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Amy Schumer: Live at the Apollo

HBO // Unrated // December 1, 2015
List Price: $19.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted December 11, 2015 | E-mail the Author
In 10 Words or Less
Amy Schumer takes her act to Harlem

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Stand-up comedy, Inside Amy Schumer
Likes: Amy Schumer
Dislikes: Cringe comedy
Hates: Most dirty female comics

The Show
The last time I took a look at an Amy Schumer stand-up special, "Mostly Sex Stuff", I came away disappointed, thanks to the focus on dirty talk, which wasn't exeedingly funny. Since then, however, she's proven herself to be one of the leading female voices in comedy, with her brilliant sketch comedy show, Inside Amy Schumer. So hopes were high heading into her new special, as Schumer hits the Apollo stage in Harlem, bottle of wine in hand. Unfortunately, hopes are often left unfulfilled, as is the case with this stand-up set.

As with "Mostly Sex Stuff", this special is dominated by sex talk, whether it's her problems with urinary tract infections, her interest in vagina shapes, or her experiences in bed. The special even wraps up on a sexual note, with a bit of crowd work about specialized sexual acts (a segment that led to accusations of plagiarism due to similarities to jokes by her late collaborator, Patrice O'Neal.) If anything, she re-tells more of her own jokes, with a few bits carried over from other appearances, like the stand-up sequences on her series. Schumer is well aware of how this material has shaped her reputation, criticizing the perspective that she's the "sex comic", only to follow it up with a run about semen.

Just as it was in her previous special, her best material is her personal stories, like her experiences in Hollywood, including the double-standard for attractiveness and her struggles with weight loss, tied to her film Trainwreck, or her experience getting a massage...unwittingly at a illicit massage parlor. She's a fantastic storyteller, crafting a scene with ease and drawing you into her world, and the Trainwreck tale is great fun. But she's even better when she's poking fun of people and topics that deserve society's scorn, be it beauty pageant contestants or the horror known as dating. Here she shows definite improvement in her ability to transition between bits, intertwining her travails with dating with enjoyable tangents on movie-theater popcorn and food apps.

There's no denying that Schumer is funny, and she's certainly an enthusiastic performer, but her stand-up just doesn't hit the same high notes as her sketch comedy. It's easy to blame the focus on sex, but when it takes up so much of the special, and doesn't hit homers, that's just the reality of the situation. Fans won't mind watching, because it's got that Schumer vibe, but it's hardly the funniest she's ever been.

The DVD
Packaged in a standard-width keepcase, this DVD features a static anamorphic widescreen menu with options to play the special and select chapters. There are no audio options and no captions.

The Quality
The anamorphic widescreen transfer on this one looks fine, with the standard definition obviously falling short of the original high-definition broadcast. Color is bright and vivid on the blue background of the stage, while Schumer's skintones are appropriate. The level of fine detail is sufficiently high (showing the most detail when it comes to the strands of her hair.) Black levels are also good, and compression artifacts are not notable.

To go along with the no-frills presentation here, we get a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. There's nothing technically wrong about the audio, which is crisp and easy to listen to, whether it's Schumer's voice or her entrance/exit music, while separation between the audience and the comic is solid. But without that surround sound feel, you lose the replicated sense of being in the room. It's disappointing, but functional.

The Extras
None to be had.

The Bottom Line
As great as her sketch show is, Schumer's stand-up is less appealing, relying more on shock and dirty talk, focusing often on sex, rather than the sharp commentary found in her series. Nothing here drew big laughs, which is disappointing for a fan of Schumer. The presentation is solid, but unspectacular, and there are no extras included, which makes it very hard to recommend as a purchase for anyone but the most die-hard Schumer fan.


Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

Follow him on Twitter


*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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