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To the Max

Expecting Amy Has What Amy Schumer's New Netflix Special Lacks

In her Max docuseries, Schumer displays a depth and maturity that's missing from her stand-up comedy.
  • Amy Schumer in Expecting Amy (Photo: Max)
    Amy Schumer in Expecting Amy (Photo: Max)

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    If you've been following Amy Schumer's career at all for the past few years, Emergency Contact, her third Netflix stand-up special, likely feels incredibly familiar. Saturday Night Live viewers will recognize much of this material from her November 2022 monologue: In the six-minute set, she discussed giving birth to her son via C-section ("He came out the sunroof"), married sex, and her husband's autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. Other bits go back even farther than Schumer's recent "Whore Tour" — during which she hosted SNL and taped Emergency Contact — including a joke about turning off the lights during sex that she's been recycling since before 2015.

    Even when Schumer busts out a new anecdote, she's riffing on the same themes that have dominated her comedy for nearly a decade. The special is filled with self-deprecating jokes about her appearance and her weight, jazzed up as part of bits about Gen Z-ers knowing their "angles" or the popularity of cosmetic fillers. The exciting developments in her personal life are also filtered through tired frames, as when Schumer says her son "Wolverined [her] FUPA open" during his birth, a turn of phrase that hasn't been relevant for years.

    The repetitive nature of Emergency Contact creates the impression that Schumer hasn't matured as a comic since Inside Amy Schumer and Trainwreck made her a household name, but that isn't necessarily the case. In July 2020, Schumer showed remarkable candor in Expecting Amy, a three-part docuseries released on HBO Max (as it was called at the time). Filmed over the course of late 2018 and early 2019, Expecting Amy follows the star as she prepares to film her second Netflix special, Growing, while navigating marriage with her new husband, chef Chris Fischer, and a difficult pregnancy. Schumer puts on a brave face as she travels the country on tour, but off-stage, in moments captured by director Alexander Hammer (Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé) and Schumer herself, she speaks frankly about the physical discomfort she's experiencing and her concerns about parenthood and marriage — the very things that make up the bulk of her latest hour.

    Schumer holds nothing back, inviting Hammer's crew into the delivery room, pre-special production meetings, and family dinners with Fischer. Even at her lowest moments, when her vomiting becomes so persistent that she's hospitalized (she was finally diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum in her second trimester), she brings viewers along, propping the camera up on the toilet before leaning forward to rest her head on the bowl, or bringing it closer to show the popped blood vessels in her eye.

    That spirit of transparency carries over to the docuseries' more stylized interview scenes, which are few and far between compared to the trove of self-filmed footage that appears throughout. In the final few minutes of the first episode, "Conception," she explains that she "resents everyone who hasn't been honest" about pregnancy and "the culture of how much women have to suck it the f*ck up." But despite her extreme nausea and fatigue, Schumer is "still happy [she's] pregnant" and would be devastated if she miscarried. "That's also why I joke about it so much. I joke about things that I'm like, deathly afraid of," she says, a remark that offers more insight into her comedic mind than the audience gets from the Emergency Contact special in its entirety.

    Expecting Amy also provides a unique look at how Schumer's special evolved as a result of these painful experiences. While Schumer is in the hospital, Fischer and her sister, Kim Caramele, kill time at a nearby pottery painting studio, an activity they capture on their phones. When they return, Fischer proudly holds up the portrait he painted of Amy, who's so stunned by his work that she incorporates it into her set. "I get trolled on the internet all the time," she tells a New Jersey crowd, with the painting projected on the screen above. "But now it's happening in my own home."

    Everyone knows the bit is a winner, even Fischer, who doesn't mind being the butt of the joke. "That's the biggest laugh you've ever gotten," he says as he chuckles along with the crowd. Over the next few weeks, Schumer refines the segment, shaping it into something a bit more concise. By the time she tapes Growing, the punchline about being trolled has been replaced with a remark about looking like Trump, followed by a request to "get rid" of the image entirely. "People are leaving. This is upsetting," she says, instructing the projectionist to fade to black.

    While filming Expecting Amy, Fischer was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, which Schumer mines for laughs in Emergency Contact and Growing, albeit to a lesser extent. (In the recent special, she jokes about a false stereotype that people with autism "love to count," whereas in 2019, she's careful to "get this right" out of respect for her husband.) Though playful negging is a cornerstone of their relationship, Schumer seems to understand that Fischer's deeply personal experience is no laughing matter. As he undergoes testing and navigates his diagnosis in the second half of the docuseries, she (mostly) ditches the jokes and embraces the role of the supportive spouse. When Fischer expresses concern that Schumer will react negatively to the news, she insists that would never be the case: "I love you," she assures him. "I couldn't pick a better partner than you, you odd f*cking jackal."

    For fans used to seeing her in stand-up mode, Schumer's awareness of when it's time to stop laughing may come as a surprise, but that's exactly what makes Expecting Amy such a worthwhile watch. This is Amy Schumer in her rawest form — if only more of that energy came across in her comedy specials.

    Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.

    TOPICS: Amy Schumer, Max, Netflix, Amy Schumer: Emergency Contact, Amy Schumer: Growing, Expecting Amy, Chris Fischer, Kim Caramele