Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Sean Penn reads insufficiently mean tweets about himself on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Sean Penn, Jimmy Kimmel
Screenshot: Jimmy Kimmel Live!

One of Jimmy Kimmel’s signature bits on Jimmy Kimmel Live! is to have celebrities chuckle along while they read mean stuff people have written about them on the internet. Sometimes it’s amusing enough, especially when we’re all on the same side that, say, Tom Hanks isn’t a “fart-faced libtard cuck,” or whatever juvenile nonsense Kimmel’s producers can pluck from Twitter’s lowest-hanging, troll-infested branches. Usually, these bits are presented in batches, culled from forebearing celebs’ backstage largesse and obvious disinterest in what @MaxLandisfan6969 thinks of them, but, on Thursday’s show, guest Sean Penn demanded that he be able to read a pageful of online insults about himself live, since he was on the show to give his post-Democractic debate rundown of just what America needs. (There’s 15 minutes of that here, if you really need it.)

“Wait, ‘demanded’ you say?,” you might ask in mock-shock that Sean Penn might decide that things are going to be done his way or else, something that Penn made a customary stab at acknowledging by feigning surprise that anyone, anywhere might find his particular brand of bullying, self-righteous humorlessness unappealing. But we kid an actor whose occasional onscreen brilliance continually wars with his perpetual offscreen tiresomeness in the public consciousness. As for the tweets, Penn mumblingly read off attacks on his appearance (the “inside of a banana” slam is at least evocative), while chuckling along at being called a “turd” and all of the rest of the Twitter Algonquin Round Table’s best bon mots. Strangely, Kimmel’s people didn’t find any tweets referencing alleged spousal abuse, universally panned novels, recent MST3k-worthy directorial efforts, or an actor accused of spousal abuse interrupting an actress explaining how the #MeToo movement influenced a recent portrayal by Penn-splaining why #MeToo isn’t a real thing. To be fair, Penn did cop to one tweet’s speculation that he’d just stab a guy for no reason, possibly because of something that guy wrote on social media. Or a pop culture site.

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Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.