On Monday’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Kimmel, flooded with emotion, shared the story of his newborn son’s heart condition. The condition required emergency surgery and, thankfully, the baby is doing well now. It’s impossible to watch the 12-minute clip and not get emotional. It’s a legitimately real moment in an entertainment landscape riddled with segments prepackaged and waiting for viral internet consumption.
This will now always be Jimmy Kimmel’s signature moment, for a few reasons. It will always be discussed when Kimmel’s name is mentioned. It’s reminiscent of Kimmel’s hero, David Letterman, when Letterman brought on the doctors who saved his life after open-heart surgery. It’s easy to have big comedy highlights – and Kimmel has had a lot of those – but this is an extremely rare thing: a human being opening up about one of the best, then worst experiences of his life. We don’t see this that often, at least anymore.
When articles are written about the current late night wars – specifically, the recent surge by Stephen Colbert in relation to Jimmy Fallon – Kimmel’s name is often left out. For the past few months I’ve been trying to figure out why and haven’t come up with a definitive answer. I do think with The Tonight Show back in New York – and most media based in New York (including this reporter) – it’s easy to overlook the host who isn’t here. The only LA-based host who seems to get constant coverage is James Corden, who also seems to be on a never-ending media blitz to make sure that stays true.
So that’s why between Colbert and Fallon and everyone else who is vying for that political edge under the Trump presidency – trying to find what might get people to finally listen in the midst of a a non-stop barrage of political comedy – it’s Jimmy Kimmel, of all people, who is going to have the biggest effect. No one saw this coming.
Kimmel has never shied away from political humor and he’s certainly a lot better at it than someone like Fallon. His political comedy isn’t prepackaged in a way that’s going to get a lot of attention online. Kimmel can be biting, but in sporadic way that’s also reminsicent of Letterman. He doesn’t create political comedy that’s easily digestible (and made for easy online consumption) like Seth Meyers’ always great “A Closer Look” segments, or the weekly, highly produced segments that we get from Samantha Bee or John Oliver. When Kimmel has a viral hit, it’s usually going to be some sort of prank he pulled.