--- Watch Amy Schumer Learns to Cook Mondays at 8.30pm 5 July to 23 August on SBS Food. Episodes will also be available at SBS On Demand after they air ---
When Amy Schumer makes potato skins, it’s accompanied by singing and preceded by stories about a semi-naked man on a train and owning a pig.
Given Schumer is a comedian, this might not sound surprising. A skit? Well, sort of – this is what happens when a comedian gets cooking lessons from a chef (her husband, Chris Fischer) in the middle of lockdown.
“I’m learning how to cook because I don’t know how,” says Schumer as things kick-off. The show is a pandemic production – which means the other key part of the team is their nanny Jane, who helps with filming (along with several fixed cameras). The pair’s small son Gene, and their dog Tatiana, make guest appearances too.
The Emma-award winning and Golden Globe-nominated actress and comedian has had experience on both sides of the camera – she created, starred in, wrote and executive-produced the award-winning 2013 show Inside Amy Schumer. Since then, she’s made a variety of comedy specials, written a book, and had a range of acting roles.
Why a cooking show?
“Everybody has their own stuff they’re stressed out about during this time, there’s a lot happening. Everybody has their own thing going on and we’re just here trying to make you guys laugh – and I’m learning how to cook!” she explains in the first episode.
That is not entirely true
In a very ‘laidback’ appearance on the Ellen Show (A triumph of pandemic lateral thinking), she confesses that “learns to cook” is a bit of a stretch. “I’ve never cooked,” she tells host Ellen DeGeneres. “I know how to make like, three meals, and I never had to learn how to cook because you know – Chris cooks!” But you are learning in the show, Ellen says – “although I’ve noticed it’s mostly alcohol!” “My part is alcohol,” Schumer says. She says, slightly more seriously, that she actually finds it hard, not just with cooking but generally, to retain things she’s learned. “I am not easy to teach… I struggle with learning disabilities, and I’m like ‘wow, I’m really learning it’ in the moment, and then afterwards it’s just gone and then afterwards I’m like ‘how do I cut a tomato?’.”
The thing is, it doesn’t matter whether Schumer racks up kitchen skills or not. Watching her and Fischer make meals is refreshing: the ‘this is really in our kitchen’ vibe, the stories and jokes, the fact no one, even those totally bereft of cooking skills, is going to feel out of their depth. It’s not so much a cooking lesson as a banter session with some tasty food on the table at the end of it. And the alcohol? Schumer does know how to make a good cocktail, after bartending on and off for about 10 years in the past, so she whips up a few of those too.
There was also an altruistic element – as Schumer explains in an interview with Howard Stern, part of the pair’s initial agreement with the commissioning network was a donation to several charities; that continued with a donation to Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp for the second series.
Everything is on the table
There are few limits to what the pair chat about during their cooking sessions, from Schumer’s Jewish heritage to hangover cures.
But what’s actually on the table, you ask? What do they cook?
Across the eight episodes, the pair range from breakfast to late-night eats, from pasta to takeout favourites and finger food. Those wonderfully crunchy potato skins (the secret is in the frying - check out the recipe here) appear in a “Fresh not Frozen” episode, where Fischer also makes that old favourite, pigs in a blanket. There’s some debate (or as Schumer puts it, “I freaked out”) about what constitutes essential toppings for potato skin, but all ends up okay when Fischer finds some cooked bacon bits.
And that’s pretty much how they roll: the jokes and gentle insults roll back and forward, some tasty food gets cooked, and everyone, including the viewers, has a good time.