Thursday night, Jennifer Lawrence hosted Jimmy Kimmel Live! in what turned out to be an amazing episode of an already strong late night talk show. The success hinged on Lawrence's interview with Kim Kardashian West. Lawrence is a big fan of Kardashian, and did not hide her enthusiasm on the show. She asked her questions such as, "Do you fart in front of Kanye?" and "What do you think of Blac Chyna?" Lawrence was her usual self — candid, giggly, and smutty — and in a first, Kim K. seemed comfortable on a talk-show. She was almost charismatic. Kim Kardashian is a lot of things, but effortless entertainer she is not. With Lawrence, she seemed at ease. She was having fun.
"Do you think it's a coincidence that Reggie Bush's wife looks just like you? I don't," Lawrence began.
"Oh, I thought this was gonna be fun," Kardashian said, laughing.
Their interview was a lady-on-lady lovefest. They chatted about boys (Kanye West), dildos (Kim Kardashian didn't realize her contouring stick looked like one), and what Kim Kardashian watches before bed (Family Feud). Their casual banter illustrates how painfully we need a woman to host a late night talk show, stat.
Today, the major late night hosts are: Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert, and James Corden. There are women on late night — Robin Thede, Samantha Bee, and Sarah Silverman all have shows — but none of them have the 4-5 day schedule or the hourlong format of a traditional late night show. Lawrence's interview with Kim Kardashian was almost 20 minutes long; that kind of interview can't happen on a weekly 30-minute show. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and The Rundown with Robin Thede don't have that luxury.
Kim Kardashian is a talk show regular. That's a large part of her career; she lives on discussing her personal life in public. In 2015, she appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live to discuss her book of selfies. The title of the segment on YouTube is "Kim Kardashian's Dress Was Accidentally Too Revealing." The interview stars with Kimmel gesturing at Kardashian's chest, which is emerging from her blazer.
"First of all..." he begins, starting to laugh.
"I forgot to do the sit test," she explains. Sitting on the chair, her outfit looks a little more revealing than it did when she was standing up.
"I'm glad! I'm glad you forgot," Kimmel jokes. This is typical flirty banter for women on late night talk shows. Women wear what's expected of them — something glittery, something glamorous, something memorable — and the men who host the show comment on their beauty. It's an interview style so common that Amy Schumer parodied on Inside Amy Schumer. It straddles the fence between innocuous and creepy. See: Sofia Vergara on Conan in 2014, when Conan O'Brien remarked with a low growl, "I love you."
"Don't be creepy," Vergara joked in response.
Or, the time Jimmy Fallon suggested Kate Upton do a Sports Illustrated shoot in "space," where there's no gravity. Upton immediately made a face, and the audience laughed. (No gravity will presumably affect Upton's breasts.)
"Whoa, I didn't mean that!" Fallon said quickly, but not before the band started playing some slow-tempo jazz.
"It's getting warm!" Upton said, laughing.
All in good fun, I suppose.
This dynamic isn't dull, but it's certainly not as rich and nuanced as Jennifer Lawrence and Kim Kardashian gabbing about a drunken dinner party. Lawrence's interview with Kardashian was notable because Lawrence didn't once remark on Kardashian's beauty, or Kardashian's line of work and the guest and host seemed to genuinely love each other. Men on late night have always been slightly wary and almost reproachful of women, as if we're glittery komodo dragons. Kim Kardashian especially is a challenge for hosts because she's an emblem of performative femininity. She works really hard to look beautiful, and that work has become her career; what's a late night host to do besides comment on that?
Lawrence showed there is much more to talk about.
What I'm really saying is, why can't late night a woman host a late night talk show? Why can't Jennifer Lawrence host her own late night talk show? Why can't Julia Louis-Dreyfus? Or Jessica Williams? Or Phoebe Robinson? Or Amber Ruffins? Or Aisha Tyler? Or Maya Rudolph? Or Aidy Bryant? Or Mindy Kaling? Or Naomi Ekperigin? Or Betty White? Or Rae Sanni? Or Ashley Nicole Black? Or Melissa McCarthy? Or Kate McKinnon? Or Ellie Kemper? Or Retta? Or Helen Mirren? Or, heck, even Dame Judi Dench?
Point is, we could have engaging interviews between two women. We could have women discussing things like taking out the trash on television. Late night talk shows should maybe start passing the Bechdel Test.
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