By Caryn James | James on Screens November 8, 2011 at 2:19AM
The Jimmy Kimmel Live writers and producers are now officially among the smartest around. With Herman Cain as a guest on the very day a fourth woman, Sharon Bialek, took the spotlight to accuse him of sexual harassment, Kimmel leapt in with Cain jokes during his monologue. First he called Cain “the latest cast-off of Dancing With the Stars,” then corrected himself: “That’s a joke from next year.” That sounds pretty close to true.
But then Kimmel made a more daring move, playing long pieces of the accuser’s press conference. He began by mocking Bialek’s attorney, Gloria Allred, who at this point may be the one person in the story more prone to unfortunate phrases than Cain himself. Allred called Cain’s alleged sexual suggestions to the job-hunting woman, “his idea of a stimulus package.” Groan. But Kimmel also played the explicit sections in which Bialek said Cain put his hand up her skirt and pushed her face toward his crotch. He followed that with a clip of Cain giving his now famous creepy smile from the end of the commercial that had his campaign spokesman smoking a cigarette. Yikes.
This was partly a sly way of getting the nastiness out in the open before Cain arrived, of course – laughing behind your guest’s back - but it was also Kimmel’s way of not being a pushover.
And when Cain did appear (after Taylor Lautner, or as Kimmel put it, the guy who might be in charge of our nuclear arsenal was following the werewolf from the Twilight Saga) Kimmel went straight for the story on everyone’s mind. What we learned is that Cain is always about a fraction of an inch from putting his foot in his mouth - just what you want at those G8 meetings.
While calling the accusations pure fabrications, Cain said he and his staff had watched the press conference because “We didn’t know that this whole thing about woman number four was even going to come out.” Come out? Can you hear his staff screeching in horror at that?
Then it got worse, as he said of the woman, “At least it wasn’t one of the many that has the first name Anonymous, so now this one actually has a name and a face.” He said all this smiling, oblivious to how bad it sounds.
Kimmel got in some good jokes. “Have you considered hiring Gloria Allred as your attorney?” More seriously, he asked if Cain’s wife had watched the press conference. She did, Cain said, and she insisted that the behavior his accuser described didn’t even sound like him. (Oh that’s convincing because, you know, men always act the same with their wives as they do with other women.)
Did we learn anything specific about the sexual harassment allegations? No, and we didn’t expect to. But we did see that Cain is extremely short on self-awareness and can barely stay on message - a bad sign for his campaign, which is a good sign for level-headed politics. Most of all, the show revealed that year’s White House Correspondents Dinner, with Kimmel as host, should really be fun.