The ongoing feud between Sean Hannity and Jimmy Kimmel has been mostly exhausting.
Incensed at Kimmel lightly mocking first lady Melania Trump, Hannity has accused the late-night host of being “Harvey Weinstein Jr.,” pointing to sketches from Kimmel’s previous TV series The Man Show as evidence. Ignoring how Hannity’s repeated jabs make light of Weinstein’s actual crimes (comparing dozens of sexual assault allegations to scripted comedy sketches), his allegations are laughable given his passionate defense of former colleague/credibly accused sexual predator Bill O’Reilly, and the whole charade reeks of a desperate ratings stunt in light of rival Rachel Maddow’s March domination, nothing in this feud was particularly memorable until Kimmel hit Hannity with a jab of his own.
On Friday, Kimmel tweeted at the Fox News host, “Don’t worry—just keep tweeting—you’ll get back on top! (or does Trump prefer you on bottom?) Either way, keep your chin up big fella..XO.” In addition, he tweeted, “When your clown makeup rubs off on Trump’s ass, does it make his butt look like a Creamsicle?”
Kimmel was lambasted on Twitter for resorting to gay jokes to get in a dig at Hannity. But he’s far from the only person—that day even—who lobbed homophobic jokes at the Trump administration. Also on Friday, Chelsea Handler tweeted, “Jeff Sessions is definitely a bottom.” When called out on it, she responded, “I’m a bottom and proud of it.”
Why do “progressive” comedians so readily jump to homophobic jokes when it comes to mocking conservatives? Either insinuating that they like receiving anal sex via bottoming—or any other homosexual sex act—is the surefire way to knock someone down a peg. Because insisting that they’re gay must be the ultimate insult, right? Because the insinuation that a man might want to have sex with another man is somehow funny. The act itself is comical.
They’re not the first liberal comedians to resort to such cheap jokes. Just think of last year, when Stephen Colbert used homophobic jokes of his own to attack President Trump on The Late Show. “The only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s cock holster,” Colbert said to Trump during a 2017 monologue. Once again, the idea of a man engaging in a sexual act with another man is seen as funny. It’s the worst way to insult a straight man: implying that he might be gay.
Most people don’t find these terms homophobic—like Alec Baldwin when he was called out by Anderson Cooper in 2014 for using anti-gay slurs. After referring to a tabloid reporter as a “toxic little queen” and “cocksucking [whatever],” CNN’s Cooper called him out for using anti-gay epithets on The Howard Stern Show. “When he called the person a cocksucker and then said he didn’t know ‘cocksucker’ was an anti-gay—the worst thing you can possibly think of to say, which is what this situation was, to talk about a sexual act between two guys as being the worst thing you can possibly think of. That seems to indicate [anti-gay rhetoric]—but I never said he was homophobic. I have no idea what’s in his head,” Cooper said.
Baldwin is a special case, however, because his boorish attitude has also been levied against women during the #MeToo movement—while he gets away with claiming he’s a progressive by half-assedly parodying Trump on Saturday Night Live.
Colbert, Kimmel, and Handler, on the other hand, are quite different from Baldwin. Their use of terms like “bottoming” show that they at least have a casual understanding of gay terminology, which means that when they make jokes about it it’s almost as if they’re trying to show off how “in the know” they are. In the way that “hipster racism” was coined to describe white people being “ironically” racist to show that they weren’t racist (while mostly being racist), comedians employ bottom-shaming jokes to show that they “get” gay culture and are just having fun with it. But if they actually cared about gay people, they wouldn’t resort to clichéd jokes that imply being on the receiving end during anal sex is somehow a shameful, cringeworthy act.
Kimmel and Handler’s jokes specifically target gay sex as worthy of derision while also implying that one particularly gay sexual position is shameful. It’s basic, and gay comics haven’t even made those jokes since Queer as Folk went off the air, so maybe it’s time for straight comedians to move on too.