A Tale of Two Comedians in a Pandemic
Both Jimmy Kimmel and John Oliver addressed the problem of decreasing Covid-19 vaccination rates, but only one did it well
Within two days of one another, two late-night talk show hosts addressed the issue of people who haven’t yet gotten the Covid-19 vaccine. The difference between the approaches — and the public health impact — is stark. No, I’m not talking about Tucker Carlson spouting off his anti-vaccine nonsense. I’m talking about two hosts who both thought people should get the vaccine. Except, one did his homework, and one most certainly did not — which possibly ensures that some folks will never get their vaccine given his approach.
The disaster of a performance that damaged public health came from Jimmy Kimmel, who not only had no clue what he was talking about, but who clearly didn’t care if he knew what he was talking about and appeared to have no real interest in promoting public health. His spiel had one goal, and it wasn’t getting more people vaccinated. It was getting laughs.
John Oliver, on the other hand, did extensive research and gave perhaps the best mass media performance related to vaccine hesitancy that I’ve ever seen. He clearly cares about actually motivating people to get vaccinated, and he cares about things like facts and research and science. Here’s how one host got it so wrong and the other got it so right.
Jimmy Kimmel: Let’s just mock the idiots
On Kimmel’s May 4 show, he invited doctors to deliver a message to the nation on the topic of Covid-19 vaccines. The first half of the “doctor PSA” included doctors introducing themselves, starting out smiling and friendly. But this is Kimmel, so we knew the bit was going somewhere that he, at least, would think was funny.
Soon the doctors were bragging about how much time and money they spent in medical school and how much they learned, with a clear disdain for their audience. There’s a way to do this where the doctors don’t sound like assholes. Except that’s not funny to Kimmel, so he invited doctors willing to alienate people by acting like assholes.