Jimmy Kimmel is relatively harmless. He isn’t Colbert or Meyers or Bee; he falls a little closer to Fallon’s side of the politically cutthroat spectrum. The side that often glosses over, that plays it safe, that jabs at Trump’s bronzer but not his policy.
Anticipation for harsh Trump jokes in Kimmel’s Oscars monologue this year was high, and the jokes not only fell flat, but they were careful and soft and didn’t make sense given the huge opportunity Kimmel had to really stun. But this isn’t to say that over the last year or so Jimmy Kimmel hasn’t delivered his fair share of Trump jabs on his show, because he has. And a good number of them aren’t as lenient as Fallon’s (Kimmel hasn’t ruffled Trump’s hair to his audience’s cheers, Lord help us) nevertheless, the persona of Jimmy Kimmel is not loudly liberal.
But it isn’t conservative, either; for every soft Trump joke about his hair or orange face, there’s an allusion to his racism or the disconnect of his voters to reality.
Trump did appear as a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in December 2015 (which, to a lot of people, is normalizing what shouldn’t be normal and ignoring his threatening and disturbing persona in exchange for 10 minutes in the guest’s chair,) where Kimmel joked about Trump’s suggestion that CNN should pay him for the ratings hike he brought in during the GOP debates. Kimmel said he agreed with Trump, prompting laughs and cheers from the audience (cue the election of this incompetent clown six months later, but whatever.)
He’s aired a few ‘Drunk Donald Trump’ and ‘Troompa Loompa’ segments, again light, and he’s created games like ‘Say It or Spray It’ out of Trump’s wildest statements, but nothing too jarring. He’s gone in on Jared Kushner, though, most notably after Kushner’s bizarre trip to Iraq to meet with the prime minister. “Dennis Rodman has more foreign policy experience than Jared Kushner, so you have to wonder why the president would send him to a military operation in Iraq,” Kimmel said.
One of his better Trump bits compared Trump voters’ presidential selection process to picking out a shirt. “Tucked in the middle of all these plain shirts, you see this totally awesome shirt,” Kimmel said, pulling out an actually heinous cowboy looking thing. “It’s bold, it’s different, it doesn’t play by the other shirts rules. You buy it…try the shirt on…and then you realize, you look like a tool with a big capital ‘T.’” He ends with a Republican guilt-trip, saying “Fortunately, the store you bought it from has a great return policy—oh, wait, it doesn’t, this is the shirt you’re stuck with for four years.”
Kimmel has called Trump ‘the Grinch’ and Melania a prisoner in her Manhattan tower, but those more blatant shots are usually subtly scattered throughout his shows. Unlike Seth Meyers, Kimmel doesn’t hold a magnifying glass up to the Trump administration and outline its bullshit during a 12-to-15 minute segment every taping.
When flipping through channels on a lazy Thursday night, conservatives are probably more likely to stay away from The Late Show and land on Jimmy Kimmel Live! because they know Kimmel from mean tweets and the parents eating their kids’ Halloween candy, not his bold nightly takedown of their president.
He doesn’t unravel the presidency and break down Trump’s tweets and statements that are so alarmingly abnormal, like Meyers or Colbert or even James Corden would do. Kimmel has dabbled in this ever-so-slightly, but not enough to where he has completely isolated conservative audiences.
I mean, come on, we all know Jimmy Kimmel leans to the left. And before Monday, we could guess he didn’t vote for Donald Trump and isn’t complacent with what his administration has been doing so far. Most of Hollywood isn’t.
But now, we’re positive that Kimmel, like so many other Americans, is exhausted and disgusted with the plans of this administration and he worries about the effects it could have on health care accessibility.
Monday night, Kimmel used his monologue slot to tell a story that was so heart-wrenching, so human, so able to reach any type of media consumer, even those who don’t pay attention to television figures at all. Kimmel’s week-old son, William ‘Billy’ Kimmel, was born with a heart disease and transported to Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles for open-heart surgery when he was just a few days old.
We’ve seen Seth Meyers fight back tears during his Nov. 9th show, speaking directly to young girls and telling them he couldn’t wait to see one of them become the first female president. But that was really nothing compared to the vulnerability that Jimmy Kimmel bared to a studio audience and hundreds of thousands of viewers beyond.
Through visible tears, Jimmy Kimmel, relatively harmless late night host, gave a distressed plea for universal health care.
First, in a statement that should make any Trump supporter with a brain and/or heart second guess their vote, Kimmel expressed relief over the rejection of Trump’s proposed $6 billion cut in funding to the National Institute of Health that would affect the patients of Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles where his son and thousands of other children are treated.
And second, in perhaps Kimmel’s most progressive statement yet, he pointed out a major flaw in the American dream. “We were brought up to believe that we live in the greatest country in the world, but until [Obamacare,] millions and millions of us had no access to health insurance at all,” he said. “Before 2014, if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you’d never be able to get health insurance because it’s a pre-existing condition.”
The tears came again as he said, “If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make.” Republicans, are you listening? You are, because this is Jimmy Kimmel, one of the softer late night hosts, and it’s a story about a baby and family values.
This is why this particular cry for universal healthcare might reach Republicans. It’s Jimmy Kimmel, not Bill Maher. It’s the mean tweets guy that your aunt on Facebook thinks is just so hysterical. Yes, he’s still Hollywood, and we know how some conservatives feel about Hollywood, but Kimmel isn’t the voice of liberals.
But he did just become a part of thousands of voices, lower class to upper, who are advocating every day for the fairness of healthcare and the accessibility of health insurance that doesn’t discriminate based on pre-existing conditions or income.
A terrifying personal situation broke Jimmy Kimmel’s long-standing television persona of cordiality and playing-it-safe. A number of Republicans might not have been in for it when they clicked play on the monologue link that was shared on their Facebook news feeds, but I can almost guarantee they didn’t click out of it. And maybe, just maybe, they listened.
Thursday afternoon, the House of Representatives narrowly passed the Republican health care bill and moved one giant step forward in replacing the Affordable Care Act. An amendment in the bill made by Rep. Tom MacArthur would allow states to charge those with pre-existing conditions more than others. The bill hasn’t gone to the Senate yet.
Republicans succeeded with just one vote over the 216 needed to pass. Humanizing legislation is essential in understanding its opposition, which is why Kimmel’s monologue should be spread around social media like wildfire. So many other people affected by this bill have told and are continuing to tell their stories to grab Republicans’ attention, but Kimmel might just be the one that does it.