by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
We’re a long way from Johnny Carson, whose Tonight Show was a national institution that enjoyed a broad audience — and was conducted like one. Carson steered clear of politics and kept his views to himself because it would “hurt me as an entertainer, which is what I am.”
Kimmel may be an entertainer, but has no such inhibitions. He is willing to say “not good riddance, but riddance,” as he put it in the CBS News Sunday Morning interview, to Republicans put off by his headline-generating editorials in recent weeks.
Once a down-the-middle comedic voice who co-hosted the unapologetically vulgar The Man Show on Comedy Central, Kimmel uttered what could be the epigraph for our times, saying of viewers who strongly disagree with his political views, “I probably won’t want to have a conversation with them anyway.”
From Carson to Kimmel is the story of the fracturing of media environment that has made niche audiences the coin of the realm. Add on top of this an inflamed anti-Trump resistance cheered on by the elite media, and Kimmel kissing off Republicans is probably a good career move.
His impassioned monologues on health care — originally occasioned by the illness of his little son, Billy — and gun control have won media accolades. A CNN piece even deemed him “America’s conscience.” The press is nice puffery, but what matters to his employer is the ratings, which are notably up.