It’s open season on racist entertainment, as society tries to scrub the cultural canon of problematic people and content. The latest comedian in the crosshairs of cancel culture is Jimmy Kimmel — #CancelKimmel was trending on Twitter Tuesday morning. But the campaign against the comedian isn’t very surprising, if you’ve been paying attention.
His past transgressions are numerous. Lately, photos of Kimmel in blackface playing NBA star Karl Malone on Comedy Central’s The Man Show have been making the rounds in response to news that the talk show host would emcee the 2020 Emmy Awards. As the blackface scandal went viral, Kimmel announced he’d be going on hiatus. "There's nothing wrong. My family's healthy. I'm healthy. I just need a couple of months off," he assured fans.
Kimmel’s sudden dip from public view recalls the actions of another late-night comedian who recently came under fire for doing blackface years ago: Jimmy Fallon, who impersonated Chris Rock in a Saturday Night Live sketch from 2000. In response to the controversy and calls to cancel him, Fallon tweeted, “There is no excuse for this. I am very sorry for making this unquestionably offensive decision and thank all of you for holding me accountable.”
Kimmel is facing fresh outrage this week, however, for using the “n-word” multiple times while impersonating Snoop Dogg on a comedy cassette tape in 1996. The details are a little convoluted, but bear with me: over the weekend, Fox News obtained audio from a 2013 podcast interview between Kimmel and radio personality Adam Carolla, where the comedian talked about playing the rapper. “This is when Snoop Dogg first came out, hit the scene, and I used to imitate him by only saying, 'You know what I'm saying?’” Kimmel said in the interview. Carolla then queued up audio of the impersonation in question.
It’s a track from a holiday compilation tape released by the KROQ-FM radio show Kevin and Bean in 1996. “Christmastime in the LBC” features Kimmel, as Snoop, using the racial slur multiple times. “Me and my n***er down in LBC, we'll smoke that motherf***ing Christmas tree,” Kimmel raps. He refers to Santa Claus a “fat n***er in a sleigh giving sh*t away” and the baby Jesus as that “n***er in the manger.”
Midday Tuesday, Kimmel broke his silence on the "embarrassing" blackface sketches. "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," the comedian said.
But Kimmel hedged his apology with ignorance. "I never considered that this might be seen as anything other than an imitation of a fellow human being," he said. "I’ve done dozens of impressions of famous people, including Snoop Dogg, Oprah, Eminem, Dick Vitale, Rosie, and many others. In each case, I thought of them as impersonations of celebrities and nothing more."
The comedian also implied the campaign against him was an effort to silence him. "It is frustrating that these thoughtless moments have become a weapon used by some to diminish my criticisms of social and other injustices," Kimmel said. He added: "My summer vacation has been planned for more than a year and includes the next two summers off as well. I will be back to work in September."
Listen, I’m not going to argue that Kimmel should be stripped of his job and platform, necessarily. Wielding cancel culture as a form of retribution is a loaded prospect, because while it can clear the way for more diverse talent, silencing people also perpetuates a culture of marginalization. But frankly, I'm not that interested in anything Kimmel has to say. In my opinion, the Emmys would be smart to quietly request Kimmel's resignation and hire a Black woman to host instead. Off the top of my head, Issa Rae, Leslie Jones or Tiffany Haddish would all knock it out of the park.