Amy Schumer's Masterful 12 Angry Men Spoof Is Hot Enough for TV
When Amy Schumer brought the third season premiere of Inside Amy Schumer, her eponymous Comedy Central sketch comedy series, to the Tribeca Film Festival last month, she couldn't stop talking about the third episode of the season–and now we know why. Last night's spin on 12 Angry Men, featuring a cast of big-name, non-heartthrob celebrity actors debating Schumer's attractiveness, was ambitious, clever—and so indelibly Amy.
Schumer only briefly appears in the episode-long sketch (which she also co-directed), instead ceding the action to the murderer's row of heavy-hitters playing the jurors, including Paul Giamatti, Vincent Kartheiser, Jeff Goldblum, John Hawkes, and Kumail Nanjiani. No one is debating a murder charge here; instead, the men are deciding whether or not Schumer is hot enough to be on television. A single dissenter (Hawkes as the episode's own Juror 8) thinks she may be hot enough to be on TV—or at least, he can't definitely say that she's not hot enough to be on television.
The rest of the jurors are thrown into a total tizzy by this unexpected debate, casually lobbing insults at an absent Schumer that run the gamut from "potato face" to a sputtered comparison to a Cabbage Patch Kid. Their debate expands into a gripe-fest about other female comics with their own shows, like that "Mindy nightmare" and "the Lena girl Holocaust hour."
Turn the sound off (or even just down a bit), and 12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer operates just like its inspiration. Schumer's deep understanding of how the classic story functions is on full display, and the black-and-white episode retains both the look and feel of Sidney Lumet's 1957 classic film. Its last third admirably apes the original, imagining both Juror 4's (Kartheiser) infamous glasses scene and Juror 3's total freak-out in fresh ways that still use the language and tone of the original. The result is an outstanding homage to its source material and canny commentary on the current state of the entertainment industry.
They fit a bevy of topical elements into less than half an hour, including the Hollywood double standard (Kevin James is invoked by a juror), slut-shaming, the female orgasm, and sex toys. (Hawkes manages to stay straight-faced and serious even when brandishing a particularly jiggly dildo.)
The jurors bandy about the idea of an objective metric to measure Schumer's hotness level, an exercise that reveals their own prejudices as it reduces female performers to the presumed value of their looks, rather than their talent. It's a pointed response to criticisms Schumer has received in the past, most notably from film blogger Jeffrey Wells, who in February used a post about a trailer for the Schumer-starring (and scripted!) Trainwreck to opine on her appearance: "There's no way she'd be an object of heated romantic interest in the real world. And yet that's the apparent premise of Apatow's film. Schumer's wide facial features reminded me of a blonde Lou Costello around the time of Buck Privates, or Jennifer Aniston's somewhat heavier, not-as-lucky sister who watches a lot of TV."
Wells continued, "Don't look at me—I'm not the one who made her the star of a film about a plucky, free-spirited girl that a lot of guys want to bang." (No one would reasonably look to Wells to make that sort of decision, of course, and he conveniently avoids the fact that Schumer stars in a film that she herself wrote.)
By the end of 12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer, enough hearts have been sufficiently swayed to absolve her of the crime of not being attractive enough to appear on her own television show, with Judge Dennis Quaid telling her, "you're hot enough for basic cable television."
We already knew that, though, because we're watching Inside Amy Schumer, and she's only guilty of being funny, insightful, and wise, and that's hot enough to be measured on even the most flimsy of objective metrics.