One of the crowd: Jimmy Kimmel's evolution from 'The Man Show' to another liberal late-night voice

Jimmy Kimmel apologizes if he ‘hurt or offended’ anyone with blackface skits

ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel issued an apology to anyone he may have offended with his blackface skits and offensive language.

Earlier this month, ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel joked about Floridians who have died of COVID-19, snarking, “All those orphaned ferrets, it’s a shame.”

What might have been a stunningly cutting remark for the “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” host a decade ago feels more standard now for the comic who’s embraced the same liberal politics of the rest of his late-night colleagues.

Kimmel’s pointed aside about dead Floridians was the latest political broadside from a host who has become increasingly hard to distinguish from an overwhelmingly left-leaning, Democrat-boosting late-night lineup. Hosts like Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah, and John Oliver have made GOP-bashing a central part of their brands.

“Late-night used to be about escapism. Now it’s basically an extension of CNN meets MSNBC under the guise of comedy,” Fox News correspondent Joe Concha said. 

Jimmy Kimmel has attacked conservatives on a regular basis in recent years.   (ABC/Randy Holmes) 

Kimmel has come a long way from his more everyman, apolitical persona.

He first rose to prominence as a co-host on Comedy Central’s “Win Ben Stein’s Money” from 1997 to 2000 and then “The Man Show” with Adam Carolla from 1999 to 2003. The latter, gleefully politically incorrect show both celebrated and lampooned typical male stereotypes;; one of its most famous segments was each show concluding with “girls jumping on trampolines.”

In an article about Kimmel becoming “Late Night’s Woke Dad,” left-wing outlet Jezebel chided him for some of his controversial moments, such as him donning blackface to imitate celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and NBA star Karl Malone. Kimmel has apologized for the “embarrassing” segments from his past and says much of his earlier work makes him “cringe,” but he’s self-aware, telling Vulture in 2017 if he did “The Man Show” now, it would be an even bigger hit.

“There’s more back to lash against. There’s more scrutiny. There’s more political correctness. That always offers more opportunity to run counter,” he said.

Kimmel left Comedy Central and took his current gig on ABC hosting “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” in 2003, where for years he was known less for politics and more for his sarcastic style and pranks, such as his long-running “feud” with actor Matt Damon. His emotional reaction in 2015 to the killing of a famous African lion by an American hunter surprised observers given his usual style.

Even after Trump’s rise to the GOP nomination — the future president was a guest on Kimmel’s show during the campaign, along with several other late-night programs — Kimmel had more of an amused detachment than stern demeanor during his ventures into political humor.

A major shift for the comedian seemed to coincide with a frightening moment for his family, when his son Billy was born in 2017 with a congenital heart defect and required life-saving surgeries. An emotional Kimmel told the audience about his family’s plight and went on to push for the defeat of Republican attempts to overturn Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act, that year.

He called out Republican senators like Lindsey Graham, S.C., and Bill Cassidy, La., for their health care proposal, and he used talking points opposing the reform measure sent from then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. 

Kimmel, who moved to Las Vegas as a child, then drew liberal media plaudits when he used his entire monologue on Oct. 3, 2017, to call for gun control and attack Republicans in the aftermath of the Vegas massacre. During his remarks, he made several misleading remarks, such as suggesting semi-automatic rifles — which fire one bullet per trigger pull and make up the vast majority of rifles in the United States –- aren’t used in home defense. He accused Republicans who disagreed on the Second Amendment of not caring about who lived or died.

“We have a major problem with gun control in this country, and I guess they don’t care,” he said. “And if i’m wrong on that, fine, do something about it, because I’m sick of it. I want this to be a comedy show. I hate talking about stuff like this.”

The Washington Post published the full “emotional, scathing monologue,” and liberal journalists praised it as one of his most “emotionally searing” routines. CNN declared him “America’s conscience.””

Kimmel’s political lurch even attracted the attention of a network rival. “CBS Sunday Morning” profiled his foray into liberal activism in 2017 and how it turned off GOP viewers, which he admitted wasn’t “ideal.”

“I want everyone with a television to watch the show, but if they’re so turned off by my opinion on health care and gun violence, then … I probably wouldn’t want to have a conversation with them anyway.” he said.

In 2020, he pushed for viewers to vote out Republicans he accused of wanting to gut pre-existing condition measures in health insurance laws. Kimmel celebrated President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January, saying he personally felt “great again” and gushing over the “beautiful” ceremony.

Kimmel has recently mocked Floridians who have died from COVID, declared unvaccinated people shouldn’t get ICU beds and even mocked Caitlyn Jenner’s bid for governor of California, calling her “Donald Trump in a Caitlyn Jenner wig.”

“Piousness has replaced punchlines, and Kimmel’s viewership reflects that. He’s currently fourth behind Gutfeld, Colbert and Fallon,” Concha said. 

Indeed, Kimmel averaged 1.3 million viewers in September, which is behind “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” Fox News’ “Gutfeld!” and “The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon.”

Concha thinks Kimmel’s comedy from “The Man Show” wouldn’t fly these days anyway, but avoiding humor altogether isn’t exactly paying off. 

“Look, ‘The Man Show’ was a younger Kimmel. People mature. And ‘The Man Show’ wouldn’t be green lighted in 100 years today given how politically correct things have become. But Kimmel now plays directly to half an audience. He literally declared he doesn’t want Trump supporters to watch,” Concha said. “That’s a bold business model. Let’s see if that works out for him. To date, it’s not.” 

Political satirist Tim Young used to be a fan of Kimmel but those days have long passed. 


“Kimmel, even in the early days of his show on ABC, used to be an innovative comic that I would even regularly tune in to watch,” Young told Fox News. “In the pilot for the Man Show, he had one of the most innovative and hilarious sketches ever … getting people who didn’t know what the term ‘suffrage’ was to sign a petition to end ‘women suffering.’”

Kimmel told The Hollywood Reporter in 2019 he wished late-night didn’t have to get political so “frequently.” He’s now the longest-running current late-night host after Conan O’Brien left the airwaves earlier this year, and whether he remains as political with a president he supports in office remains to be seen.

Young feels that during the Trump era, Kimmel and ABC executives “capitalized on Trump Derangement Syndrome fear-porn watchers that tuned into CNN and late night comics to hear the same blathering about Trump being an ‘evil fascist leader'” in order to attract liberal viewers. 

“In the middle of that, he and his writing staff stopped being funny and started getting woke and they’ll never go back,” Young added. “It’s just DNC talking points and pretending he never objectified women, drank heavily and wore blackface for laughs to create his career.” 

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