The fact Jimmy Kimmel and Kanye West’s Twitter “feud” actually inspired me to watch the eagerly awaited encounter on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” Wednesday night indicates what slaves we’ve become to these sort of manufactured flare-ups. And when it comes to media whoring, let’s just say despite his protestations to the contrary, West married into the very best.
Actually, both West and Kimmel should be taken at their word when they say — as each did during the telecast — that they didn’t consciously cultivate this mini-fracas as a PR stunt, in which West vented about a Kimmel skit via Twitter. “I’ve never done a publicity stunt in my life,” West said, amid a filibuster that included proclaiming himself a “creative genius” and “fearless.”
What both did do, however, was exploit the situation after the fact — Kimmel to draw attention to his program, and West to use his platform to engage in an extended rant about mistreatment of celebrities by the media and others, a gripe that would have more teeth if he didn’t sound so completely lampoon-able and ridiculous.
West lamented how the media try to “break [creative] people’s spirits” and “treat celebrities like zoo animals,” and then issued a thinly veiled threat to the paparazzi that outbursts like his made-for-TMZ tussles with photographers were his way of establishing boundaries.
While it’s perfectly reasonable for stars to try to establish a zone of privacy — particularly in regard to their families — it’s hard to think of a more imperfect messenger. That’s because West’s appearance embodied the very worst image possible of celebrities — someone both self-absorbed and semi-detached from most people’s reality all at once.
As for Kimmel, he helped himself not one iota by seeming so determined to kiss and make up that he sat there with a silly expression frozen on his face, essentially swallowing all the punchlines that West’s at-times-bizarre utterances were serving up. Somehow, one suspects his idol David Letterman would have knocked a couple of those hanging curveballs into the cheap seats.
Moreover, ABC News’ “Nightline” couldn’t resist piling on, devoting a shrewdly teased segment to West that was devoid of any merit or news value other than the fact it might inspire a few of Kimmel’s viewers — those who survived an interminable 10-minute commercial pod in the second half of the show, anyway — to stay up another half-hour. If there was a News Emmy category for pandering, the program’s mantel would be filled twice over.
At one point West compared himself to Muhammad Ali, while actually sounding a bit more like Frank Sinatra. “You’re going to love me or you’re going to hate me, but I’m going to be me,” he said.
Yet that would seem to neglect a third, far more attractive option: Never wanting to hear you talk about yourself — particularly with Jimmy Kimmel — ever again.