There is something surprising about how quickly Amy Schumer has reached a level of exposure and fame that only a handful of her comedy peers have known. Her career now exists in the same rarefied air as comics you know without needing their full name, like Seinfeld, Pryor, Rock, Carlin, Silverman, or Rivers. She is a brand unto herself at this point, and that brand is an increasingly-hot commodity in the world of pop culture for the last half decade. You wouldn’t blame her if she chose to exit live comedy for the television or film, as such offers exist, Schumer has always insisted on being a comic before anything else.
On The Leather Special, her first exclusive release with Netflix, Schumer’s rising public profile collides with her evolution as a storyteller to produce a scattershot collection of jokes that lack the surprise and unique candor of previous works. This isn’t to say Schumer has lost an ounce of her bluntness. From stories revolving around the smell of her vagina (which she compares to that of a small barnyard animal), to experiencing violent food poisoning while sharing a small French hotel with a relatively new boyfriend, there is no embarrassing moment involving bodily functions that Schumer shies away from. However, many of her observations on these aspects of life find humor in the obvious of places and have been explored by her and countless other comics.
Schumer does find solid footing a little over halfway into Leather Special when, after naming the two young women who were shot and killed by a mentally ill gunman in a theater while watching her movie Trainwreck, she embarks on a lengthy takedown of gun control in America. Politics have rarely made their way into Schumer’s previous specials, but it is clear the deaths of those women had a major impact on her and her sense of responsibility toward influencing positive change. She comments on the confusing regulations around firearms, highlighting the fact even the blind are allowed to buy guns and that any move to change is met with immediate outrage from gun owners, before cleverly tying everything together with a bit regarding the place where defense of gun control collides with racism. “Get out of our country, foreigner,” she says while invoking a slightly southern accent, “But while you’re here, please enjoy our firearms, legally.”
The show eventually wraps back to Schumer and the way she is received in the public eye, which is also where it began, and furthers her commentary on the media’s treatment of women who do not fit conventional ideas of beauty. The message is great, but the jokes lack some surprise punch fans have come to expect. Like Kevin Hart before her, you get the sense Schumer’s focus on stand-up has taken a – perhaps unintentional – backseat to her other projects. Aside from the gun control segment and bits about Inside Amy Schumer accepting a Peabody Award, the rest of The Leather Special contains content that would work well on any previous Schumer special. It’s good, but you get the sense Schumer didn’t push to prove herself the way she might’ve on an earlier special. Here’s to this being a temporary plateau.
Amy Schumer The Leather Special is streaming on Netflix.