The Jimmy Kimmel effect

This week: The bizarre tale of an American late-night host who ran for mayor of a Newfoundland community with a frequently-mocked name.

The host: Jimmy Kimmel. The community: Dildo.

Now, I’m not surprised that Kimmel would find grade-school amusement in a town that shares its name with a slang term for a fake phallus. After all, he co-hosted The Man Show with his buddy Adam Carolla two decades ago on Comedy Central. Each testosterone-soaked episode ended with a montage of buxom young women bouncing on trampolines. Some editions of The Man Show featured game-show segments in which unsuccessful contestants were punished by receiving a “forklift wedgie” or having Carolla urinate on their wallets.

To be fair, Kimmel’s come a long way since The Man Show. He’s hosted the Oscars twice, arguably doing a better job than most of his predecessors over the previous decade. As the host of Jimmy Kimmel Live since 2003, he’s given ABC its first successful late-night show in decades and emerged as one of the best interviewers on TV. (I’ll admit that I don’t see him that much, being loyal to Stephen Colbert over on CBS, but Kimmel certainly holds his own in this regard.)

He’s now a loyal husband and father of two beautiful young children, one of which survived an early congenital heart defect that visibly shook his TV-host dad to his core. Returning to his ABC show after his son – not yet a week old – had undergone five days of surgery to save his life, Kimmel choked back tears as he thanked the medical professionals that had helped his family, and then blasted Trump Republicans who were neck-deep in their first of five (failed) attempts to scuttle Obamacare. The monologue went viral, and I suddenly had a whole new appreciation for a man I had previously, unfairly, dismissed as an overgrown frat-boy.

But Kimmel’s bro-comedy side still pops out every so often, especially when he’s given a punchline on a silver platter like a town with a giggle-inducing name.

Before we go any further, some local background: My limited research indicates that the geographic name Dildo first took hold in 1711, with the spelling “Dildoe” given to a nearby island as well as a small portion of Trinity Bay. It also suggests that the word’s eighteenth-century use in southeastern Newfoundland referred to a phallus-shaped pin stuck in the edge of a rowboat to act as a pivot for the oar.

I can’t confirm or deny that Kimmel or his staff did even that much research before they made Dildo the star of his show over the past couple of weeks. But, to their credit, they gave copious amounts of airtime to a significant number of local officials since August 8, when Kimmel announced that he wanted to become the mayor of “this magical place” that he had randomly discovered.

Kimmel upped the ante when he sent his long-time sidekick, Guillermo Rodriguez, to spend a week in Dildo canvassing for the mayoral run. According to Kimmel’s Twitter feed, the “campaign” included nine suitcases’ worth of “Jimmy Loves Dildo” signs, which have now become collectors’ items. It’s a moot point, however, since Dildo doesn’t have a mayor – or a town council – but is instead overseen by a body described as a local district services committee.

No matter. Kimmel won the “race” on the August 15 edition of his show, fending off a late challenge from write-in candidate, Oscar-winner and perennial Kimmel joke-target Matt Damon. The title of honorary mayor comes with conditions, however, as district services committee representative Andrew Pretty declared that Kimmel must come to Newfoundland at some point. The host insisted, on-air, that he would, and I’m just optimistic enough to believe that he’d keep that promise.

The segment also saw Rodriguez receiving the official key to Dildo, with Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball confirming that his province is more than just a name for two dog breeds, as well as the unveiling of Jimmy Kimmel Live’s official gift to the town: a Hollywood-style Dildo sign overlooking the hillside.

So, was it all worth it? Several Dildo residents and business owners will tell you they benefitted from being in on the joke. CBC reports that bars, restaurants and shops have been “bustling with visitors” since Kimmel launched his mayoral campaign two years ago; at least one American tourist drove several kilometres out of his way to get to Dildo as a result.

And after decades of being an unwilling or unwitting punchline to so many lame jokes, the little fishing community on the Avalon Peninsula may just have the last laugh.

Especially if the guy now listed as “Honorary Mayor” under the “Government” heading on the Dildo Wikipeda page keeps his word and heads five time-zones to the east.