What’s in a name? If you’re Jimmy Kimmel, the answer is a lot of questionable comedy.
At the 89th Academy Awards on Sunday, host Kimmel zeroed in on Mahershala Ali—not because of his outrageously good looks or his Oscar-winning performance in Moonlight, but because of his first name.
In his acceptance speech for best supporting actor, Ali thanked his wife, who had just given birth to their newborn daughter four days prior to the event. Kimmel then took the stage, asking Ali what the child’s name was, pointing out that with a name like Mahershala, “You can’t name her Amy. ”
Kimmel kept the bit going with newlywed couple Yulree and Patrick Chun, unsuspecting tourists who were walked directly into the Oscar’s star-studded front row. When Yulree introduced herself, Kimmel immediately paused and laughed as if she had just said her name was “fartface.” He then passed the mic to her husband who introduced himself as Patrick.
“See, that’s a name,” said Kimmel.
K, let’s get one thing straight Kimmel. Just because you haven’t heard of a particular name does not give you license to completely invalidate its existence. While names like Mahershala and Yulree may not roll off of your Americanized tongue, they are completely normal names and should not be treated “other”wise.
What viewers saw at the Oscars is a daily experience for many, like me, whose name isn’t the typical Rachel, Sarah or Carol.
“Ishani” is a common name is India, where my parents are from, but here, I often get quizzical, sometimes panicked reactions at the mention of it. I’ve been called Ishanani, Ashanti, Shawny, Mishani and a whole host of other variations my entire life. When I was 8, I was on a school trip and one of the tour guides asked me my name. Unwilling to endure the typical “I’m sorry, what was that?” reaction, I simply told him my name was “Sasha” (my middle name which was literally chosen by my parents in case my v. “exotic” name proved too much of a tongue twister for Canadians).
Like Yulree “rhymes with jewellery” Chan, I have since learned to introduce myself using some kind of device to help people get the pronunciation. I go with: Ishani, it’s like Ashanti, but not and Nath, like math with an n. When giving my name for something like a food order, I immediately follow my name with its spelling—although, let’s be real, I have fully stopped trying at Starbucks.
Moana star Auli’i Cravalho, who some red-carpet reporters simply called “Moana,” shares this struggle.
At an Oscars where the hottest red carpet accessory was an American Civil Liberties Union ribbon and both presenters and winners used their time at the mic to preach the importance of diversity and acceptance, Kimmel’s culturally insensitive mockery of unfamiliar names hit a sour note with viewers on Twitter.
how many jokes did jimmy kimmel make about mahershala ali’s name right after making a joke about how racist trump is? did anyone keep count?
— Wendi Muse (@MuseWendi) February 27, 2017
jimmy kimmel: i’m woke now!!!
also jimmy kimmel: lol mahershala
and also jimmy kimmel: lol mahershala
and also jimmy kimmel: lol mahershala
— Adam J. Kurtz (@adamjk) February 27, 2017
Shout out to all my people who cringed at Jimmy Kimmel because they’ve experienced name-shaming in their life. #Oscars
— Nick Jack Pappas (@Pappiness) February 27, 2017
Jimmy Kimmel can’t pronounce names that aren’t “Chad” “Jessica” “Tomi” “Becky” or basically any name that isn’t whiter than printer paper
— Ogechi (@tattedpoc) February 27, 2017
So let’s be clear. It’s 2017. We are *finally* working towards embracing all forms of diversity, and that needs to extend to people’s names as well. Yes Kimmel, we’re looking at you.
Following the Oscars, Yulree posted some photos from her crazy experience on Insta and wrote, “Happiness is: Jimmy Kimmel knowing my name.”
But, I say, happiness is comedians like Kimmel knowing that your name is not a joke.
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