Friday, May 13, 2011

Jimmy Kimmel hates the hoi polloi

Jimmy Kimmel is an irritating host of an antiquated-format "talk show" called "Jimmy Kimmel Live." He was at one time a co-host of a dull-witted program called "The Man Show." He also appeared on "Win Ben Stein's Money," which remains the highlight of his career.

He's the luckiest human being on the planet -- little talent, no charm, and yet famous and wealthy.

He's also got a nasty, venal streak. Recently he appeared on an ESPN radio program, during which he displayed open contempt and hostility for those of you who aren't as lucky or privileged as he is. If you're filled with self-loathing, you can listen to his remarks here. Or, you can just read the important line, via TVtattle:
Kimmel tells ESPN "Sports Guy" Bill Simmons, a former "Jimmy Kimmel Live" writer, that he and his writers have to scour Twitter after coming up with a joke to make sure it hasn't been told before, so they could avoid joke-theft accusations. "You can't do jokes now if you find out somebody posted some Twitter and they have 4,000 followers," he says. "Like oh, well, I can't do that joke on my television show now because some guy living in his parent's basement put it up on his Twitter feed."
Pity the poor network talk show host -- oppressed by "some guy living in his parent's basement."

With one sentence, he strikes at a technology that democratizes self-expression, and the members of the great unwashed who dare use it. These people are threatening his position as the host of a network television talk show -- a program that exists for the sole purpose of helping corporate entertainers (actors, musicians) promote their corporate products (movies, television programs, CDs).

Can you believe they're letting just anybody say anything they want on that Twitter? They're not even corporate-approved.

Jimmy Kimmel is the same man who once produced a television program called "Crank Yankers." This was a charming program in which famous celebrities made prank calls to the great unwashed, recorded them, and then used puppets to enact the "hilarious" result. As wikipedia puts it:
The performers are given a basic outline of a premise by the writers, and call telephone numbers from a list of selected targets (known as "marks"). Using the basic premises, the performers improvise most of their lines, playing off of the responses of their marks, with the intention to keep them on the phone as long as possible.

With the exception of a few outside sources (including previous material from Jim Florentine and the Touch-Tone Terrorists), all the calls are made from Nevada. The Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 makes it illegal in most states to record telephone calls without both parties' consent. Under Nevada law, only one of the parties has to give consent (i.e., the caller), so prank calls can be recorded without the consent of the prank victims. One result of this was the series' schedule of creating and airing new episodes was fairly sporadic due to most of the celebrities living in Los Angeles, having Los Angeles-based jobs, and so were only periodically able to go to Las Vegas to make calls. Adam Carolla, for example, took his radio program to Las Vegas once or twice a year, and while there would record new calls for the program.
There's truly nothing funnier than a group of well-to-do, privileged celebrities calling people, wasting their time, and then recording it for laughs. Har-de-har-har. Here's an adoring Slate review from 2002:
Which brings me to what might be the show's greatest revelation: how astonishingly accommodating people in customer service can be! From the point of view of the show, cust-serv people are the perfect victims because they are paid to answer the phone and deal with problems. But they are also paid not to get emotionally involved. So the challenge for the actors becomes: Can they get a rise out of these people? Very often, the answer is no. The Yanker puppets dial up, telling a fast-food place that their chicken came with beaks in it ("I don't want it if it's going to be all beaky"); or a tow yard that their car has human sh*t in the back seat; or a tech help line that "I've got mail! I've got mail! I've got mail! I've got mail! I've got mail! YAY!!!" The service people are the model of composure—and even humor. Sometimes their subtle observations end up being the best parts of the skits, as is the tech guy's, "You got mail. Yes, you do."
Have you ever worked in a call center, or on a customer service line? These are not the best-compensated workers. They have to deal with anyone and everyone who calls. They have to take a lot of abuse from people. Crank calling them shows breathtaking contempt -- recording them and using the results for a television show is pure as sholism.

This same person who showed no compunction about wasting the time of working-class people became indignant over something called "Gawker stalker." The idea that average, everyday citizens of New York and LA might report sightings of celebrities in public places was too much for the delicate Mr. Kimmel, who suddenly started worrying about privacy issues. So he went after Emily Gould, at one time a Gawker editor:

The internet allows just anyone, even some guy living in his parents' basement, to express themselves. What an inconvenience that is to Mr. Kimmel!


Iced Borscht said...

There was a brief moment, maybe circa 1997, that a certain "transgressive" group of comedians e.g. Kimmel, Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Sarah Silverman, etc were funny, but that day has long since passed.

The thing that annoys me about these jerks is how, at the end of the day, after they've spewed their "transgressive, subversive" comedy, they tweet or give a magazine interview invariably describing how they're actually wonderful people who vote Democrat and have the requisite amount of white guilt, shame of American jingoism, etc.

As if anyone fucking CARES. Just tell us some goddamn jokes, assholes. I don't care if you vote left, right, or for the John Hagelin-David Lynch Transcendental Meditation Party. Just tell me some jokes.

Not sure if you've seen it before, but along similar lines, I preface "the Lost Penthouse Interview with Patton Oswalt" over at my site:

Iced Borscht said...

Another thought that just occurred to me:

Years ago, I found the personal, "private" blog online for one of the producers of Kimmel's show. The thing had all sorts of agents' and sub-celebrities' phone numbers and contact info.

Given the way the blog was written, it was clear that the producer in question didn't realize his "private stuff" was coming up in Google searches.

I came across it all while researching a story on the guy from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin who eats McDonald's food every day. As a semi-sincere good-will gesture, I alerted the producer via e-mail that all of his personal shit was sitting online, available for the world to see.

The response I got? Not "thanks" or "gee whiz, that was stupid of me" but just an extremely brief "I didn't know I still had that up."

Whatever, that's fine. I don't need a gold medal for helping the guy, but it seemed like a strange response.

Ricky Sprague said...

I think that I find Mr. Kimmel's attitude toward the masses to be particularly odious given the fact that he's always presented himself as a sort of average, everyman type. He's not -- he's a big snob.

The rest of those comedians -- at least part of their shtick is in their "I'm-better-than-everybody-else" attitude. If done right it can be pretty funny. Done wrong it just comes off as shrill and hateful.

I hadn't seen the lost Patton Oswalt interview, but I don't think he came off particularly badly, given the buildup. The fact that it was spiked does show just how really and truly fearful of giving offense are the people in entertainment. Fearful of offending those in power, or who might get a little power.

Iced Borscht said...

According to Schulz, the printed word doesn't do justice to Patton's hostility that day.

I tend to believe Schulz here, as nearly every time I see Patton in an interview, talk show, whatever, he seems to be trying SO HARD to show that he's "an artist," not just the sidekick dork from whatever sitcom he was on.