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Jimmy Kimmel: Stop pranking our kids, you sick bastard

I'm Parenting Editor at SheKnows. I'm the co-author of Let's Panic About Babies(Macmillan, 2011). I've also written for numerous publications including Salon, Redbook, Nerve, and The Onion. I live in Brooklyn with my husband, son, tiny d...

Why Jimmy Kimmel's ‘terrible Christmas presents’ videos are, well, terrible

Hey, Jimmy. We don’t know each other, but I feel like I know you. I know your type, certainly. You’re the guy who grew up leaping out of the coat closet and scaring the bejesus out of your mom. The whole family would crack up and she’d be like, "Oh, Jimmy!" and pretend-slap you on the chest and you were like, “Sorry, Ma!” but of course she forgave you right away. You told your girlfriend you were breaking up with her and then cracked up when you saw the look on her face. She tried to run away from you when you insisted it was just a joke, but eventually you caught her in a bear hug and you held on until everything was OK.

You’re a prankster, Jimmy. Everyone knows this. They’ve always known it.

Can I be honest? I'm not a huge fan of pranks. I think April Fool's is the worst. That said, your fake viral videos were fine, I guess. They’re not the height of hilarity, but they're harmless.

And I mean, sure, prank celebrities. Why not? Ashton Kutcher stopped doing it and someone had to take up the mantle.

But when it comes to pranking kids, Kimmel, you’ve gone too far.

Your annual I Told My Kids I Ate Their Halloween Candy and I Gave My Kids Terrible Christmas Presents video compilations aren’t funny. They’re mean. You’re encouraging parents to be mean to their kids and then sharing their kid-size reactions with the world. Why are you doing that? I mean, besides how much people seem to love them for some reason.

"Kids are like us, only smaller and unemployed"

Look, I get it, sort of. Kids are cute and unguarded. They say the darnedest things, etc. They’re like us, only smaller and unemployed. For the most part, however, they are also helpless. They depend on their parents to keep them clothed, fed and healthy. They also depend on us not to alter the fabric of reality as it exists around them. You do that to your kid, it fucks them right up. Most parents know kids are sensitive and easily thrown for a loop, even (or especially) when it comes to jokes.

And OK, one prank isn't going to send them into therapy, but should that really be the guidepost here? Stephen Colbert once explained why he didn’t let his kids watch The Colbert Report: "Kids can't understand irony or sarcasm, and I don't want them to perceive me as insincere.” Stephen Colbert is a good dad, Jimmy. Just saying.

It’s not like you’re targeting teenagers, who we all know deserve emotional torment to snap them out of their self-involved fugue states. No, these are little, little kids, kids who can barely understand much beyond the reality that Halloween and Christmas or Hanukkah is their time. Why is it funny to watch a kid’s face crumple into tears? I’m sincerely asking. I must be missing this gene.

"I got a stomachache"

In the interest of what little journalistic integrity I have, I made myself watch each video of you pranking kids on Christmas day. Jimmy, I got a stomachache. And I’m tough. Once I... OK, I’m not tough. I couldn’t think of a single example of me being tough beyond giving birth that one time, and even then I cried through the whole thing. But you know who else isn’t tough? Or shouldn’t be? Children. The children whose hearts you’ve been busy breaking with each shitty gift.

Kids have their expectations built up around the holidays so high that when it comes to opening gifts, they're already set up to lose their shit. I remember not sleeping for days because I couldn’t wait for Christmas morning to roll around. And if I had excitedly opened a beautifully wrapped gift only to find that I had just been given a can of soup? I’d still be talking about it in therapy. And if my parents recorded it and sent the moment along to be aired on national television, I’d be making that television host pay for my therapy.

I don’t know if you’re going to do your Christmas prank again this year, Jimmy Kimmel. You’ve already done the I-ate-all-your-candy Halloween fake-out. I had to stop watching that one halfway through. It’s too much, especially right now. We just elected as president a man who makes fun of the disabled, brags about his sexual assaults and bullies everyone around him. I think we’ve all had enough of the innocent and powerless being pranked. Leave the kids alone, Kimmel. Or maybe repay all the kids you've pranked by sending them their dream gifts, the ones their parents can't afford and wish they could. That's a Christmas surprise we could all get behind.

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