Straight Talk

In this time when our civil liberties appear to have as much shelf life as any solo album from a Backstreet Boy, it's easy to get panicked about freedom of speech. You hope that we'll always be able to hear every opinion. You pray that every voice has a chance to be heard, no matter how small. You don't want to believe that the suffering cry of any oppressed minority won't be given its due in our popular culture. Which is why we should thank God for Jimmy Kimmel.

Watching ABC's late-night chat show Jimmy Kimmel Live every night is like experiencing a wake-up call to all of the things we are in danger of losing in the increasingly feminist climate George W. Bush seems intent on establishing in this country. Kimmel, an overweight, irreverent laugh riot who has also hosted Comedy Central's terribly brave The Man Show, dares to present a sarcastic Caucasian man's view of life when all around him the rest of the crumbling world is run by somber female Inuits.

My Lord, people, we're in danger of losing the crucial voice of the Smarmy Straight White Guy. When we first began bombing Iraq, and the litany of brainy, Lithuanian dwarf commentators on Fox News raised their girly dove voices, I remember my first concern was, "Where is the crucial voice of the Smarmy Straight White Guy? When do I get to hear what a Smarmy Straight White Guy thinks about this issue?" Anytime anything of cultural import happens, I sigh with great despair, knowing that the only opinion we'll ever get to hear will be that of some black, wheelchair-bound, lesbian social workerthey're everywhere in the media. It's like we're not allowed to move a finger without being informed what some woman, homosexual, or person of color thinks about the relevant issues of our times.

Kimmel's show somewhat rectifies this appalling underrepresentation; we're finally getting a look at life through the eyes of a heterosexual male wisecracker. He's treading daunting ground in television comedy, where there was only Jay Leno, David Letterman, Craig Kilborn, Jon Stewart, Jim Belushi, Tom Arnold, Drew Carey, Bill Maher, Tim Allen, Jerry Seinfeld, most of the cast of Saturday Night Live, and that guy from King of Queens before him. Courageously airing its first episode after that annual estrogen parade known as the Super Bowl, Jimmy Kimmel Live began its run back in January with a bar for audience members and a vodka-serving George Clooney. The bar was closed after that episode because somebody puked, but, man, that's cool.

The show attempts to humiliate its own guests, which is priceless when they're anyone with an "evolved" point of view. Kimmel made great fun of Janeane Garofalo for her hysterical anti-war stance, and, more hilariously, had a good ol' time raking Queer as Folk's Hal Sparks over the coals for wearing a trendy belt buckle and playing a homosexual on TV: Kimmel ran a montage of all the times Sparks has kissed a man on the series, then made rib-ticklingly ironic jokes about how he suddenly found himself strangely attracted to the actor. I can barely breathe right now remembering the dazzlingly comic originality of that kind of stuffI mean, a comic making fun of homosexuality? Jesus, the balls Kimmel must have.

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