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Amy Schumer’s Body, Our Selves

12angrymen-insideamyschumerIt would be really hyperbolic to compare Amy Schumer to Jesus, but Amy Schumer is basically exactly like Jesus. Last night, for far from the first time, Amy Schumer sacrificed her body for all of us. Kind of. If you’re a woman. Stay with me.

Amy Schumer was barely in last night’s episode of Inside Amy Schumer, but we got as in-depth a consideration of the outside of Amy Schumer as we ever have. “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer” was a remarkably faithful remake of the 1957 film 12 Angry Men, if 12 Angry Men had involved dildos, accusations of “muppet tits,” and revelations about Paul Giamatti’s boner. A cast of actual movie stars (Giamatti, John Hawkes, Jeff Goldblum, and the second Inside appearance of Dennis Quaid), TV luminaries (Vincent Kartheiser), comedians (Nick Di Paolo, Kumail Nanjani, Chris Gethard, Henry Zebrowski), Inside Amy Schumer regulars (Adrian Martinez, Kevin Kane, Chris Beetem) and one very old man (George Riddle), turned out to recreate the jury room drama about a patient, methodical man (originally Henry Fonda) who sows seeds of reasonable doubt in his fellow jurors. In the original, Fonda was trying to persuade them that the accused was not guilty of murder; in the remake, John Hawkes is open to the possibility that Amy Schumer might be hot enough to be on television.

It seems a little bit indulgent to assemble an ultra-impressive cast and then use them to debate the physical appeal of your show’s star. It seems even a little more indulgent to do so via homage to a movie that Comedy Central’s main audience may have, at best, slept through in last year’s Civ class. But it’s also pretty brilliant, and really, really well done.

This discussion — “Is Amy Schumer hot enough to be on TV?” — must be one that Schumer has endured in boardrooms and on message boards, from hecklers and her over-poweringly attractive comedian friends (Nick Di Paolo is great here, but if you told me his whole performance was somehow strung together from old Tough Crowds, I’d be like, “yup, sounds right”), from agents and movie execs and focus groups and Comedy Central’s own brass. And she uses it to lay their ridiculous fears and depressing double standards bare.

As Hawkes’ juror makes clear, the stakes are high: it’s not just Schumer’s attractiveness on the line here — it’s her life. “Her appearance,” he says, “so, her life,” and Kartheiser chimes in: “It’s an undisputed fact that a woman’s value is mostly determined by her looks.” The other men in the room: heavy men, sweaty men, men with beady eyes and no chins, sagging jowls and glistening bald heads, all nod in agreement, comfortable with this standard of existence for women. The cast is phenomenally cruel and game, and naked in their own gross masculine hypocrisy. “As it should be!” Paul Giamatti, owner of Paul Giamatti’s face, says.

Still, Hawkes needs to be convinced that Amy should either lose her show or be put to immediate death (no one is quite sure the penalty), and so the verbal abuse and true concerns come flying: if a “potato face” who looks like “an uncooked wiener” and the other “manatees” like “Mindy nightmare and the Lena-girl Holocaust hour” (which, come on, Girls is only thirty minutes) get television shows, then all the opportunities will be for hot chicks will be gone. “Where’s Kate Upton’s talk show?” the collective wonders.

Worse yet, these “quirky looking dumptrucks” just might throw the standard off, making women everywhere think that their own “pillowy stomachs” aren’t an affront to all decency. They worry about Amy’s entitlement, her potty mouth, the possibility that she’s a tease who wouldn’t gratefully blow them, the dildo in her dressing room, her 4/10 ass. Why can’t she be happy with ugly neighbor roles, why does she think she belongs “on the cover of Fuckable Magazine?” “She’s not a ten!” Di Paolo roars.

As more and more men fall, admitting that they wanted to bone Natalie from The Facts of Life, the standard becomes “a reasonable chub.” This leads to possibly the most insulting sequence of all: getting Vincent Kartheiser’s uptight, fact-oriented dill-hole to admit that at a distance, without his glasses, in the early throws of his nightly bedtime blackout, Amy’s “general blondness,” female breasts and probable vagina might cause him to fiddle with his penis. Success!

It would have been cool if Hawkes had managed to prove to his fellow jurors that it was the system that should be indicted; that the idea that a woman’s worth as a comedian and TV star is tied to her appearance is just false. It would have been heartening if they all stood up and held hands and agreed that even if a lady looks like that wise pile of trash from Fraggle Rock, she should be on TV if she’s funny enough. But it wouldn’t have been true at all. It would have been an easy and ultimately meaningless ending from a traditionally attractive woman who has a TV show. It wouldn’t have been an honest look at the world.

One of the things that Amy Schumer has particularly succeeded in this season is how unflinching her gaze is. The season opener’s Friday Night Lights sketch was brilliant in its appraisal of rape culture, but it really hit its crescendo when it circled back to the inherently violent nature of football. How can you tell young men not to rape while telling them to violently dominate their opponents? The system is bigger and more complicated than we want it to be. It’s broken in ways that disgust us, but it’s broken in ways we like and encourage, too. When it comes to what kind of woman gets to be on TV, the system is the system. Amy Schumer isn’t Megan Fox or Kate Upton, but her career is still partially dependent on her looks. She doesn’t pretend it doesn’t. Instead, she’s takes the brutal, hypocritical, gross mechanics of how that actually works to task.

Staying blonde and booby is part of the game. Finding loopholes is part of the game. Appealing to blurry-eyed dickwads who drink themselves to sleep is part of the game. Amy Schumer played that game well, and now she has her own show. She might be a feminine-enough fuzz for your average focus group drone, but she doesn’t have to make them feel comfortable and justified as they jerk themselves off to dreamland.

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