While speaking with the hosts of Naked Lunch, Jimmy Kimmel admitted that he threatened to quit the show if ABC executives stopped him from making Donald Trump jokes. It’s less of a political thing, he says, than wanting to be a part of history.
Kimmel Thinks Trump Will Go to Jail
“I want to be on the air when Donald Trump goes to jail,” Jimmy Kimmel told David Wild and Phil Rosenthal. They had all munched on some delicious sandwiches made specially by chef Daniel Uditi of Best in Dough. The hosts had just asked Kimmel about his decision to renew Jimmy Kimmel Live! for three more years. He’s already on season 20.
“I think I would be heartbroken if I was not a part of that,” Kimmel added.
Other reasons for wanting to renew the show were liking his coworkers and the people who run ABC. But it seems that reporting on Trump is high up on the list as well.
As we know, Jimmy Kimmel is no stranger to Trump jokes. He just recently dedicated most of his monologue to Trump jokes. It started with talk of the Trump Organization tax fraud fiasco, then the classified document trove found at Mar-a-Lago. Next was pondering if Trump had had an affair with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. And then Kimmel tied it all to Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is being considered as Trump’s next running mate.
And that was pretty much an average night for Kimmel. He rags on Trump constantly.
It’s Not Really About Politics So Much as “Justice”
But it’s less of a political thing, says Kimmel, than a “justice” thing.
“My gut always tells me the wrong thing, like, when it comes to Donald Trump,” Kimmel elaborated. “But I still believe, even after living through the OJ trial, whatever… I still believe that justice triumphs in America… And I know there are a billion different examples to the contrary. But I just… there just seem to be too many different cases against him…
“I mean, how can you commit this many crimes and be this unethical. And be this terrible and get away with it? The only way he’s going to get away with it is if, you know, he has a heart attack or something, and that’s the last we see of him. And I feel like in some ways, that’s what he’s trying to do. He’s just trying to draw this out until he dies.”
Kimmel added that he thought Trump was fine with running out the clock until, as the hosts said, “there was no democracy left.”
“He’s perfectly okay, I think, with that being the consequence of his actions, to save himself,” said Kimmel.
“This is what I mean by what you talk about on the show nightly, is not politics,” said Rosenthal. “I’m sure you get crap from Trump supporters.”
“Oh, yeah yeah yeah,” Kimmel agreed.
“But this is beyond politics,” Rosenthal added.
Kimmel Said It’s Also About “Human Decency”
“Yeah, this is just basic human decency, I mean, I wasn’t a George Bush fan either,” Kimmel said. “But I didn’t go after him every night. And I think at his core, he probably… I mean, obviously he made some mistakes. But, um, they all do.”
Kimmel continued, “I gotta tell you what really burns my ass. Joe Biden… look, whatever you think about him, he’s a decent human being… This idea that he’s some demonic… I mean, it’s such a stretch you can’t even believe it. You go like, ‘what? Okay… What the f*** are you people talking about?’ I mean, you might disagree with him, but he’s certainly not evil. I mean, if you believe that, you’ve got some real problems.”
“So, these are extreme political views you have,” Rosenthal quipped. “Does ABC ever say to you, ‘Hey, could you not just attack this side and lay off a little bit? Because we’re going to lose those people?’”
Apparently, there was a time when ABC said something like that.
ABC Once Hinted at Making Less Trump Jokes; Kimmel Chose to Lose ½ His Fan Base
“There was, one time, right around the beginning of this whole Trump thing,” Kimmel admitted. “That was kind of hinted at.”
But Kimmel put his foot down with ABC. He told the Naked Lunch hosts that he was aware that his jokes cost him at least half of his fans. That seems like a huge sacrifice to make in the name of comedy.
“I just said, ‘listen, I get it. I don’t disagree. You’re right. I have lost half of my fans.’ Maybe more than that,” said Kimmel.
He added that a decade ago, according to research at the network, he was the most popular talk show host among Republicans.
“I just said, ‘Listen if that’s what you want to do, I understand,’” said Kimmel. “’And I don’t begrudge you for it. But I’m not going to do that. So, you know if you want somebody else to host the show, then that’s fine. That’s okay with me. I’m just not going to do it like that.’”
Kimmel added that he couldn’t “live with myself” if he couldn’t tell his Trump jokes.
“I love this country too,” he said. “You know that flag doesn’t belong to ‘them.’ This is ‘ours.’ And when I see somebody coming in and ruining it, I’m going to say something about it. That’s it. It’s as simple as that…. There isn’t a sacrifice that you make when it comes to your audience. You know? And you could do pretty well if you just stayed right down the middle, if you wanted to.”
In 2017, The Independent reported that Kimmel’s conservative viewership had gone down over the course of 3 years. He had about the same number of left-leaning and right-leaning voters in 2014. But in 2017, that number went down by what he estimated was about 30%. At the time, he attributed the loss of viewers to his opinions of healthcare and gun control.
However, at this point, it’s pretty clear that Kimmel’s on a mission — and that mission has to do with Donald Trump.