(Lainey: yesterday we introduced to you our newest contributor, Cody Kreller. His first post about Beyoncé can be read here. We haven’t yet had the chance to build him his own profile on the site and we won’t be able to get to that until the weekend so for now his content is going under my profile. If you missed it, Cody can be reached on Instagram @codosphotos and on Twitter and on Twitter @codyj__.)
When it comes to acts of anti-Black racism, what's the quickest way to get cancelled? Donning Blackface? Audio recordings of you uttering the N word? Because Jimmy Kimmel has done both… and decades later he’s apologizing.
A 1996 Christmas parody album in which Kimmel reportedly wrote all the comedic material has resurfaced. On a track titled "Christmastime in LBC," Kimmel imitates Snoop Dogg's voice as he rhymes, "fat [n-word] in a sleigh giving sh*t away" and references a "[n-word] in the manger." Would Jimmy Kimmel make the same decision to use that word today? I would guess no. Was it appropriate for a non-Black person to use the n-word in 1996? Also, no. But that's not the only disappointing decision made by Kimmel coming to the light this week. Multiple sketches from his early 2000s Comedy Central series The Man Show, in which he wore Blackface to portray NBA star Karl Malone and “Oprah Jimfrey,” are making the rounds.
One seemingly preemptive move made last week saw Jimmy surprisingly announce on Thursday's episode that he would be taking the entire summer off to "to spend even more time with my family," failing to mention the scandal that was slowly unravelling. In fact, he made a point of emphasizing there's nothing wrong, he just needs a break. A break from your impending trial in the court of public opinion? All I know is that for a person who connects to his audience via television, a written apology almost always receives less critique than an apology on video, and then laying low until September wouldn't hurt either. But that was last night.
It’s Tuesday, and as I’m finishing this, I get a breaking news alert from The Hollywood Reporter: JIMMY KIMMEL APOLOGIZES FOR BLACKFACE IMPRESSION OF NBA STAR KARL MALONE.
To be quite honest, I don’t even like the wording of this headline. He’s apologizing for doing Blackface. The fact that he did it because he’s impersonating a famous Black person on a television series doesn’t minimize the fact that its offensive.
“I have long been reluctant to address this, as I knew doing so would be celebrated as a victory by those who equate apologies with weakness and cheer for leaders who use prejudice to divide us. That delay was a mistake. There is nothing more important to me than your respect, and I apologize to those who were genuinely hurt or offended by the makeup I wore or the words I spoke.”
In his statement, Kimmel goes on to say he’s done a lot of impressions in his career and he looks back at a lot of them with embarrassment. Not just ones imitating Black people.
“I believe that I have evolved and matured over the last twenty-plus years, and I hope that is evident to anyone who watches my show. I know that this will not be the last I hear of this and that it will be used again to try to quiet me. I love this country too much to allow that. I won’t be bullied into silence by those who feign outrage to advance their oppressive and genuinely racist agendas."
First off, apologies with anger aren’t great. Even if you feel you’re being called out by the far-right internet trolls looking to cancel any liberal celeb. They weren’t the ones who painted your skin black for a bit.
I think it’s interesting to frame this up against Kevin Hart losing his dream gig hosting the 2019 Oscars, because Kimmel is set to host the Emmys this September. When Kevin’s homophobic tweets from 2010 and 2011 were brought back up he initially refused to apologize, instead offering a less constructive statement: "If you don’t believe people change, grow as they get older, I don’t know what to tell you." It was only after he stepped down that he succumbed to public pressure and apologized, but a forced apology never feels sincere. To this day I don't think Kevin really understands that even if he's not homophobic his tweets were triggering for gay Black men who had to watch his fans laugh at those "jokes," and often suffer a uniquely tough time coming out in the Black community.
Does Kimmel understand how triggering Blackface can be? After reading his statement, I’m not sure that came across. We're in a time of reckoning and rightfully so. People need to pivot away from giving the public straight up apologies, and pivot towards giving us new mission statements. What are you doing? What is your show doing? What is your camp doing to repent? If we believe you’re still that person, you’re cancelled. If you’re not going to do better moving forward, cancelled.
LaineyGossip has very recently been called out for offensive and gross content posted during the site’s early years. The posts in question are quite shocking, and are from the 2000s, not even as far back as 1996, the year when Kimmel freely used racial slurs or wore Blackface under the guise of parody. People have called me out on social media since my first post yesterday for joining this team as the problematic past posts have seemingly “gone viral.” I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t heard apologies from Lainey and a change in the site’s mission statement long before I showed up.
In Jimmy Kimmel's case I'm not sure if he's ever repented for any sins of his past, as much as he has rebranded. In recent years, some of his most notable moments include promoting healthcare for all after his newborn son required open heart surgery, advocating for stricter gun laws in an emotional monologue after a mass shooting in his hometown of Las Vegas, and paying his JKL stagehands out of his own pocket during initial COVID-19 shutdowns. All great moments — but all within the last 3 years.
One of his first TV gigs was The Man Show. The sketch comedy series lampooned straight white male entitlement, but also celebrated it. It's been called proudly racist, homophobic, and misogynistic. The debut episode was titled 'The Oprahization of America,' where Kimmel and co-host Adam Carolla joked, "This Oprah needs to do a little less brainwashing and a little more sock washing." In 2017, Kimmel told New York Magazine they were aware half their viewers didn't know it was satire, and actually believed they had an agenda.
Just this weekend, a 2009 appearance by Megan Fox on Jimmy Kimmel Live! started circulating online, drawing more Kimmel backlash. In the clip she describes being sexualized by director Michael Bay when she was 15 years old on the set of Bad Boys 2. After explaining how she couldn't be shown drinking because she was underage, Megan says, "His solution to that problem was to then have me dancing underneath the waterfall, getting soaking wet… That’s sort of a microcosm of how Bay’s mind works.” The reaction from the studio audience was mixed, as Kimmel chuckles, "Well that's really a microcosm of how all our minds work, but some of us have the decency to repress those thoughts." Yuck.
It’s important to note that Tuesday, Fox shared her own feelings in response to that appearance and on renewed conversation around her oversexualized experiences in Hollywood, including a report that Michael Bay watched her half-clothed, washing his car as an audition for Transformers. She says, “There are many names that deserve to be going viral in cancel culture right now, but they are safely stored in the fragmented recesses of my heart.” Adding, when it comes to Bay, she “was never assaulted or preyed upon in what I felt like was a sexual manner.”
Earlier this year, Sarah wrote about a former JKL writer who alleges the writers’ room was opening using gay slurs until the show hired its first openly gay writer in 2015. And as Sarah rightfully points out, "2015 is not some less-enlightened past when Kimmel’s show ended with girls jumping on a trampoline," referencing The Man Show. In her piece she also outlines the reported use of racial slurs, and an overall terrible work culture with Jimmy at the helm.
So is Kimmel’s apology enough given our current social climate? Can he still host the Emmys? Will ABC even keep Jimmy Kimmel Live! on the air? His statement never addresses or even alludes to his use of the N word. He’s focused on the Blackface, and that’s a controversy many comedians before him have made it through.
Just late last month the other Jimmy, Jimmy Fallon had his own Blackface performance from SNL reexamined. He apologized almost immediately, and it appears the public have moved past it, or perhaps there were just more pressing social issues that needed our attention. Tina Fey also is dealing with her own Blackface controversy. Today, Lainey wrote about Fey pulling episodes of 30 Rock featuring “race-changing makeup” (Blackface) from all platforms in which the show is distributed, as a way of getting ahead of the story.
When you find out that people you let into your home every day, whether on your living room TV or on in the background as you get ready for bed, wear your race as a costume or casually use slurs in closed company, it's disappointing but ultimately not surprising.