Jimmy Kimmel and the Impossibility of Being Apolitical and Popular

Jon Stewart retired from the Daily Show. But we all live in his world now. Or at least Late Night does.

That's why I don't take Jimmy Kimmel's sneering too seriously.

"Three years ago, I was equally liked by Republicans and Democrats," Kimmel told CBS' "Sunday Morning" of "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" which has aired on ABC since 2003. "And then Republican numbers went way down, like 30 percent, or whatever. And you know, as a talk show host, that's not ideal but I would do it again in a heartbeat."

A defiant Kimmel added that he doesn't say "I don't mind" because he preferred "everyone with a television to watch the show."

"But if they're so turned off by my opinion on healthcare and gun violence then, I don't know, I probably wouldn't want to have a conversation with them anyway," he continued. "Not good riddance, but riddance."

Not really. No.

If everyone watching your show was a relevant metric for popularity, television would look very different. TV isn't geared to the highest or lowest common denominator, but to the leftiest one. That's why CBS is interviewing Kimmel.

The game was rigged at the advertising level, as I briefly noted in past articles.

Network television doesn’t just fail to count older viewers; it tries to drive them away. A show with an older viewership is dead air. Advertisers have been pushed by ad agencies into an obsession with associating their product with a youthful brand.

The demo rating, 18-49, is the only rating that matters. But the demo is just one piece of the puzzle. Younger viewers weren’t good enough. They had to be trendy and wealthy too.

The ideal television viewer is now in his twenties or thirties, lives in a city, has plenty of disposable income and is highly active on social media so that his or her brand choices influence their peers. He bought a new smartphone in the last 12 months and the next gaming console, he goes to bars and night clubs, spends $400 on video games and $300 on music. He is more likely to do these things than to become a parent, invest in stocks or buy a home.

It goes without saying that he is also an enthusiastic supporter of gay marriage, gun control and Obama. And that he hates anyone who isn’t.

CBS does not want Middle America to watch. Chasing away older and conservative viewers by picking Colbert is not a bug, it’s a feature. CBS would like Colbert to ‘upscale’ its brand by turning its dying late night show into a low rated program watched by wealthy liberal urbanites whom advertisers will pay much more, per person, to reach.

Television networks aren’t being foolish by driving away older viewers. They’re working closely with ad agencies that want the same thing.

There's a lot more to write here, but let that suffice.

Jimmy Kimmel is a medium talent (at best) operating in a new late night environment in which everyone has to be political. And so he's doing that. Based on his past career choices, I suspect he'd be perfectly happy trying to have viewers across the political spectrum. But that's not an option anymore. No one wants to be Jay Leno. Even Letterman isn't good enough. The Comedy Central model of political talk show is it. And Kimmel, a guy with as little scruples as taste, is happy enough to jump on the bandwagon, exploit his son, and cry some fake tears. It pays the rent.

Being apolitical and popular is no longer a viable option. And that's how you get Jimmy Kimmel. It's how you'll get a whole lot of them.

If you ever wondered where those creatures in Communist entertainment came from, most of them were Jimmy Kimmels, guys and girls who understood the political framework they had to work on, and who had no problem doing anything or saying anything to get ahead because they had a very good sense of what their career options were. 

It's mediocrities who are most likely to thrive in a politically correct entertainment industry. Guys like Colbert or Kimmel who have no real talent, but who stick around, who have just enough ability to get by with an audience, and who understand what their bosses really want. 

Real talent is creative and daring. And it doesn't survive cultural revolutions. When the dust settles, what's left are guys like Jimmy Kimmel who go from lowbrow comedy to trying to explain the evils of global warming or guns or free market medicine. 

Finally, Americans can have the same level of entertainment as the Soviet Union.