Jimmy Kimmel has apologized for impersonating a former Utah Jazz star. Not so much for the attempt at comedy, but for the makeup.
Two decades ago, Kimmel was made up to resemble Karl Malone on “The Man Show.” Malone is Black. Kimmel is white. So, yeah, the host of “Jimmy Kimmel Live” put on blackface to impersonate him.
“I never considered that this might be seen as anything other than an imitation of a fellow human being, one that had no more to do with Karl’s skin color than it did his bulging muscles and bald head,” Kimmel said in a statement.
That was dumb. Blackface has been offensive since it first appeared in the 1830s. Kimmel should’ve known that by the late 1990s.
Kimmel apologized to “those who were genuinely hurt or offended by the makeup I wore or the words I used.” And he explained why he hadn’t apologized earlier: “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.”
Gee, who do you think he was referring to?
Kimmel has been getting bashed by people who pulled up the old clips and photos and used them to invalidate his advocacy on behalf of groups like Black Lives Matter. “It is frustrating that these thoughtless moments have become a weapon used by some to diminish my criticisms of social and other injustices,” he said, adding, “I won’t be bullied into silence by those who feign outrage to advance their oppressive and genuinely racist agendas.”
This is not analogous to Megyn Kelly getting fired by NBC for her comments about blackface. She argued in October 2018 that blackface isn’t racist, and her apology — such as it was — seemed simply an attempt to save her job. And she had a long history of statements that were, at best, racially insensitive and, at worst, outright racist when she was at Fox News.
“30 ROCK” BLACKFACE • Speaking of Kelly, she tweeted in response to NBCUniversal pulling four episodes of “30 Rock” that featured characters in blackface from streaming platforms and syndication.
“Wait — what network aired those episodes again?” she wrote.
Actually, the network didn’t air them again. The show has been off NBC since 2013. And the blackface episodes satirized racists and racism — although we could debate how well. There’s a fine line between lampooning racism and perpetuating it.
But series creator Tina Fey was right to ask NBCUniversal to remove the episodes.
However, Fey has not, as of this writing, asked Netflix to pull the yellowface episode of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” another series she created. (Titus Burgess, who is Black, donned makeup to portray an Asian woman.)
And that seems rather inconsistent.
BAD NEWS FOR TRUMP • Turns out that former FBI director James Comey’s version of what happened between him and President Donald Trump will make it on TV before Election Day after all. Showtime has reversed course after some curious scheduling.
Just last week, Showtime announced that “The Comey Rule” — a two-part, four-hour adaptation of Comey’s book “A Higher Loyalty” — would air in “late November.” And that did not please writer/director Billy Ray, who emailed cast members that “we all were hoping to get this story in front of the American people months before the coming election.”
And, he added, the ViacomCBS-owned network had demanded he do “whatever was necessary to deliver” the finished product “by May 15.” But then “word started drifting back to me that a decision about our airdate had been made at the very highest levels of Viacom: All talk of our airing before the election was suddenly a ‘non-starter.’”
The only plausible explanation is that ViacomCBS execs feared Trump’s wrath. As Ray pointed out, TV is all about attracting as many viewers and subscribers as possible, and “The Comey Rule” will clearly be hotter before the election than after.
Well, after The New York Times broke that story, Showtime had a change of heart. It announced Wednesday that Part 1 of “The Comey Rule” will air Sept. 27; Part 2 will air Sept. 28. Election Day is Nov. 3.