For its first three minutes and thirty-seven seconds, this clip from Jimmy Kimmel Live! is a run-of-the-mill late night monologue. Jimmy Kimmel tells jokes about Donald Trump being forced by a court to unblock his Twitter enemies, recaps his Twitter feud with the British Ambassador, and points out that Trump is still inviting “massage enthusiast” Robert Kraft to official events. It’s good stuff: Kimmel has a huge competitive advantage over other late night hosts when reading Trump’s tweets because he doesn’t try to do the voice, which makes the president’s deranged ramblings stranger and funnier. And you can’t really argue with him calling Trump’s rained out tank party the “Hooray For Me Fourth of July Reacharound Rally.” But then, for about thirty seconds, Jimmy Kimmel Live! transcends its medium and becomes truly great, as the show somehow manages to distill the entire experience of life under Donald Trump into a horrifying symphony of strangled yelps and ominous thumps presided over by disgraced Attorney General William Barr.
I have watched the doctored footage of Bill Barr five times in a row and the abrupt zoom out to reveal a sea of marching bagpipers as the crowd gives Barr a standing ovation is still laugh-out-loud funny to me. Part of it is the thought of Jimmy Kimmel staffers going into a studio with a bagpipe and a snare drum on a mission to record the worst noises they could make. Part of it is that those Jimmy Kimmel staffers successfully recorded an unholy cacophony that Komar & Melamid would be proud of. But most of it is that something seems very familiar about watching a crowd of well-dressed people rapturously applaud for a performance that is not only obviously shitty, but—and here’s where the camera movement comes in—even shittier than you could possibly have believed. Here’s the original footage, which includes the ominous moment when Bill Barr gets up, leaves the stage, and returns carrying bagpipes without causing the audience to stampede toward the exits. This is how you get Trump:
The usual move when discussing Republican musical endeavors is to remind readers of John Ashcroft’s legendary performance of “Let the Eagle Soar,” but that’s been in enough documentaries about the Bush years, so here’s something even more horrible: Trent Lott, Larry Craig, Jim Jeffords, and John Ashcroft, the “Singing Senators,” performing “Elvira,” as made famous by the Oak Ridge Boys. Ashcroft’s delivery of the verse is really something special:
They must not know the original Dallas Frazier version, because no one on that stage would miss the chance to add martial snare drums to the orchestration if they knew it was a possibility. On the other hand, the performance makes it clear that cataloging all the things that the Singing Senators don’t know would be a Herculean labor, so probably it’s best to leave it at that. Congratulations to Bill Barr for keeping a long tradition going, and congratulations to Jimmy Kimmel for making Barr’s bagpipe playing all it could be. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to puncture my eardrums with an awl.