What’s up with Jimmy Kimmel and gay people?
On one hand, the host of the late-night ABC talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live has treated his many
gay guests with respect. And since 2002, he has been dating comedian Sarah
Silverman, known for her strongly pro-gay views (even telling the Advocate that she doesn’t want to get
married until gay people can).
But on the other hand, Kimmel, who declined to be
interviewed for this article, has frequently found himself accused of saying or
doing gay-offensive things, or at the very least being insensitive toward gays
and gay issues.
In February 2007, when Rebecca Romijn was on the show to
discuss Alexis, her transgendered Ugly
Betty character, Kimmel delivered a series of jaw-droppingly offensive
jokes about how a male-to-female transgendered person could never look as
feminine or as attractive as Romijn. When reading from a personalized romance
novel that Romijn gave to then-fiancé Jerry O’Connell, Kimmel ad-libbed, “and
then [Jerry] finds out you have a penis and hits you with an ax.” (The show’s
“producers” later issued a letter of apology, but it was not specifically
signed by Kimmel.)
Some of the time, Kimmel’s gay jokes and comments are merely
insensitive. “Yeesh, indeed,” Kimmel said in one comedy monologue, referring to
the idea of soldiers having sex with each other.
And when Kimmel interviewed American Idol sensation Sanjaya Malakar in 2007,
he seemed weirdly obsessed with the sexuality of the soft-spoken Malakar,
asking him repeatedly why he had had to announce to the world that he isn’t gay
(something Malakar denied doing). Apart from the frat-boy incredulity — after
all, how could someone act like Malakar and not
be gay? — there’s the question of simple decency: Malakar was seventeen years old at the time.
Meanwhile, his interview with “ex-gay” therapist Richard
Cohen was surprisingly non-confrontational.
Kimmel did note that Cohen was “controversial,” but didn’t contradict his many
falsehoods or point out that Cohen is unlicensed and has been permanently
expelled from the American Counseling Association. Many wondered why he gave
the widely ridiculed “therapist” a forum on his show at all.
Most of the time, however, Kimmel’s gay bits are simply just
tired. After girlfriend Sarah Silverman introduced her video, “I’m F***ing Matt
Damon” on his show, a rebuttal
seemed inevitable, and Kimmel’s “I’m F***ing Ben Affleck” video initially
seemed an inspired response.
But while Silverman’s original video more or less played it
straight — taking very seriously the idea that she was having sex with Matt Damon — Kimmel’s rebuttal never took the
idea of sex with Ben Affleck seriously at all. Instead, it was a series of
jokes about toe-painting and prison rape.
“You couldn’t really do it half-speed,” Affleck told Entertainment Weekly. “You had to be
painting toes and blow-drying hair. At one point we were going to take a bath
together, but the bubbles couldn’t get high enough, so that ended up getting
scrapped. The little outfits, the short shorts, the hands in the pockets — it
wouldn’t have been funny if you didn’t really commit to it.”
In other words, Affleck is saying, the idea of the two of
them having sex is the joke, or at
least a big part of it. But why is that any more of a joke than Silverman
having sex with the already-married Damon?