Jimmy Kimmel finally addressed his 400 lb gorilla in his closet, his impressions of African American celebrities in blackface. In a prepared statement, the host of Jimmy Kimmel Live! explained the context of the impersonations. "I have long been reluctant to address this, as I knew doing so would be celebrated as a victory by those who equate apologies with weakness and cheer for leaders who use prejudice to divide us," Kimmel wrote. "That delay was a mistake. There is nothing more important to me than your respect, and I apologize to those who were genuinely hurt or offended by the makeup I wore or the words I spoke." Among the impressions he carried over from his radio days at KROQ and went into Comedy Central's The Man Show was Utah Jazz legend Karl Malone. During the skits, the host emulated Malone's speech pattern and wore a faux jersey with the name "Jamz".
Jimmy Kimmel's Impressions
"On KROQ radio in the mid-90s, I did a recurring impression of the NBA player Karl Malone," Kimmel continued. "In the late 90s, I continued impersonating Malone on TV. We hired makeup artists to make me look as much like Karl Malone as possible. I never considered that this might be seen as anything other than an imitation of a fellow human being, one that had no more to do with Karl's skin color than it did his bulging muscles and bald head. I've done dozens of impressions of famous people, including Snoop Dogg, Oprah [Winfrey], Eminem, Dick Vitale, Rosie [O'Donnell], and many others. In each case, I thought of them as impersonations of celebrities and nothing more. Looking back, many of these sketches are embarrassing, and it is frustrating that these thoughtless moments have become a weapon used by some to diminish my criticisms of social and other injustices." The statement came on the heels that he's taking a summer sabbatical from his late-night show with guest hosts taking over while he spends time with his family. Kimmel remains adamant he's matured and the past bits are in no way a reflection of what he is now.
"I believe that I have evolved and matured over the last twenty-plus years, and I hope that is evident to anyone who watches my show," Kimmel wrote. "I know that this will not be the last I hear of this and that it will be used again to try to quiet me. I love this country too much to allow that. I won't be bullied into silence by those who feign outrage to advance their oppressive and genuinely racist agendas." The host chalked up his vacation to coincidence in planning. "My summer vacation has been planned for more than a year and includes the next two summers off as well. I will be back to work in September. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to explain and to those I've disappointed, I am sorry."
Man Show Co-Host Adam Carolla Defends Kimmel
Kimmel's apology came after late-night rival Jimmy Fallon, who apologized for donning blackface impersonating former cast member Chris Rock in a 2000 episode of Saturday Night Live. Fallon took time on The Tonight Show to address the controversy to deliver a more formal apology to his viewers. Kimmel's Man Show co-host Adam Carolla addressed the controversy on his program. "[Jimmy] is the most decent person and generous person you've ever met," he said. "If everyone was like Jimmy Kimmel we'd be living in a f****** utopia." The comedian further explained the changing times of what was acceptable for comedy then compared to now. "Could we remove the jewelers' loupe in the spotlight from comedians?" Carolla continued. "Politicians, OK, they're making policy … comedians are there to push things and push boundaries," he said. "Blackface is something, doing Karl Malone or Oprah is something else. If somebody does this now, then we must look at it now, we must look at it very different than then. Maybe it's wrong, but that's why we evolve and why we don't do it anymore." Carolla vouched for both late-night hosts' integrity and refocused the debate. "They're not part of the problem."