In our age of 15-minute fame, late night TV will always be there to extend that to 16 minutes. Wednesday’s case in point: Former press secretary Sean Spicer appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live’s” Wednesday edition for a wide-ranging interview that covered crowd-size, press veracity, as well as his former boss’s relationship with veracity.
Affable -- almost definitely so -- Spicer rolled so easily with Kimmel that he quickly belied the popular impression which still endures from his seven months as White House press corps punching bag.
That tenure “turned out to be funny in a lot of ways,” Kimmel observed. “Was it for you?”
Spicer laughed: “I’m not sure I see it that way.”
A cultural phenom during his short tenure, Spicer received the ultimate accolade (Melissa McCarthy’s sendup on “Saturday Night Live”) alongside that image of someone embattled by the press on one side and an unseen (but closely observing) president on the other. He sparred with the press, and they with him. The image of a so-called “hot” personality was established while the spectacle of his daily jousts often and easily superseded the substance of the topic in question. His quotes took on a life of their own, like “that’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard. OK, this is silly. NEXT!” (Feb. 9) or “we’re gonna raise our hands like big boys and girls” (Feb. 23).
One line -- “don’t make this podium move” (March 10) -- inspired a skit (McCarthy’s).
Spicer became famous for being famous, and then it all ended and late night TV -- “SNL” above all -- lost a friend.
Kimmel asked about the first day -- the debate over crowd size at President Trump’s inauguration, when Spicer declared “this is the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.”
Said Spicer of his opening act, “if it was up to me I would have worn a different suit. I thought I was going in to set up my office.”
“Your job is to present the president’s voice and to make sure you are articulating what he believes. Whether or not you agree is not your job [but] to give him advice. He would always listen to that advice.”
Kimmel asked about the president’s sweeping declarations about “fake news:” “Do you believe the majority of journalists are trying to the truth?”
Spicer: “The majority, I’d say, would rather be first than right and that’s unfortunate,” adding, “the White House press corps has never called out someone who crossed the line on a story. They always have an excuse -- ‘oh, we were going to check.’ It was never an admission of guilt.”
Why did he quit when Anthony Scaramucci was named communications chief? “It wasn’t personal. Not that I had anything against Anthony. He’d been very successful in business but I didn’t feel he had the qualifications or background to work in the communications office . . . I told the president (that) it was in his best interest for me to step aside.”
Of course, the McCarthy portrayal came up.
Did the president think that was funny?
“I don’t think he found as much humor in it as others (but) I didn’t ask a ton of questions. It was a no-win situation. They’re making fun of me and getting mad at me and she won an Emmy.”
Spicer has joined the speaker circuit and told Kimmel Wednesday that he will not write a “tell-all book” -- “that’d be an act of betrayal” -- but that he will “write a ‘tell’ book.”
No ETA on that. The late night hosts can hardly wait.