The Feminist Infiltration of ‘Inside Amy Schumer’
In 2012 I went to a comedy “Industry Panel” at Gotham Comedy Club. It was well attended since it was free and was full of about 100 young hopeful comedians. I wasn’t sure if I’d get much out of it, being in the more hopeless category, having slogged for some time. But I thought I’d give it a shot.
The panel had experts in the biz; including the working comic Ted Alexandro, The owner of Gotham Comedy Club, and the Vice President of Talent at Comedy Central – a frizzy haired commanding woman. Only a few things stood out as far as advice that I could really use in my own career, but one question and answer stuck into me extremely deep. After a lot of dudes were asking questions until finally a young woman, probably no more than 21 or 22 years old asked the question the rest of us were dying to ask ourselves: “Why were there virtually no shows on Comedy Central starring and written by women, and of course why was there only (maybe) one woman a year with a Comedy Central Special?
The VP immediately took on a slightly defensive stance but with a smile that suggested she knew this question was coming and was very ready to respond. Her answer was, that by and large, they do not cast a lot of women for their channel. This is because their target demographic is the 18-34 year old man. She was no idiot though, she definitely made sure we all knew that this wasn’t sexist, it was simply that their ad sales catered to the 18-34 year old male demo and that they of course, were at the mercy of their advertisers. Males 18-34 I suppose, do not want to see shows written by and starring funny women. Her whole answer was a giant sorry-not-sorry to all the women in the room and we all despondently shrank. There really was nothing we could say to her after that.
Now we have come to the third and arguably strongest season of Inside Amy Schumer on Comedy Central, where my jaw is literally agape during each episode due to the seriously genius feminism (border-line misandry even) that is on display at the helm of Schumer and her team of exceptional writers which include Tig Notaro, Christine Nangle and Jessi Klein. The show follows Broad City in a new tradition that is probably the best comedy I have ever seen on television considering my own style and tastes in humor (vaudevillian feminists being insanely smart and raucously funny, you know the usual).
So it raises the question, have the demographics changed at all for Comedy Central? Not to my knowledge. Yet somehow, seeping through the previously restricted all-testosterone lead grate, some women have managed to infiltrate through and skewer everything. Inside Amy Schumer gets more attention than anything else on the channel right now by leaps and bounds. Every week we see has what has become a virtual puppet mastering of the patriarchy with satire so thick and juicy, my mouth waters with delight. None of what is happening is coy or benign.
Every piece is raw and macabre – my favorite being “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer” and more recently “Sorry” where accomplished women on a panel say sorry so much that eventually one woman loses her limbs and apologizes for dying and “making a scene.” Not once though, do the women on display look like individual floundering fools. What we are seeing is the system running deeply through our culture, making men and women alike behave in ways that are ruinous for themselves and the women around them.
In “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer” a parody on the 1957 movie “12 Angry Men” staring Henry Fonda, the jurors are reduced to the pawns of the media shoving conventionally attractive women down their unwitting throats. It demonstrates the sickness that is judging women based on whether they are attractive enough to be on television, with Amy as the target. At the same time though, it reveals that men are often caught in the ruse themselves, not even having control over their own sexual desires, that they are controlled by the system too (certainly not as damaging as what women have to deal with, but humiliating nevertheless). They posture for each other, end up sword fighting with dildos, until each of them breaks down and admits that Amy is in fact hot enough for television. There are about 50 layers of nuance in this sketch and I could probably write an entire college thesis on it alone. What delighted me apart from the writing, was knowing that each of the all-star cast of men (Jeff Goldblum, Paul Giamatti, Pete from Mad Men (Looking hot I might add) were acting in something that is so entirely feminist. I never would have thought Nick DiPaulo would be a feminist, but here I am seeing him perform in something that is straight out of a Gender Studies course but of course much funnier. Do these men even know what they’ve gotten into? They’ve been had!
How is she getting away with this? I keep thinking that there has to be some catch, which just shows how unbelievable all of this new ground really is for female comedians. Maybe it’s not some sneaky takeover and instead maybe – JUST MAYBE – the men who are watching her are not actually all misogynist bros chugging MRA beer, but are in fact interested in subversive feminist humor, and the advertisers have picked up on that. UM NO. It can’t be! Is maybe the real reason, just that feminism has officially entered the mainstream and yes – the comedy world as well – besides just Tiny Fey and Amy Poehler, but also the behemoth of bro-dom, Comedy Central? Or is it that more women are feminist and are becoming writers and performers who are exceptionally talented and that the flood gates have finally opened up for us? I think maybe it’s a combination of all of this as well a realization that women buy things with their own money and also happen to care about shutting down an oppressive and marginalizing system. It could also be that feminist humor is stark and slithering and perfect for satire, because it is so real. It is perfect for what humor is: commenting on the bleak, petty, stupid, manipulative and puppeteering nature of what controls human beings. The patriarchy is perfect for mocking and ripe for the picking. Of course, it must be done well. Comedy alone won’t change the climate for women’s rights, but it will change people’s attitudes which leads them to change. It is a powerful art and also a fun one, something that feminism could always use more of.
The advertisers and the viewers, have taken notice and there’s no going back now.