Breaking tradition just a bit, the 2017 Oscars didn’t open with an original comic set piece delivered by the evening’s host, but instead a performance of one of the year’s nominees for Best Original Song: Justin Timberlake led a crowd of enthused celebrities in a rendition of his original number “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” from the animated film Trolls.
Upon conclusion of the ditty, Jimmy Kimmel stole the stage, missing a mic toss from his pal Justin, and opening his monologue with the sarcastic tone fans of his have grown accustomed to. However, Kimmel broke routine with a sincere suggestion for viewers to reach across the proverbial political divide, mending the fences that have no doubt been burned by this particularly contentious past few months.Significantly less surprising was how Kimmel used this call to arms for human civility as a segue into a few jokes at Matt Damon’s expense. The host cited his long-running “feud” with superstar Damon, poking fun at their rapport, as well as at Damon’s pal and colleague, Manchester by the Sea star Casey Affleck.
Kimmel was hardly exclusive with his celebrity barbs; he mocked everyone from Andrew Garfield to Meryl Streep to Mel Gibson, at whom he tossed a fairly acerbic backhanded jab for his controversial history. Naturally, Kimmel also made a target of President Donald Trump and his administration, a theme many have been expecting to play a large role in the evening’s broadcast.
If there’s anything we can say in summation of Kimmel’s routine is that it felt surprisingly mellow for what we had good enough reason to expect to be a particularly heated Oscars ceremony. Perhaps Kimmel opted to save his more controversial gags for later on in the evening, or decided to let the speeches do most of the politically charged legwork?
Or it could simply be that he needed to make room for a Jeff Bridges vaping joke–the most defensible reason of all.