Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Thanks, Jimmy Kimmel.

I've had a chance to digest the squirm-fest that was the Jimmy Kimmel Live! show last night and I've reconsidered my original stated position about the entire event. Now I am happy it happened and Jimmy Kimmel has earned a little of my respect in the process.

It's been clear to most of us up here for quite some time that Rob Ford is mentally challenged in some way. I think he's got a learning disability, but whatever the truth is there is definitely an issue there of some kind. I don't think that's been quite as obvious to the international media, most of whom have come to this story only tangentially and mainly through YouTube. To my mind, Kimmel has likely thought all along that Ford must simply be a brazen, larger-than-life character—a sort that Kimmel himself has probably bumped up against in his own country many times. When he was able to convince Ford to come on the show, I can only imagine he felt confident that Ford knew exactly what the joke was going to be. How could he not, truly, and still be the mayor of the largest city in Canada? It was unthinkable, to Kimmel's mind I am sure, that Ford might not see what was going to happen ahead of time—or at least one of his staffers or family members would advise him against it.

Sweating even before it gets going
But that didn't happen, for reasons we in Toronto are all too familiar with. And Ford showed up looking like he was the best man at a 1985 wedding. And he tossed out t-shirts and magnets and had all his local political talking points in order, because that's all he's ever had going for him in the past four years. But he was not in Toronto and the audience—in person, that is—were not the sheep of our city who still believe everything Ford says because it's on the radio or television. I'd love to have seen the results had there been a poll taken after the show of exactly what percentage of Kimmel's audience last night had even the remotest of clues what "TTC" stands for, for example. No, these were people who had shown up to witness a good stoning and they sure weren't disappointed.

It's never fun to watch a bully—or a group of people "in on the joke"—embarrass and destroy an ill-prepared person. (Think of the movie "Carrie".) It's especially not fun when you know that person being picked on is mentally challenged. But as I watched the show last night, it became pretty clear to me that Ford's low IQ was a surprise to Kimmel; or, if not a surprise outright, then it was probably startling to Kimmel that it had more to do with his shenanigans than any sort of brassy, anti-social, eff-you sort of mindset.

Daughtry sings "The Ballad of Rob Ford" on an earlier show:
how could the Fords not have known how this would end?
What I thought was interesting was the way the host handled it from there. During the video montage segment—clearly meant to be the payoff of this entire show—both Kimmel and his audience were quite obviously uncomfortable with the reaction of Ford himself to the relentless butt-kicking. At the end of each video, Kimmel had a clearly prepared and rehearsed question for Ford but didn't wait for an answer that was so obviously not coming and almost rushed through the segment, I thought. Now, abandoning the segment was not a consideration because Kimmel is not a journalist or a mental health expert; rather, he's in the entertainment business, pure and simple. He was the wise-cracking sidekick on the show "Ben Stein's Money" and co-created "The Man Show". It's not really fair of us to expect him to abandon this gold mine that landed in his lap, but still I felt he very nearly did. He even gave Ford a chance to take all the wind out of his own (Kimmel's) sails in the third part where he gently suggested that Ford might want to seek help for his alcoholism. Had Ford taken that opportunity to show real human contrition and frailty, all the sympathy would have transferred immediately to him and Kimmel would instantly have become the "bad guy". It was a big chance Kimmel was taking, but he took it anyway and I have a lot of new respect for him for doing that.

But, of course, Ford denied, denied, denied and even started to say, it seemed to me, "Maybe YOU'RE perfect, Jimmy" but was quickly cut off by Kimmel.

Two puppets and a host
And you know what? I don't care what the reasons are for Ford being in this situation right now, I was very glad to see him completely ashamed on international television last night, because Kimmel did what Mansbridge et al could not do, and shame on all of those who fell short before now. I'm way past hoping RoFo gets help; I just want him to disappear completely, because Kimmel's other guest was Gonzo the Muppet....and he managed to squeeze in a Ford joke himself. Which led to my favourite tweet of last night:

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