In 2011, Jimmy Kimmel, the namesake and host of ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, asked parents to commit the ultimate Halloween prank on their children. Parents were asked to hide their children’s hard earned “trick or treat” candy, tell the unsuspecting innocents that they had eaten all of the candy, and then record the reactions on video. The result was overwhelming. Parents across the country submitted their “Hey Jimmy Kimmel, I told my kids I ate all their Halloween candy” videos. The bit was so popular the first year with both audiences and pranking parents, and again in 2012 and 2013, that this year Kimmel referred to it as a “cherished Halloween tradition.” Even as Kimmel and much of America laughs hysterically at the many over-the-top dramatic responses of the children, the comedy bit draws fire from many others.
Now, in 2014, Kimmel has tied this comedy bit to the work of Operation Gratitude, a nonprofit organization that seeks to “lift the spirits and meet the evolving needs of our Active Duty and Veteran community, and provide volunteer opportunities for all Americans to express their appreciation to member of our Military.” According to its website, Operation Gratitude sends more than 150,000 care packages of snacks, entertainment, hygiene items, and personal letters of gratitude to active duty military and veterans, first responders, and wounded warriors and their caregivers. Each year Operation Gratitude collects nearly 120 tons of Halloween candy to distribute in care packages. The annual campaign also includes a pitch to dentists and others in order to get 100,000 oral hygiene kits that contain toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, mouthwash, and lip balm.
As far as comedy goes, Kimmel’s Halloween candy bit is very strong. To date, the 2014 compilation has had nearly 20 million views on YouTube.
Now, tell the truth…you watched the video just now, did you not? It is nearly irresistible. And, yes, you probably laughed aloud…even if you cringed at some of the saddest, most hopeless responses of sweetly compliant children and yet secretly agreed that some of the most ill-behaved, rudest children deserved to lose their candy, permanently. Many seem to merely appreciate the humor of the stunt without a second thought.
As far as an appropriate parenting behavior, though, questions are being raised. Some are raising the questions more gently than others. For example, the Today Show, an iconic NBC morning program, called this year’s bit “as traumatizing as ever.” Time.com, with a less obvious ratings motive than NBC, has also chided the comedian with tongue firmly in cheek, asking, “Funny? Yes. Incredibly mea