Nobody tunes into late night talk shows for the drama. We watch fun celebrity segments and quippy opening monologues in order to wind down after our own drama-filled days. These shows are the television equivalent of settling in on the couch with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream after a long day, sweet but not nutritious.
Jimmy Kimmel shook up that tried and true funny man routine on the first day of May when he delivered an opening monologue about a terrifying health scare his family endured. A happy day involving the birth of his first son quickly turned into a nightmare when it was discovered that Billy had a rare and life threatening heart disease.
Kimmel’s voice broke and tears filled his eyes repeatedly as he recounted how his newborn had to undergo open heart surgery. The story has a happy ending, Billy is happy and healthy, but Kimmel’s story had a purpose.
He ended his monologue by talking about Trump’s $6 billion budget cut for the National Institutes of Health, and praised Congress for deciding, “to not go along with that.”
“They actually increased funding by $2 billion and I applaud them for doing that,” Kimmel said.
In Kimmel’s 15-minute speech he truly only brought politics up once, mostly calling for bi-partisanship when it comes to matters of life and death. He was both vilified and applauded for sharing his story; some found it moving while others called Kimmel an out-of-touch elitist.
Of course I can understand why some were put off by Kimmel’s speech. He is a famous millionaire who had no problem paying for his son’s surgery. Still, why discourage someone with such a huge audience to showcase empathy and make a point about those who cannot afford what he can?
We are a country in crisis; there is no denying that. Americans are divided on almost everything and tensions are running high. It’s nice to have some escapism entertainment right now in order to forget for a little while about the state of our nation. Watching Jimmy Fallon laugh too hard at celebrities’ jokes is very soothing.
However, if we escape too much we are distracted and nothing changes. We need to be reminded of what is going on within our government, and often times when the source of that reminder is a person who typically sticks to comedy, it makes the message all the more powerful.
When Kimmel responded to the critics of his emotional monologue he was back to his old self. “I’d like to apologize for saying that children in America should have health care. It was insensitive. It was offensive, and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.”