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Barack Obama helps Jimmy Kimmel fight AIDS, reminds us what "presidential" looks like

President Barack Obama on Jimmy Kimmel Live! (Screenshot: ABC)
President Barack Obama on Jimmy Kimmel Live! (Screenshot: ABC)

Tuesday’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! was Kimmel’s third annual (RED) Shopathon, the late-night host’s yearly star-studded fundraiser for World AIDS Day, which is this Friday. The (RED) campaign was co-founded by Bono, who appeared on the show alongside Kimmel and other guest stars like Kristen Bell, Bryan Cranston, Ashton Kutcher, DJ Khaled, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Rita Wilson, Chris Martin, and Sean Penn, and has raised some $500 billion over its existence, through donations and the purchase of specially branded (RED) products Kimmel and company hawked in the show’s faux Home Shopping Network opening. (You can also enter to win celebrity time with the likes of Jack Black, Reese Witherspoon, and Charlize Theron, whose prize, according to Kimmel, involves the Furiosa-esque promise to “kick your ass.”) Everyone seemed to be having a good time, with the predictable exception of Penn, who, playing a bartender with a no-doubt tortured Method backstory in a musical number with Bono and Martin, scowled with silent, glowering intensity. Meanwhile, Cranston took a shower and blew an atonal trumpet solo (not at the same time), Bell and Wilson essayed home shopping hosts’ vapid patter with dippy aplomb, DJ Khaled brought out his adorable infant son, and Kutcher was a goofball, all for a fine cause.

But it was former President Barack Obama who—appearing on tape—got the biggest response, perhaps from people yearning for the sight and sound of a leader able to pitch in for the common good without making it all about himself and his unfathomably needy ego or uttering a racial slur. Not that Obama wasn’t a goofball as well, confidently delivering lofty promises (a ride on Air Force One, a peek at the secret government files on aliens) that he’s no longer in position to deliver with a smooth deadpan. And while Obama was all about the cause, it was hard not to feel a pang of longing for a President who uses his time not to attack political enemies or minorities but to call for unity and charity in the face of the cynicism of “Twitter feeds.”

In a world where Donald Trump and Mike Pence are running around the White House, Obama’s appeals for selflessness, scientific rigor, and bipartisan efforts to fight AIDS embody a high-road rebuke in themselves. But, of course, with World AIDS Day coming up on Friday, Trump will no doubt amaze the country with his own display of eloquent, non-judgemental humanity. You know, like a president does.


Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.

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