Late-Night Faceoff

10.10.13

Kanye West and Jimmy Kimmel Awkwardly Make Up on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’

Kanye West and Jimmy Kimmel had their long-awaited showdown late Wednesday night. And it was riveting, says Marlow Stern.

While intransigence on both sides of the political fence is keeping our government shut down, two influential cultural forces came together on national television Wednesday night to bury the hatchet.

Kanye West, the boisterous rapper, appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live to make peace with the late-night host after launching a lengthy ALL CAPS Twitter tirade against him late last month. On the night of Sept. 26, West took to the social network to vent his frustrations over a parody sketch Kimmel ran on his program recreating the rapper’s sprawling interview with BBC Radio 1’s Zane Lowe with child actors (Kimmel has since taken down the video from YouTube, and West deleted the tweets).

Here are a few examples:

“JIMMY KIMMEL PUT YOURSELF IN MY SHOES … OH NO THAT MEANS YOU WOULD HAVE GOTTEN TOO MUCH GOOD PUSSY IN YOUR LIFE…”

“SHOULD I DO A SPOOF ABOUT YOUR FACE OR YOU FUCKING BEN AFFLECK…#NODISRESPECTTOBENAFFLECK #ALLDISRESPECTTOJIMMYKIMMEL!!!!”

After the outburst, the #NODISRESPECTTOBENAFFLECK became the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter, and Kimmel went on his show to explain that West called him and was hysterical over the phone. “He told me I had two choices: No. 1, apologize publicly…and that was really the only choice!” Kimmel later added, “The bit was pretty innocuous…but finally I’m in a rap feud.”

West is no stranger to public displays of disaffection, or apologies. In a recent interview with The New York Times, the rapper rescinded his apology to Taylor Swift over hijacking her acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. And the meeting of the minds comes just a day after West’s mother-in-law, Kris Jenner, announced she was splitting from her husband of 22 years, Bruce Jenner. West has already appeared on Kris Jenner’s (now canceled) talk show, Kris, so whether he was doing her another solid by helping bury the news of her split is anyone’s guess.

“It’ll just be us, and Dr. Phil,” Kimmel said on Tuesday, teasing West’s appearance on the show. “And neither of us is leaving until this government shutdown gets solved.”

During his introduction to the show, Kimmel announced, “Tonight, you will bear witness to the great Kimmel/West debate of 2013,” before re-running a selection of West’s angry tweets to him at the bottom of the screen. “After all that, Kanye is here tonight,” added Kimmel. “I hope he doesn’t have one of those trunk-popping machine guns like they had on the Breaking Bad finale."

There was some skepticism about the whole West-Kimmel feud. After all, it was Kimmel who successfully trolled the Internet with his recent (staged) “Worst Twerk Fail EVER” video, which went insanely viral. But Kimmel assured his audience that the spat was no prank.

I feel like media does everything they can to break spirits, break creative, and break artists, and I do everything I can to break media.

Now to the moment of truth.  

About 20 minutes into the program, West emerged—casually dressed in a Henley shirt and very ripped jeans (“It’s Ralph,” he said)—shook the host’s hand, gave him an awkward hug, and took a seat on his couch.

“I really felt bad about all this stuff…I did,” said Kimmel. “I think that somewhere in you, you want people to understand where you’re coming from…I’ll be honest with you, I only saw a couple of small parts from the interview.”

Kimmel then asked West if he could play a small clip from his parody sketch and West, who was a very good sport throughout the chat, agreed. 

“The truth is, the main reason I did that is because I like seeing kids curse,” explained Kimmel after the clip was finished. “Some people read it differently—that we were positioning you as a child—which was not the case.”

A calm, composed West then talked about the heated phone conversation the two had after his Twitter rant.

“It elevated from a call that we just had as men,” said West, adding, “We kind of took it back to high school a bit.” He explained how his rant represented his general frustration with the media, and how they had a tendency to marginalize celebrities and treat them “like zoo animals.”

Things got tense when Kimmel suggested that West, at times, asks for the criticism.

“A lot of times, I think you bring it on yourself—this misunderstanding about you,” said Kimmel to a stone-faced West, adding, “A lot of people think you’re a jerk.” But then the host backpedaled, saying West was “not a jerk” before showing a picture of his Wolf Blitzer look-alike father posing with West at a friend’s wedding—which West flew Southwest to attend.

“I’m not running for office,” West softly replied. “I’m totally weird, and I’m totally honest, and I’m totally inappropriate sometimes. For me to say I wasn’t a genius, I’d just be lying to you and myself.”

Then West threw a random jab at the folks in charge of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, claiming they said they wouldn’t give his girlfriend, Kim Kardashian, a star because she’s a reality star.

“There’s no way a Kim Kardashian shouldn’t have a star on the Walk of Fame,” he said, adding later, “All I care about is my family, protecting my girl, protecting my baby, and protecting my ideas and my dreams, so that’s the reason why I went so crazy.”

Video screenshot

Throughout the interview, West was assertive but kept his cool, delivering intelligent riffs on subjects ranging from “classism” against rappers and reality stars to racism in pop music and stories of him being bullied in Chicago by “drug dealers.” He milked every minute of it, talking a mile a minute and barely letting Kimmel get a word in. At one point he did lose his cool when talking about the “disrespectful” paparazzi, warning them: “It’s not safe for you in this zoo.” At another point, he laughed after Kimmel ran a sketch of musician Josh Groban dramatically singing “The Best Tweets of Kanye West.” 

One of the funniest moments came when Kimmel brought up one of West’s tweets, which read “JIMMY KIMMEL FACE” over a picture of a demented-looking SpongeBob SquarePants.

“Do you really think I look like SpongeBob?” Kimmel asked. “I mean…it’s the first thing that came to my mind,” replied a chuckling West.

West later added, “I feel like the media does everything they can to break spirits, break creative, and break artists, and I do everything I can to break media…When I compare myself to Steve Jobs or Walt Disney, Howard Hughes, David Stern, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Jesus, or whatever, I’m saying these are my heroes. These are the people I look up to, and this is the type of impact I want to make on the earth.”

With that, Kimmel gave West a gift for his baby, North West: tiny leather jogging pants.

It was a riveting half-hour of television, and I think it’s safe to say the hatchet has been buried.

Apparently, our leaders could learn a thing or two from Kanye West and Jimmy Kimmel. No disrespect to President Obama.