Increasingly, it’s seeming like June wouldn’t be complete (and yes, I know that technically, it’s not) without our monthly check-in to see how Amy Schumer is capturing the Zeitgeist. And while it’s taken us a couple of weeks to catch up with her boundary-smashing, uber alles show on Comedy Central (it’s hard to focus on television when everything in your body is screaming: “SUMMER!”), we’ve got our nominee for our favorite Schumer sketch of the month: the Museum of Boyfriend Wardrobe Atrocities. (You can access the clip here, which aired on June 2.)
It’s a pitch-perfect send up of the kind of solemn, often self-imposed field trip we’ve all taken to various Holocaust museums the world over, from the United States Holocaust Memorial in Washington D.C., where—exciting—you are given the identity of one of the perished, like one of those troubling games one used to play at one of your more Jewish-inflected summer camps; to Yad Vashem, in whose tomb-like, black marble walls the numbers of the dead are ominously listed by country. (An 8-year-old me finally figured out how to calculate percentages: “3 million Polish Jews out of a pre-war population of 3.3 milllion means…90% were killed! Mommy, I get it!!!”) Some cases continue to take: here is a picture of my dog Charlie at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, which is both architecturally fascinating and located conveniently in the park near our house.
In the sketch, Schumer brilliantly mimics the curatorial choices of these institutions in order to memorialize a very different form of atrocity: an enormous pile of Crocs, for instance, bereft of their presumably discarded owners, as well as a perfectly preserved “formal” ensemble of ironic tuxedo T-shirts, and crushed velvet lounge jackets. As the scene unfolds, a group of women tour these relics of horror. On the verge of tearful breakdowns, they are accosted by a male denialist: there couldn’t have been this many hemp necklaces! It isn’t scientifically possible! Boyfriends are human beings, after all!
Like all of Schumer’s best sketches, this one works on many levels. First of all, it’s funny because it’s true: there is literally no limit to the evil of some straight men when it comes to putting clothes on their bodies, and it is our duty as women to fight against this evil as tirelessly as we can. I consider the day I finally got my husband to stop wearing an earring as not only one of the proudest of my life, but of the greatest display of soft power since the Velvet Revolution of Czechoslovakia. But Schumer has also constructed a brilliant satire of our modern tendency not only to catastrophize the utterly harmless, by parodying the way we neatly commemorate true disaster; by looking at horrible photographs; by skimming overwrought captions; and by maybe scaring up a tear or two all in a silent, calm, and perfect air-conditioned room.
After an hour or two, we emerge, shaken but usually not so badly that we can’t congratulate ourselves for our bravery and sense of justice. We reward ourselves with a nice lunch afterward, all for surviving…nothing. Schumer’s sketch is a sobering look at how the act of memorializing events so often precludes action, and how the emotion of history obscures the atrocities of the present.
It’s a sobering lesson we could all do well to learn yet again. After all, in the immortal words of George Santayana: “Those who do not remember the Croc are doomed to repeat it.”