Everyone wants their video to blow up online, so what’s the secret? How did both Schumer and Oliver manage to crack the code to making the people of the Internet go crazy over their work?
Essentially, Oliver and Schumer brutally skewer various ridiculous and unfair ideas — and who doesn’t love a perfectly vicious rant? Their formulas are similar: Take basic facts about issues that anger a lot of people; boil it down to its essence; and most importantly, make your takedown hilarious.
Oliver’s subjects tend to be political and newsy: Net neutrality is good. The Miss America pageant scholarship claim is a sham. Climate change is a real and actual thing. Schumer’s comedy has a feminist bent, but the topics she tackles are universal and ongoing: Hollywood mercilessly objectifies women. Football and rape culture are dangerously intertwined. There’s an obvious double-standard about how men and women are considered attractive “enough.”
All of that combined with a willingness to be completely over-the-top and as vulgar as necessary to make their point? That’s Internet gold.
The most recent Schumer viral sketch is Tuesday night’s “12 Angry Men,” a parody of the 1957 Sidney Lumet movie of the same name. In Schumer’s version, she offers a blistering take on the absurd standards of the male-dominated entertainment industry, as 12 dudes (Jeff Goldblum, Paul Giamatti and Kumail Nanjiani among them) debate whether she’s hot enough to be on television.
Sample dialogue: “It’s an undisputed fact that a woman’s value is mostly determined by her looks. “As it should be!” “It’s true. Look at Susan Boyle right? Voice of an angel, but because she looks like an 18th century paper boy, we treat her like toilet shoes.”
The sketch, getting rave reviews from critics everywhere, follows Schumer’s previous successes in the last two weeks. The first was a parody of “Friday Night Lights,” in which Josh Charles plays the Coach Taylor role as he rolls into a small, football-obsessed town with a new rule for his players: No raping. (Meanwhile, the players pepper him with questions: “What if the girl said yes, but then she changes her mind out of nowhere, like a crazy person?”)
Next was a shot at One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful,” where the guys convince their lady that she’s prettier without cosmetics. In Schumer’s version, “Girl, You Don’t Need Makeup,” A boy band realizes the error of their ways when they see Schumer fresh-faced: “Hold up girl, we spoke too soon/with this whole ‘no makeup’ tune…You’ll be the hottest girl in the nation/with just a touch of foundation.”
It all rings very similar to Oliver, who takes on the climate change skeptics by conducting a debate with Bill Nye the Science Guy (“You don’t need people’s opinion on a fact. You might as well have a poll asking ‘Which number is bigger, 15 or five?’ or ‘Do owls exist?’ or ‘Are there hats?'”) Or, he just eviscerates someone or something that is bothering him, like the fact that the Miss America pageant claims to offer $45 million in scholarships, which Oliver accurately debunked using some investigative reporting skills. (“That is an unbelievable amount of money. As in, I literally did not believe that.”)
While Schumer uses familiar pop culture references to make her point, Oliver makes subjects similarly relatable:
“I know that cable companies will say they support net neutrality protection or they remain committed to the open Internet,” he said during his now-famous net neutrality rant. “But let me remind you they also say they’ll be at your house between 2 and 6 tomorrow afternoon. And does any part of you really expect them to f—ing turn up?
Neither Oliver nor Schumer show any sign of slowing down: Last week, Oliver took on standardized testing, as volatile a topic as ever. And as long as they crank out their hits in their signature ways, the Internet will continue to pay attention.
(This post has been updated.)