Kimmel's Bold Advocacy: Easiest Path On A Comfortable Street In A Very Familiar Town
I am re-reading the diaries of satirist David Sedaris, who is a very sly funny man. Hearing his trenchant observations on people from the 1990s and 2000s reminded me that social critics never saw themselves at the centre of the culture. While, like Michaelangelo, artists worked for popes and princes, the artistic class revelled in having their best friends in low places.
They preferred the view from the bleachers. The distance gave them perspective and, sometimes, protection in critiquing the society around them. H.L. Mencken, Mark Twain, Dorothy Parker and Sedaris, among many, lampooned the seriousness of the business people, the politicians and the religious people in the society.
But they never wanted to be part of the power structure that ran the society. They knew there had to be adults, and they weren’t them. They wanted their privacy and bad habits too much to subject themselves to the spot light. There was a rogues’ honour among the wits and wags that anyone who sold out for fame was a fool. A fool kicked out of their world.
Lenny Bruce never saw himself as a central figure in the culture precisely because he had no objectivity if he moved in the vast middle of society. Ditto Mort Sahl or Dick Gregory or George Carlin. Imagine Carlin, who offered the seven words you couldn’t say on network TV, allowing himself to be hitched to the plough of a mainstream party.
But their successors as critics or comics in this age of moral vanity have decided to eschew the proscenium. Not for them Sedaris’ wry detachment, his arm’s length barbs of the rich, powerful and vain.
No, the social critics of today are at the very heart of progressive, scolding society. Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart and Seth Myers see their values as the core of the society. And themselves as leaders of that society to be taken very, very seriously.
Object lesson one is former comedian Jimmy Kimmel who has morphed from doing the pee-pee jokes of a man child/ wise ass to being branded by the progressive press as “the conscience of the nation”. Kimmel’s metamorphosis from joke meister to political sage was brought about, in part, by the heart ailments of his infant son.
Having entered the mainstream of life, Kimmel was shocked— shocked, I tell you— to discover that health care in America is a tricky issue in the time of Obamacare. When Donald Trump’s health secretary, Tom Price, disappointed him, Kimmel turned his show from an entertainment vehicle into a nightly jeremiad against conservatives, GOP and, most of all, president Donald Trump.
Where once the Vegas Rat Pack of Frank Sinatra regaled Johnny Carson with their bawdy tales and dissolute lives, the audience is now hectored on a nightly basis about partisan politics by a suddenly serious Kimmel. When asked if he was afraid that his new dour preacher harangues of conservatives might alienate them, Kimmel said, it would not be “good riddance, it would be riddance.”
He said he had no use for conversation with the other side. Buoyed by the liberal press, he was making the rounds of talk shows like Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest this week, lapping up the easy adulation that comes from being a conventional liberal in a business full of people who allowed Harvey Weinstein to flourish for over a quarter century.
The principle reason the Kimmels and Stewarts have dropped the veil of objectivity is because the new Carlin wannabes crave something something their predecessors had no need of. They want acceptance and applause for their hackneyed political routines. They crave the warmth of the bosom of the Left. And no place is a safe and welcoming a place as Hollywood.
There are not people planning to do something dangerous, dying with a needle in their arm like Lenny Bruce or drunk and dissolute like Dorothy Parker. Their mission is not to deconstruct but rather to instruct society. They see themselves at the head of some support group, followed by sycophants and other political wind therapists.
Speeding to the centre of the spotlight is, in their estimation, a brave and noble thing to do. But real bravery, as Tucker Carlson of FOX has noted, is disagreeing with your peer group in public. As Bruce and Carlin and Mencken and Gregory did almost every day of their life. Often to their detriment.
What Jimmy Kimmel does in using his mainstream talk show to rip Trump is choosing the easiest path on a comfortable street in a very familiar town. They don’t give out any medals for that.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy.is the host of the podcast The Full Count with Bruce Dowbiggin on anticanetwork.com. He’s also a regular contributor three-times-a-week to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author of seven books. His website is Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com)