Kimmel was funny in spots, but as is always the case at these events, he saved his really mean jokes for the Republicans. Barbs aimed at Democrats are likely to be flattery in disguise, like Kimmel’s references to Democrats “rolling over” in negotiations with Republicans. The problem with the Dems, the comedians always suggest, is that they aren’t tough enough in standing up to those evil Republicans. To my knowledge, no comedian has ever made a joke the point of which is that the Republicans are too weak in dealing with the evil Democrats.
Politically, the most interesting phenomenon last night was the dog jokes. The President himself made three jokes about eating dogs. This represents a victory for new media and especially for Jim Treacher, since liberal news sources like the New York Times and Jon Stewart had studiously tried to pretend that the dog controversy didn’t exist. Obama and Kimmel evidently recognized that Twitter made such pretense impossible. (The New York Times, however, is still holding out.)
Events like last night’s always leave me feeling in need of a shower. Partly it is because there some truth to Kimmel’s joke, after noting that the room was full of politicians, members of the media and celebrities, that “Everything that is wrong with America is here in this room.” Partly is is due to the sense that everyone involved in the event is pretending. The politicians pretend to engage in self-deprecation that shows they don’t take themselves too seriously. The comics pretend that they are just trying to be funny, lampooning politicians impartially in search of laughs. But, even though some of the lines are indeed funny, the premise of the event is fundamentally false. In fact, politicians, comedians and even the celebrities present are pursuing an agenda that is both self-aggrandizing and political. That is why, I think, such events always leave me feeling unclean.