Admit it: if you had to guess which of the current lineup of late night talk show hosts would emerge as the number-one voice in post-prime time politics, you probably assumed it would be Stephen Colbert.
After leaving his thinly-veiled satire show on Comedy Central, Colbert has successfully used his role as CBS’ Late Show host as a political platform, but the results haven’t gained nearly such strong reaction as his ABC competitor, Jimmy Kimmel, who’s charged headlong into politics with monologues on healthcare, mass shootings and President Trump.
But it’s his latest political salvo that’s really rewriting Kimmel’s late-night reputation.
Challenged by embattled Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, Kimmel picked up the gauntlet and told Moore he would be pleased to meet him “man to man.”
The conflict began when Kimmel’s team orchestrated a bit that aggravated Moore’s team. Kimmel sent one of his writers down to Alabama to attend an event where Moore was speaking at a church. Attendees were heckling Moore in the crowd while the writer pretended to support him. The writer’s support even earned him some applause from the audience of Moore supporters. Kimmel’s fans loved the bit. Moore’s people less so.
Moore went on Twitter to accuse Kimmel of mocking his “Christian values” and challenged Kimmel to “come down here to Alabama and do it man to man …”
Kimmel fired back that he was all for it. “I accept his invitation. I will come down there …We’ll have a little Panda Express, and we’ll talk about Christian values …”
In a recent opening monologue, Kimmel once again took up the challenge. He repeated the story that Moore was put on a watch list at the local mall and discussed the numerous allegations against Moore, who’s been repeatedly accused of trying to instigate relationships with teenage girls while in his 30s. Kimmel added:
“There is no one I would love to fight more than you. I will put my Christian values aside just for you and for that fight … (and I will) wear a Girl Scout uniform so you can have something to get excited about.”
Clearly, while he still has jokes, Kimmel is not kidding around. He’s drawn lines in the sand, making increasingly political comments that have earned him a lot more play than typical comedic bits. Is this a side of Kimmel that will continue to grow and evolve? He wouldn’t be the first comedian to transition into politics, but he might be one of the more surprising.