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Television review

Amy Schumer’s envelope-pushing at the Apollo

Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

Right now, few performers have more buzz than Amy Schumer. Her summer movie, “Trainwreck,” was a hit, she recently won an Emmy for her excellent Comedy Central series, “Inside Amy Schumer,” her appearances on talk shows have been many and funny, and she did quite nicely as host of “Saturday Night Live” last weekend.

But can you handle Amy in HBO’s “Amy Schumer: Live at the Apollo,” unrestrained by basic-cable standards and by plot-based scripts? Can you embrace a raw comic who spends her hour on the New York stage talking about urinary tract infections, sexual fluids, the most far-fetched sexual acts known to man and woman, and her own vagina, which she personifies as a lounge singer with a cigarette in her mouth doing the Charleston? Can you deal with taboo?


I hope so, because the special, which is directed by Chris Rock, is funny and, yes, even with the segment about dirty underwear, wise. Schumer puts a political spin on much of her crude material, particularly when it comes to gender inequalities. With playful irony, she digs into the offensive signals our culture sends to men and women, for instance that all men love sex while all women are supposed to merely put up with it. “Every girl I know likes having sex,” she says.

She jokes about the messiness of sex, as well as her love of food, in order to fly in the face of the expectations that still dog women, who are always supposed to be dieting and pristine — particularly in LA, she says, where “my arms register as legs.” And she talks about how she is often labeled a sex comic, noting, “If a male comedian came onstage holding his [penis], people would call him a thinker.” No, she’s not bringing audiences a groundbreaking take on feminism — or is it next-wave feminism? — but she is giving a contemporary twist to social hypocrisies and discomforts that still exist.


Interestingly, her material has no racial component, given that she is playing the Apollo, so famous for its history as a home for African-American performers.

Schumer’s delivery is confident and sometimes coy — her jokes about Oprah and the Obamas push the envelope — and she doesn’t bother with a Letterman-esque meta-commentary on jokes that don’t connect. But she also brings an intimacy into the hall, as she gets her audiences to lighten up and laugh at a few secret truths. She loves to play the bad girl, and she’s awfully good at it.

Television review


On HBO, Saturday, 10-11 p.m.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.