has our sympathies, stars as Tony, a career handyman whose heart problems force him into early retirement.
At the urging of his sister (Leah Remini), Tony agrees to turn the business over to his unsuccessful — and unhandy — son, Jack (Kyle Bornheimer), who moves back home and lives in the basement. It’s not long before Jack shoots a nail gun into his bare foot, but it’s also too long before Jack shoots a nail gun into his bare foot. And really, why couldn’t it be his frontal lobe?
For those who keep track of such things, this is Bornheimer’s umpteenth (it feels like) chance to star in a network sitcom, including “Worst Week” on CBS, “Romantically Challenged” on ABC and “Perfect Couples” on NBC.
By now, the only joke is where he’ll show up next.
(30 minutes) premieres Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central.
(30 minutes) premieres Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. on ABC.
(30 minutes) premieres Friday
at 10 p.m. on IFC.