As suffering fools is so often the price of dopeness, Kanye West was forced to endure a joke made at his expense by Jimmy Kimmel, in which the late-night host restaged scenes from Kanye’s recent BBC1 interview by using two child actors—the premise of the joke being that, occasionally, Kanye West says things that sound slightly petulant or even rash, as a child would. Also, that a little kid screaming, “How many motherfuckers you done seen with a leather jogging pant?” is inherently funny.
While the skit’s skewering of Kanye was fairly tame in comparison to, say, South Park’s implication that he’s a gay fish—a joke Kanye conceded was “PRETTY FUNNY” and a reminder that “HAVING THE CRAZY EGO IS PLAYED OUT AT THIS POINT IN MY LIFE AND CAREER,” in a statement he made four years ago—at this point in his life and career, Kanye didn’t find Kimmel mocking him or his ego funny in the slightest. So naturally, he responded to Kimmel’s characterization of him as an angry child by posting a string of all-caps tweets that called Jimmy Kimmel ugly, ending with a SpongeBob SquarePants photo.
YOU CAN'T PUT YOURSELF IN MY SHOES. YOUR FACE LOOKS CRAZY… IS THAT FUNNY?… OR IF I HAD A KID SAY IT WOULD IT BE FUNNY???— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) September 27, 2013
Kanye also told Kimmel that he was way less funny than his ex-girlfriend, Sarah Silverman—whom Kanye already pledged an appreciation for, when he compared himself to Wreck-It Ralph’s Vanellope Von Schweetz—and suggested Kimmel is just jealous because he hasn’t had any good pussy. Again, this was to complain that Kimmel refuses to take him seriously as an adult, as well as an artist who exerts a creative command over words.
SARAH SILVERMAN IS A THOUSAND TIMES FUNNIER THAN YOU AND THE WHOLE WORLD KNOWS IT!!!— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) September 27, 2013
JIMMY KIMMEL PUT YOURSELF IN MY SHOES … OH NO THAT MEANS YOU WOULD HAVE GOTTEN TOO MUCH GOOD PUSSY IN YOUR LIFE…— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) September 27, 2013
Kanye also said he definitely didn’t see what was so funny about his being constantly hounded by the paparazzi, just because he married a woman whose entire life is predicated on being on camera at all times.
JIMMY KIMMEL, I DON'T TAKE IT AS A JOKE…. YOU DON'T HAVE SCUM BAGS HOPPING OVER FENCES TRYING TO TAKE PICTURES OF YOUR DAUGHTER— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) September 27, 2013
Finally, Kanye ended his protest at being reduced to a cheap viral video gag by suggesting he might do his own spoof about Jimmy Kimmel’s face or him fucking Ben Affleck. (However, it should be made clear that Kanye means no disrespect to Ben Affleck.)
Behind all of this was Kanye’s frustration with Kimmel making light of what Kanye called “the first piece of honest media in years.” In that Zane Lowe-conducted interview, Kanye vented his frustrations with the “classism” and “self-hate” in art that has replaced racism, where artists—specifically, Kanye—are taken to task for refusing to be humble. And certainly, there’s something to that complaint, given that it’s exactly what Kimmel’s skit set out to do, using the cheapest construction possible. It also doesn’t help that Kimmel openly pledged his ignorance about the world of hip-hop—where artists like Kanye very arguably have become the modern “rock stars”—or that, even though they may sound kind of silly conceptually to Kimmel and his audience, some motherfuckers do wear leather jogging pants.
Other commentators, such as Slate’s Forrest Wickman and cultural critic at large Ayesha A. Siddiqi, have taken a further step, arguing that “infantilizing” Kanye by putting his words in the mouth of a child is ignorant and even downright racist, with Siddiqi declaring, “White artists are never lampooned for believing in themselves the way Kanye constantly is.” (A fair point—though, one could argue that this ignores the backlash that’s greeted everyone from Bono to Charlie Sheen to Axl Rose to Nicolas Cage to even John Lennon for being too self-aggrandizing. Or that few artists “believe in themselves” as frequently, as loudly, or as in endlessly quotable, and therefore mockable detail as Kanye West.)
Kimmel, for one, believed the entire skit was “pretty innocuous,” gleefully joking that he was finally in a “rap feud,” and responding to each of Kanye’s tweets—first with tweets of his own and then on last night’s show. Before reading through them all, Kimmel also shared how Kanye had called him that afternoon, telling Kimmel that his life would be “much better” if he apologized. Kimmel also added, “He told me on the phone, and I swear to God this is true, he said , ‘I am the most powerful voice in media. I am Pac!' ... He said, 'You will never be able to show your face at a 14-year-old's high school football game and be cool again.’” Again, this is Kanye arguing that he should be taken as seriously, as you would any adult.
Anyway, however this “feud” continues to play out, Kimmel has made one thing clear, necessitated by those recent reminders that everything on the Internet is a lie: “This is not a prank, I promise (unless it’s being played on me),” Kimmel tweeted before the show. Or perhaps it’s being played on us all, for years now.