“I want this to be a comedy show. I hate talking about stuff like this.”
That was Jimmy Kimmel on Monday night, scrapping the usual jokes to address the shooting that left 59 dead and hundreds more injured in Las Vegas, Kimmel’s hometown, on Sunday night. “It feels like someone has opened a window into hell,” he said.
Kimmel’s emotions were front and center as he choked up discussing the details of the shooting, the deadliest in modern U.S. history. He spoke of the victims who were killed, how the locals came in droves to help at blood drives, and also, the government’s galling refusal to confront gun control reform.
“Five people got shot in Lawrence, Kansas, last night, three of them died. It didn’t even make a blip, because it’s just a regular part of our lives now,” Kimmel said. “And you know what will happen? We’ll pray for Las Vegas. Some of us will get motivated, some of us won’t get motivated. The bills will be written, they’ll be watered down. They’ll fail. The NRA will smother it all with money and over time we’ll get distracted, we’ll move on to the next thing. And then it will happen again. And again.”
Monday night wasn’t the first time this year Kimmel started his show with a powerful plea for reason and compassion. In May, he delivered an emotional speech on affordable health care, as Kimmel detailed how his infant son was born with a congenital heart disease that required surgery and expensive, long-term care. Then, in September, he followed it up with three rounds of health care monologues, vehemently opposing the Graham-Cassidy health care bill before its eventual failure.
This is Kimmel in 2017: empathetic, earnest, unapologetically honest, and sometimes emotionally devastating. Kimmel isn't like his late-night cohorts Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, and John Oliver, who tackle heavy political topics like health care and gun control by trade. But that’s perhaps what’s given these recent monologues such resonance.
It may come as a surprise—after all, this is a host whose late-night show is renowned for pranks and an ongoing feud about who had sex with Matt Damon—but Kimmel has become the voice that’s best encapsulated a large section of America’s conscience. He is fed up, he is heartbroken—and even if he really doesn’t want to talk about this stuff, he’s ready to address it head on. “I’m sorry for getting emotional,” he concluded Monday. “I’m not great with this kind of thing. But I just think it’s important, you know?”