Thursday, September 8, 2011

Jimmy Kimmel's Uncle Frank

Late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel's Uncle Frank died recently. Even if you know nothing about Kimmel's show, or Uncle Frank's place in it, if you could use some uplift, read on.

First, enjoy this beautifully done (and highly entertaining) remembrance by one of the show's writers. And then watch this touching, lovingly produced field piece Uncle Frank did with Mike Tyson in his urban rooftop pigeon coop:

I dare you to laugh at Tyson or find him pathetic. He's on to something, and it took that rarest of rarities - a fully genuine human being on network TV - to serve as a lens allowing the camera to zero in on the truth of a public figure whose image has been distorted beyond all recognition. Within the hurricane, we now see, is boundless silence and kindness.

Absolutely beautiful. Rest in peace, Uncle Frank.

Bonus: Kimmel's tribute, with Uncle Frank's best highlights (I particularly love the part where he tells Meryl Streep she's got a great future ahead of her).

If you're not a fan of weepy intros, start 30 seconds in:


alyce said...

Jim, I love this post. It's downright shocking how the juxtaposition of Uncle Jimmy and Mike Tyson is the ultimate foil to the uber-artificial personas in TV-land and to TV-land's distortion at any cost of real human beings (all done in the pursuit of profits.)

Thank you for crafting this insightful post. Alyce

Jim Leff said...

Well said, Alyce.

The deeper dynamic, for me, is that Kimmel's staff obviously sent Uncle Jimmy to serve as foil to Tyson. But the joke backfired when the Jimmy and Mike combo wound up foil to the slick TV guys who'd thought the stunt up.

I find it nearly unbelievable that they 1. aired the result, and 2. didn't bend over backwards to salvage it - i.e. edit it into the piece they'd aimed for. They were wise enough to leave it intact and true. The result is a work of great and rare beauty.

alyce said...


You are so right. Do you suppose Jimmy Kimmel recognizes it? Surely. Maybe a college Broadcast Communications professor will see what you've seen and use it as jumping off point for a series of classes. That's about all we can hope for. (dear god! i almost used the word "content" but caught myself.)

I've always "liked" Jimmy Kimmel but I'll force myself to be a shade more loyal from now on which I guess means not changing the channel when the commercials come on.

I really relate to your thoughts & posts. While reading, I'm always saying to myself, "exactly!" I'm going (navigating?)right now to re-read your "stay furiously busy" post.



Jim Leff said...

alyce, you bet Kimmel recognizes it. He (being his own exec producer) was the one who ok'd it, even though it wasn't at all funny. If it wasn't his own uncle (who he loves, "gets", and who'd already been injected into his audience's consciousness), and if he hadn't woken up that morning in an expansive sort of mood, with enough vision to know it would work in a (to him) serendipitous way, it never would have made it on. You can see the editor straining to paint it spoofy and condescending (a couple such moments even made it in). He was definitely made to hold back.

That's a lot of "ifs", and that's why genuineness almost never makes it on TV. When it does, it's often very moving.

It's also the reason Chowhound was a success: genuine sincerity. Those are not the normal qualities of entrepreneurs, who, intrinsically, offer one thing (product/service) but focus on another (revenue). It's not necessarily dishonest, but it IS a little creepy and devious, and anything but genuinely sincere. That's how the game works.

But it needn't. I talked about this here, and with my brief economic aside here

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