By: Bruce Handy
One afternoon late last fall, the writers and producers of Inside Amy Schumer were sitting around a long table in their Manhattan production offices punching up scripts for the sketch show’s fourth season. The staff has six female writers and four male writers—an unusual ratio for TV comedy, where most series are lucky to have one or two women on their writing teams. Schumer is herself a writer and executive producer on the Comedy Central show, which premiered in 2013, and though another producer sat at the head of the table and appeared to be nominally in charge, the star guided the discussions and script revisions with a gentle, collaborative, but firm hand—modeling a positive female leadership style, as a business-school text might put it. She gave the writers space to get silly, even preposterous, as they pitched lines, before bringing the table back to earth, making a decision, and moving on to the next joke. For instance, one of the male writers half-seriously pitched a line referencing a particularly rarefied genre of pornography. “That’s a thing?” Schumer asked. Assured that it was, she paused as if mulling it over, then put on the sweet but brittle voice of a Jennifer Garner character: “Let’s not educate our audience about that.” The table laughed.
Not that Schumer, 34, is shy when it comes to human bodies and what can be done with and between them, and the many social implications thereof. She made a name for herself as a stand-up by being every bit as graphic and sexual as any male comic, while also bringing an anthropologist’s eye to the subject. “Are you that girl from the television who talks about her pussy all the time?,” Julia Louis-Dreyfus asks her in a sketch from Inside Amy Schumer’s third season, when Schumer, playing herself, stumbles upon Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, and Patricia Arquette, also as themselves, having a bucolic picnic to celebrate Louis-Dreyfus’s official “last fuckable day” in Hollywood. “In every actress’s life, the media decides when you finally reach the point where you’re not believably fuckable anymore,” Louis-Dreyfus explains. “Who tells you?” Schumer asks innocently. There are signs, Fey says. “You know how Sally Field was Tom Hanks’s love interest in Punchline and then like 20 minutes later she was his mom in Forrest Gump?” And actors? “They’re fuckable forever. They could be 100 and nothing but white spiders coming out but they’re fuckable,” Fey says, pantomiming a hand job.
As cutting as that sketch was, it may not have been the season’s smartest or funniest take on Hollywood sexism. Another contender was a deadpan, pitch-perfect parody of 12 Angry Men, co-directed by Schumer and shot in black-and-white homage to Sidney Lumet’s 1957 film, with a cast that included Jeff Goldblum, Paul Giamatti, Vincent Kartheiser, and John Hawkes as jurors trying to come to a unanimous verdict on whether or not Schumer is “hot enough” for TV. (“I definitely don’t think she’s protagonist hot,” insists one juror. “But Kevin James is?” replies Hawkes, in the holdout Henry Fonda role.) The season opener approached Topic A from yet another angle: a fake music video titled “Milk, Milk, Lemonade,” which parodied hip-hop’s obsession with female booties (i.e., “where fudge is made”) with Schumer and a crew of dancers twerking and whatnot in front of a lascivious camera to lines such as “This is where her poo comes out…. This is what you think is hot.”
Read more on VanityFair.com.