LOS ANGELES — Thirteen minutes into his interview with Donald Trump, ABC late night host Jimmy Kimmel said he had a question from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). The Democratic primary underdog, who has camped out in California all week, was set to appear on Thursday night’s episode.
“Here’s the question from Bernie,” said Kimmel. “Hillary Clinton backed out of an agreement to debate me before the Democratic primary. Are you prepared to debate the major issues facing our largest state and the country before the California primary?”
“Yes, I am,” said Trump. “How much is he going to pay me? If I debated him, we would have such high ratings, I think I should take that money and give it to charity.”
It seemed like a joke from a host who’s currently waging (and merchandising) a satirical bid for vice president. But the Sanders campaign was really, truly interested in an intramural debate before the June 7 primary.
“He takes Trump at his word that when Trump says yes, Trump means yes,” said Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs. “Details to be worked out.”
Trump’s quick assent hit Twitter like an asteroid, as analysts pondered what a Sanders-Trump debate could look like.
The frenzy let Sanders repeat his previous call for Clinton to face him in one final debate, something she agreed to long before it seemed the primary would hit the west coast. But the idea of a Sanders-Trump debate has existed in stand-up comedy for months. James Adomian and Anthony Atamanuik have crisscrossed the country and recorded several cable TV specials as Sanders and Trump, imitating the tropes and personas of the two New York politicians and twisting them into absurdity. (Each show ends with the comedians duetting on “Me and My Shadow.”)
“We have been accurately predicting many wild turns in this incredibly unpredictable election, but this is the wildest and greatest imaginable,” said Adomian in a text message, after the latest Trump vs. Bernie show at the Fillmore in Silver Spring. “This is an instance when we are proud and shocked to see life imitate art.”