Growing review: Amy Schumer’s new stand-up special on Netflix relies more on shock value than solid content

Bhaskar Chattopadhyay

Mar 23, 2019 15:04:32 IST

Comedienne and actress Amy Schumer’s new stand-up special, Growing, could have been a runaway hit, had it not been for one snag — while Schumer is funny enough in parts, and manages to address some important and relevant points about womanhood, she is astonishingly inconsistent in doing so. Which is a cardinal sin in comedy, or any art form, for that matter. There’s more. Any stand-up act is steeped in indulgence, but there are times in her show when Schumer goes happily out of the boundaries of good reason to give us an offering that relies more on shock value than on solid content.

She begins her act on an extremely weak note – addressing the Chicago audience by saying something decidedly silly about her past habit of blaming the city she was in for her irresponsible behaviour. It just doesn’t stick. The camera is rolling, there is a bit of awkwardness, but she quickly recovers from the fiasco by announcing that she is pregnant. That’s when the cheers start, because that’s when the self-deprecating humour comes in. And thank god for that!

The phases wax and wane, but over the course of the evening, Schumer addresses some issues which save the special from being a total disaster. One of these issues is that of pregnancy itself — which she spends almost a third of the running time of the show discussing, quite understandably. Schumer announces that hers has been a difficult pregnancy, due to Hyperemesis, and goes on to talk about her chef husband’s autism spectrum disorder as well. These moments immediately endear her to her audience, and why not? There she is, out of a hospital — where she was admitted after five hours of continuous barfing — now standing in front of an auditorium full of people, trying to make them laugh. Very commendable, till she makes fun of her own sense of duty, also very commendable. That’s the kind of humour I want, I tell myself. Alas, that's not to be.

Growing review: Amy Schumer’s new stand-up special on Netflix relies more on shock value than solid content

Still from Amy Schumer's Growing. Image via Netflix

The monologue soon becomes a tirade about how her husband’s autism sometimes lands her in difficult situations, a section I did not find funny at all. This oscillation between humour and what-she-thinks-is-humour goes on for the rest of the show, and the troughs tend to test your patience. Having said that, it is the crests that bring the occasional chuckle. One of the best parts of the act was her brilliant take on menstruation and the stigma around it. This is a subject that she ought to have spent some more time on, because the crowd loved it, and so did I. She spoke in detail about how women are made to feel insecure about ‘that time of the month’ from a very young age, and how that sense of guilt and fear continues to stay with them well into their adulthood, even when they come to realise that there’s nothing wrong with the entire process at all, that it is perfectly natural and that it is an essential part of the entire process of creating life.

But the best part of the show, at least for me, came when Schumer spoke about a study (although there is actually a quote by Margaret Atwood about it) that said that while women’s number one fear was being killed by men, men’s biggest fear was being ridiculed by women. Her sarcastic follow-up to this fact was essentially the highlight of her entire one-hour act, a veiled mocking of men whose strength originated from a trivial sense of insecurity. It is this section where Schumer is at the top of her act — being funny and making an important social commentary at the same time.

But then again, Schumer spoils the fun by going ahead and talking about her recent arrest. Just to give you a little background here, Schumer and her friend — model and actress Emily Ratajkowski — courted arrest in early October last year in Washington DC when they had joined a large crowd to protest against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who was (and still is) facing charges of sexual violence. What Schumer and others did on that day was admirable, but like any good deed, the solemnity of the act was spoiled when she decided to talk about it on stage in front of the camera. It almost came across as showing off — although she was clever enough to cover it, once again, under the veil of self-deprecating humour. It didn’t work.

Growing is funny at times, but all that fun is marred by her somewhat insincere attempt at coming across as trying to laugh at herself. Trouble is, it was easy to see that she didn’t mean it. Oh, how I missed Ellen — throughout the show!

Growing is currently streaming on Netflix. Watch the trailer here:

Updated Date: Mar 23, 2019 15:04:32 IST

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