Jimmy Kimmel’s Assertion That Comedy Is A ‘Meritocracy’ Isn’t Sitting Well With Some

This past weekend, admitted sexual-harasser Louis C.K. made his return to stand-up comedy at New York’s Comedy Cellar, which prompted a question for Jimmy Kimmel in his interview with The Hollywood Reporter: as Kimmel prepares to open his own comedy club, how would he be making choices about who got to perform on his stage? Would performer’s pasts be vetted? Would thought be given to representation and diversity? Kimmel’s response has caused many cringes in the comedy community:

Comedy is very democratic. The people who are great, rise to the top; the people who are good, rise to the middle; and the people who aren’t good, don’t make it. We want to get a lot of very funny people, and we want to give new comics an opportunity to work. I don’t focus on their gender or their skin color. I’d never want a woman to think that the reason she’s booked to be onstage at a club is because she’s a woman. The reason she’ll be booked to be onstage is because she’s funny. 

One of the internet’s most thoughtful response’s to Kimmel’s comments was from NPR host Linda Holmes, who broke down why the idea that comedy is a “meritocracy” (as Kimmel described) is a fundamentally flawed belief easily held by those in power but deeply harmful to those without it:

Holmes’s thread inspired many others on Twitter to point out the obvious absurdity of Kimmel’s statement.

While it’s possible his naive comments were well-intentioned, it seems Kimmel still has a lot of thinking to do about the people he’ll choose to perform at his new club. As an individual with power in the comedy community, it’s the responsibility of people like Kimmel to reach down and aid those whose voices are underrepresented and systemically undervalued.

H/T – Indy 100, Somecards, The Hollywood Reporter