Less than two weeks away from a special election for a Senate seat in Alabama, things continue to heat up in the race. Judge Roy Moore, who’s been accused of sexual misconduct by several women, has vowed to stay in the race against Democrat Doug Jones. Voters will head to the polls December 12.
But before that, things keep taking tumultuous turns. In an election with already so many twists took another big one Wednesday night, when a Moore campaign rally at a church was interrupted by demonstrators. Several of them condemned Moore for the recent allegations and ended up getting removed from the event. Before that, though, there was a “superfan” who was defending Moore sarcastically, referring to him as “a man’s man.”
That man was Tony Barbieri, a writer and recurring character on Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night show, Jimmy Kimmel Live. Moore didn’t take the interaction and disruption lightly, tweeting out several things to Kimmel and appearing to challenge him to a fight.
Barbieri has been a writer on Kimmel’s show since it started on ABC, and he’s best known for his humorous character, Jake Byrd.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Barbieri Acted as Moore’s Superfan During a Rally at a Church
During Moore’s rally at a church in Mobile County, Alabama, Barbieri, portraying his popular character, interrupted. Moore was at the lectern speaking to people inside the church when protesters started screaming. On Moore’s request, the protesters were removed by officers. First, though, Barbieri walked in front of Moore and jokingly defended him.
“He’s a man’s man,” he screamed at the protesters. “You got this judge, you’ve got this. Get on out of here. Does that look like the face of a molester?”
Barbieri was removed from the speech off screen, but he continued to scream during Moore’s speech.
“They’re kicking out your No. 1 fan, judge,” Barbieri said. “I believe in the judge and I don’t believe in the ladies that were lucky. Does that look like the face of somebody who hits on teenage girls?”
2. Moore Threatened to Fight Kimmel Over the Interruption
Moore and his campaign took offense to Barbieri crashing the rally the next day, tweeting at Kimmel and telling Breitbart News that the late-night host should come down to Alabama himself rather than sending Barbieri.
“If Kimmel wants to mock our Christian values, he should come down here and do it man to man instead of hiding behind a camera in Hollywood,” Moore’s senior adviser Drew Messer said to Breitbart. “And yes, Jimmy, we will still rebuild our military, build the wall, protect our gun rights, reform our tax code, and support President Trump whether you like that or not. Hollywood will not bully us around.”
Then there was a back-and-forth between Moore and Kimmel on Twitter, with the two exchanging jabs.
3. Barbieri Wrote for Several TV Shows & Appeared on TV in Several Roles
Barbieri worked for Mad Magazine from 1997 until 2010 and wrote the Monroe cartoon in the publication. In 1999, he wrote for The Man Show, a show on Comedy Central that Kimmel hosted alongside Adam Corolla. After that, he wrote for two sitcoms, That’s My Bush! and That ’80s Show.
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Barbieri’s breakthrough comedic performance on television was as Niles Standish, a character on the prank phone call show, Crank Yankers.
Standish had an English accent and prank called strangers. Barbieri recently teamed up with two others to make the “Big Three Podcast,” where he played Walter Molnski, “the stoned halfwit who is fodder” for several funny reactions, his IMDb page said. He was also a voice actor on the animated TV show Rick and Morty as Uncle Steve and Mr. Beauregard.
In 2008, Barbieri won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics for his song, “I’m F**king Matt Damon,” featured on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
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Barbieri was nominated for another Emmy in 2013 as part of the writing staff on Kimmel’s show.
4. Barbieri’s Character Attended Trump’s Inauguration
In 2003, Barbieri started writing for for Kimmel’s new late-night gig on Jimmy Kimmel Live!. After working largely behind the scenes on the show, Barbieri was introduced on the show in his new character, Jake Byrd. Byrd is portrayed on the show as a man obsessed with celebrities, and in several segments, he started out by sarcastically idolizing celebrities and politicians. Often times, he interrupts ongoing interviews of fans or notable people. He often finds himself in situations that make for some humorous segments, including in the background at notable press conferences.
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Byrd was at President Donald Trump‘s inauguration and interrupted faux interviews being conducted with people outside of the gates. He engaged in a few spats with people thinking they were being interviewed by a news organization and gloated as a Trump superfan. He also attended a presidential debate during the 2016 presidential election.
5. Barbieri Fooled the New York Times Twice & Forced the Newspaper to Issue a Retraction
The Byrd character is also known for attempts to dupe media outlets, and he was even quoted as a real person in a New York Times article during the Michael Jackson trial.
Byrd was one of several excited people standing outside the courthouse to greet Jackson upon his exit of a courtroom. A few days earlier, Jackson danced on his vehicle.
“He might dance on the S.U.V. again,” Byrd said to The Times, telling them that he worked at in a tropical-fish store in Chino, California. “When Michael moves, it’s always a dance.”
The mix-up forced The Times to issue a retraction a few days later.
May 6, 2004, Thursday An article on Saturday about a hearing in which the entertainer Michael Jackson pleaded not guilty to felony charges involving sexual abuse of a teenage boy described fans who came to see Mr. Jackson. They included a man who identified himself as Jake Byrd, an employee of a tropical fish store in Chino, Calif. After the article appeared, a publicist for the ABC television show ”Jimmy Kimmel Live” said the man was actually an actor playing a recurring character, a rabid Jackson fan named Jake Byrd. The publicist would not reveal the name of the actor, known for stunts that insinuate him into news coverage. The article also misstated the source of accusations that Mr. Jackson kept the boy’s family members at his ranch against their will and tried to persuade them to leave the country. While a lawyer for the mother has said that, neither parent has done so publicly.
But that wasn’t it. He fooled The Times again just a few years later in 2007 during the O.J. Simpson robbery trial. He wore a hat that said “I love famous people” and a shirt with Simpson’s face screen printed onto it. He stood next to Simpson’s lawyer, at times answering questions and at one point trying to high five the lawyer. His cell phone also rings a few minutes into the press conference and he answers it.
“I can’t talk now, I’m at the O.J. trial,” Byrd whispered.