Jimmy Kimmel’s ‘Toxic Hoax’: Not Everyone Is Amused — and TV News Is Among the Targets

Sep 11, 2013  •  Post A Comment

Both Jimmy Kimmel and TV news are coming under fire after Kimmel revealed on his ABC late-night show that a recent viral video about a failed twerking attempt was a prank he had orchestrated.

The original "twerk fail" video can be seen by clicking here, and Kimmel’s revelation about the prank can be seen in a video clip here.

The prank, featuring an attractive stuntwoman pretending to catch fire during a twerk attempt, has been wildly successful as a viral video, racking up well in excess of 10 million online views. Countless TV news outlets picked up the clip and reported it as news.

In the aftermath, the incident has also generated a ton of publicity for Kimmel.

But now the backlash has begun. In a piece on Slate headlined "Why We Should Be Mad at Jimmy Kimmel," Daniel Engber writes that the incident "illustrates everything that’s wrong with viral marketing. Kimmel’s prank is not a biting satire, nor is it a mirror to our stupid culture. It’s a hostile, self-promoting act — a covert ad for ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ — rendered as ironic acid that corrodes our sense of wonder. If the Web provides a cabinet of curiosities, full of freakish baubles of humanity, the hoaxer smashes it to bits, then counts his money while he preens atop the rubble."

Writing on New York Magazine’s Vulture blog, Josh Wolk aims his criticism at TV news. "Here, in this one hyperconcentrated minute of tape, can be found just about everything wrong with TV news today," Volk writes, adding: "The twerking video … was clearly a gag. (Why else was the camera shut off so abruptly?) But in presenting it, the anchors have to act like it’s a real thing to rationalize it being on a news broadcast (traditionally the home of factual information); they add an obligatory disclaimer of ‘some are saying it’s fake’ to show their skeptical bona fides. As if the verifiability of this dumb but funny viral video really matters at all."

Wolk goes on to cite a string of complaints about TV news illustrated by the incident, including:

— "The awkward attempts to use modern vernacular: ‘This is a major twerking fail.’"

— "That awful newsman cadence, the rushed words followed by the drawn-out emphasized word. ‘Now the internet is on FIRE …’"

— "the sheer breathlessness of the introductions, every word imbued with a ‘Do you have a bag pulled over your head to protect your upholstery from the shards of your imminently blown mind?’ intensity."

Wolk adds: "The biggest criticism about today’s TV news is that they just put up facts as they come in without taking the time to verify them or look for context, in the interest of speed. This segment reveals that ‘the public’s right to know immediately’ can also just be a euphemism for ‘eh, just get it up so we can go to lunch, I’m sure it’s fine.’"

He closes his Vulture piece with this: "There are so many more ridiculous aspects to be found in this footage; like a crossword puzzle, once you put it away and come back to it, more is revealed. Ironically, now this new Kimmel video will likely go viral, and these news segments will get passed around where major fails! are meant to go: the Internet."

Engber’s piece on Slate saves its harshest words for Kimmel: "Seriously, what’s the point of Kimmel’s joke? If he really wants to ‘put an end to twerking,’ then we can agree he’s just a jerk. (Who wants to squash a trend of people dancing in their bedrooms?) If he’s teaching us to be wary of what we find online, then his lesson comes 20 years too late, and it’s also self-defeating: A hoax like this doesn’t point to lapses in transparency, it clouds our view of everything."

Engber adds: "YouTube shows the world in all its weirdness, and gives a window on the geek sublime. When liars spread their hoggish propaganda, they mist the landscape with distrust. Think of all the other twerk fails — real ones, I mean — that have been strip-mined of their life and humor by Kimmel’s toxic hoax. Why ruin those for personal gain? Why make all online videos seem a little suspect, just to advertise a late-night talk show?"

jimmy-kimmel.pngJimmy Kimmel


  1. Have we completely lost our sense of humor in this nation?

  2. Gee… is Jimmy’s frat boy humor finally (and deservedly) loosing its inane appeal?
    Rational people (with a sense of humor) can only hope.

  3. We have so totally lost our sense of humor that it’s ridiculous… Daniel Engber is apparently without humor, or, is very upset about being hoaxed.
    On the other hand, Josh Wolk is somewhat correct in his assessment of today’s TV news: slap it on up and be damned later, rather than check the facts; are you hearing me, KTVU TV?
    Personally, I thought the reveal by Kimmel was a stroke of genius… It was funny when we thought it was real, and it’s even funnier to see how America (and other viewers around the world) got punked.

  4. Not exactly Kimmell’s funniest bit(or funny that all) but I get a kick out of the fact so called news programs aired this video as news.
    And yes I do think we have become an overly PC society with a fractured funny bone.

  5. You got your news in my entertainment!
    You got your entertainment in my news!
    Why would any rational person think that a video of a girl “twerking” merits mention on the daily news? They were fooled because they needed filler material and wrongly selected this clip to fit the bill.

  6. Engbar’s piece is tongue-in-cheek, right?

    He cannot possibly be defending Internet content as valid, newsworthy information (nor condemn Kimmel for making society wary about the validity of the latest meme).

    Phineas Taylor Barnum is applauding in his grave.

  7. The fact that it was on TV is irrelevant. We are a nation of “believers” who will swallow anything that we see or hear without forethought. This was just a great demonstration of that fact. Many people are just upset that they got “caught”.

  8. Engber is wrong, Kimmel’s video IS a mirror to our stupid culture. It’s the lame-stream media that should be blamed here. I’m happy to see that those terrible news reports are now the butt of the joke in an online video.

  9. To paraphrase Shakespeare in Hamlet Act 3, scene 2, “Engber doth protest too much, methinks”. As Dan Miller alluded to above, perhaps Engber has either lost his sense of humor or he is embarrassed by the fact that he was taken in by the video. If you cannot laugh at yourself, and the stupid things you do every day, I pity you. Life is too short not to smile. I hope the Kimmel produces multiple other prank videos so that people like Engber will have something to complain about, while people with a sense of humor will laugh raucously at being pranked.

  10. Awwww, is da dawee news a widdle upset because some comedian pwayed a widdle twick on it?
    Welcome to Life.

  11. Brilliant Jimmy! Gotta love the fact that he is getting all this buzz. He is hilarious! GO JIMMY GO! I love Hussman’s comment!

  12. Losing, not loosing.

  13. I know, I know… typo, not ignorance.
    Sites like this really need an edit function for comments.

  14. To all the “news” operations that reported on this as a true news event, I remind them of one of the oldest rules of reporting, “Check your sources”. If a newsroom relies on YouTube as their source for news, they should hide their face in shame instead of complaining. Whats that saying? “If it’s on the internet it has to be true” Ha Ha

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