Skip links


“Wake Up Jimmy”: The Award Show Joke Gone Wrong

Published on Oct. 13, 2022, at 1:45 p.m.
by Lauren Barnes.

The internet rallied around Quinta Brunson after she was forced to share the stage with Jimmy Kimmel while accepting an Emmy.

The night was remarkable for Brunson, as she was the first Black woman to be nominated for three Emmys. She won her first Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy for the pilot of “Abbott Elementary,” the sitcom she produces, writes for and stars in.

Photo by Ilyass Seddoug via Unsplash

Fans accused Kimmel of taking away from the historic moment by lying on the ground for the duration of Brunson’s acceptance speech. Kimmel was dragged onto the stage from the ankles by his co-presenter, Will Arnett. The joke was that after an earlier loss in the night, Kimmel blacked out on skinny margaritas but still wanted to be there for the award announcement.

The stunt received almost immediate backlash. The topic trended on social media and was covered by multiple news sites, such as NPR, CNN and Variety.

“Jimmy Kimmel Live!” was already set to host Brunson the same week. That Wednesday, Kimmel apologized in two parts: first, by letting Brunson cut off Kimmel’s opening monologue to finish her acceptance speech, and second, by verbally apologizing to Brunson during his one-on-one with her. Brunson thanked him and said it did not ruin her night. Kimmel ended the conversation with “I’m sorry. I was dumb, and I got news — it’s gonna happen again.”

Most award show jokes fall flat, but this one may have longer lasting public relations consequences. Kimmel is already in a precarious spot considering the decline of late night television. While lying down on a stage does not have the same weight as other award show snubs, the TikTok generation may now see Kimmel as a bully.

Fans are protective of Brunson, because while she may be a new face to network TV, she is an old friend to the internet. Brunson went viral seven years ago as a video producer and personality on Buzzfeed’s YouTube channels. Videos featuring Brunson have amassed up to 12 million views. The parasocial relationship she’s fostered over the years resulted in longtime viewers seeing her wins as theirs. And they will not allow Kimmel to lie on stage while their friend wins an Emmy and let him get away with it.

Photo by Jake Callahan via Unsplash

As internet celebrities continue to gain notoriety, PR practitioners must adjust how to respond to controversies that arise. They must take into account the personal stake that audiences will have in the crises.

At the moment, Brunson is one of the few celebrities to build a career from the ground up on the internet all the way to network television. Hopefully, this scenario can serve as an example for others when responding to a situation without escalating it.

Return to top of page