Why Amy Schumer’s ‘12 Angry Men’ Parody Is So Goddamned Brilliant
Inside Amy Schumer parodied 12 Angry Men Tuesday night. Forget that much of her audience has never heard of the play. It was the greatest sketch to air on TV this year.
“The defendant is accused of committing a heinous crime. You gentlemen of the jury are facing a grave responsibility. Thank you, gentlemen.”
The accused and the crime: It Girl comedian Amy Schumer, charged with the heinous act of not being hot enough to have her own show on television.
12 Angry Men is an iconic, essential play and film about the American judicial system and human instinct, asking how seriously we take our responsibility when the fate of a man is put in the hands of a jury.
“12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer,” Tuesday night’s episode of Schumer’s Comedy Central sketch series, perfectly spoofs the film to mock and comment on the seriousness and the hypocrisy with which our culture obsessively comments on an actress’s looks. Specifically, how her looks relate to her talent and the opportunity she’s afforded in Hollywood.
With as much gravity as a murder verdict, the jurors debate: Is Amy Schumer hot enough to be on TV?
There are few entertainers as tapped in to the conversation that surrounds their celebrity, or vanity-free in their discussion of it, as Schumer. More, as she’s already proved with the brilliant first two episodes of the new season of Inside Amy Schumer, “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer” exhibits the star’s unparalleled ability to be brashly feminist and throw middle fingers at cultural norms with very gender-specific comedy, all while not alienating her audience.
She finds entryways into conversations about women and gender bias that have already been exhaustively explored, but tackles them so personally and with such undisputable clarity that the point we’ve all been trying to arrive at through countless debates is spelled out for us through her shrewd comedy. This pitch-perfect parody is the most ambitious and most well-done example of that yet.
As a spoof, “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer” was impeccably done—and pretty bold, too. It’s an entire half-hour shot in black-and-white on Comedy Central at 10:30 pm. That’s ballsy.
The actors playing the jurors—which included Jeff Goldblum, Paul Giamatti, Vincent Kartheiser, and John Hawkes—delivered performances endearingly faithful to the cast of the film version we’ve all watched. But it’s the dialogue and, as always, the meaning behind it that makes the parody such wonderful television.
When the initial vote ends 11 votes “not hot enough” to 1 vote “hot enough,” there’s the same sense of exasperation that sets off the play and the film. “Let’s be reasonable,” bellows a flop-sweating Paul Giamatti. “You sat in the courtroom and saw the same potato face we did for three months. Come on.”
“It’s just another example of an average looking chick who watched too much Top Model and now thinks she belongs on the cover of Fuckable magazine,” another juror echoes.
John Hawkes, playing the moral dissenter, says he simply isn’t comfortable ending a woman’s life without having a proper debate about it first. Wait—end her life? “Well, her appearance. So her life.”
The sheer number of you-can’t-handle-the-truth one-liners (yes, we’re mixing legal dramas here) riffing on the insufferable questions women in comedy must answer about themselves is glorious for anyone who’s been remotely invested in that conversation. And that the digs and points Schumer makes never come off as didactic, bitter, or rage-filled is because they are so rooted in her personal experience.
The jurors decry Schumer’s status on television, saying they’d rather watch Megan Fox or Kate Upton doing a sketch show. “But are those girls funny?” one juror asks. Irrelevant. “Less Melissa McCarthy, more Jenny McCarthy,” adds another. “She’s the funny one!”
As in the original 12 Angry Men, the jurors, one by one, have crises of conscience and start swinging their votes, and the reasons they change to thinking Schumer is hot enough to be on TV are hilariously misogynistic.
One juror switches because he used to jack off to Natalie while watching The Facts of Life instead of Blair. “We’ve all at some point in our lives gotten a semi for a girl with a pillowy stomach or Muppet tits,” Hawkes’s character says, offering support. “And that’s all the system demands to acquit Amy. Does she give us a reasonable chub?”
Another juror thinks she looks like a girl who knows she won’t do better than these guys and will probably work hard to please them. Another realizes if you’re watching her on a TV that’s far away from your bed without your glasses after having a few glasses of whiskey, you just see “a general blondeness, legs and boobs and presumably a vagina.” If that’s the case, you’d engage in a few “exploratory tugs.”
Someone says they miss the days of Marilyn Monroe. Monroe was a size 8, a juror points out. Amy’s a size 6.
If you’ve seen 12 Angry Men, then it should be no spoiler that the jurors eventually all side with the defendant. Dennis Quaid, who plays the judge, alerts Schumer, “The jury agreed they would bang you. You’re hot enough for basic television.”
Not just hot enough. But, if sketches like this become the norm, essential.
In a few man-on-the-street interviews after the sketch completed, Schumer asked, “Do you think people want to see a remake of a ‘50s play? Because we told Comedy Central the answer was yes.”
It is honestly an absurd idea, and one that she shouldn’t be able to pull off. “Let’s make a commentary about sexism in Hollywood and film it in black-and-white and base it off a play most millennials, our core audience, aren’t familiar with.”
Amy Schumer thrives in the absurd. Thank goodness.