Jimmy Kimmel on The 2012 Emmy Awards

Kimmel gives us a preview of his Emmy hosting gig and the state of late night.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

Jimmy Kimmel met with the Television Critics Association over the summer to discuss hosting the Emmy awards this year. The Emmys are upon us this Sunday, so it’s time to reveal what Kimmel has in store. During the interview, we also got Kimmel’s thoughts on the future of “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”


Crave Online: I’ve been watching you since “Win Ben Stein’s Money” and “The Man Show.” Can you believe how far you’ve come since then?

Jimmy Kimmel: Yeah, I guess I can. [Laughs] I don’t know how I would answer that.

Crave Online: Was it a given that you were going to host the Emmys and did you jump at the chance right away?

Jimmy Kimmel: Oh, I don’t think it was a given but I was happy to have been asked. I won’t say I was surprised to have been asked. I figured they would ask me. I would have been very angry if I hadn’t been asked so maybe that’s why they asked me.

Crave Online: Who were the great Emmy hosts in your mind?

Jimmy Kimmel: Well, I think Jimmy Fallon did a great job. I think Ellen did a great job. Jon Stewart. I think Garry Shandling did a really good job and did a very interesting thing that was kind of ahead of its time at the time.

Crave Online: When you were a kid, did you practice an Emmy speech?

Jimmy Kimmel: No, I didn’t. I did not have any delusions of grandeur as a kid. I never imagined being on television. I just really wanted to have one that was in color. That was my goal.

Crave Online: What did you make of Adam Carolla’s comment about women not being funny and women in writers rooms?

Jimmy Kimmel: I think Adam says a lot of things he doesn’t mean.

Crave Online: Do you have a sense of how you’re going to meld your comic persona with an Emmys cast? Will you be irreverent, but careful not to go too far?

Jimmy Kimmel: Yeah, I think so. I think that we’ll only know if I went too far after it’s over, but I think I have a pretty good sense of how to do these kinds of things and I think it’ll be okay. I operate under the presumption that no one has ever seen my show, so I go from that point of view. I understand that I'm there hosting the Emmys and it's not some extension or expansion of my show, and I think what you're asking is that will Guillermo be there? No, he will not be invited.

Crave Online: Did it work out perfectly that you got to read the Emmy nominations and now you’re going to host the show?

Jimmy Kimmel: Perfectly for me would have been staying in bed at home.  But other than that, yeah.  It was weird to read my own name, and I'm glad that I did because it would have been extremely uncomfortable otherwise.  I guess it worked out well.  It would have been even better if mine was the only name that I read, but short of that, it was good.

Crave Online: Who do you think will win “Dancing with the Stars” All Stars?

Jimmy Kimmel: I didn’t get to hear the whole thing so I’ll spend more time thinking about that than you might imagine I would, but that’s a hard one when they’re all good. I’m pretty sure it won’t be Bristol Palin.

Crave Online: What would you do your first day in office if you were elected president?

Jimmy Kimmel: I would find out if there are UFOs. That would be the only thing I was interested in finding out. I would go right into the Roswell files and then I’d resign.

Crave Online: Do you ever worry about going over the top?

Jimmy Kimmel: You know what, it’s interesting. I have had a lot of experience in broadcasting. When I was on the radio, I used to be able to go a lot farther than I can now. You don’t really remember until you’re on the radio again, sometimes in your old radio station and sitting with the guys you used to work with and you go, “Oh yeah, I can’t say these things anymore. I’m handcuffed.” It’s a little bit of a bummer but it’s part of the deal.

Crave Online: Did you get a warning about what you can say in prime time?

Jimmy Kimmel: No, they don’t treat me like a child. It’s not like this is not going to be prepared in advance. Believe me, every bit of it will be thought out and negotiated, as all of these things are. Everything that I say will probably have been approved in advance.

Crave Online: What do you think of “American Horror Story” and “Downton Abbey” being in the miniseries category?

Jimmy Kimmel: It's not a miniseries. Let's be honest. Either one of them. Let's talk about the "Modern Family" contract renegotiations, too, while we're at it. I know they're really mad, and I know they're now asking to be paid to attend the Emmys. Did you know that? Pretty shocking stuff. I know what you guys have written about it, really, is all I know about it. 

Crave Online: Why do you think cable shows are getting more nominations than network?

Jimmy Kimmel: I'll give you two big reasons: nudity and profanity. If we could have more of that on network television, I think we would win a lot more Emmys. And I implore the FCC to act on this, because I think we're being handcuffed here and we shouldn't be. And I would like to appear nude on my show.

Crave Online: What do you hope people will be saying about you when the Emmys are over?

Jimmy Kimmel: I hope that people say it was funny and that I did a good job, but you never know. I’m sure it will be a mix, regardless of how it goes. I want it to be jazzy from beginning to end. I don't have a ton of control over how things go. 

Only what I do know is that I'd like to be a part of the show throughout. I think sometimes in award shows the host is there in the beginning and then he or she disappears until about 45 minutes later, and it's nice to be able to comment on things as they're happening, and we've talked about this and hopefully I will be able to insert myself in the entirety of the broadcast.

Crave Online: You had a terrific year this year on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” What stands out for you?

Jimmy Kimmel: Well, the Emmy nomination was very exciting for us because as a staff we started to feel like the Bad News Bears. Not that we felt like we deserved an Emmy nomination, but we did feel like we deserved an Emmy nomination. Everybody was very excited.

It’s fun to see the staff, I have to say, because I’ve convinced myself that it doesn’t matter. I have to say it was exciting to see how excited the staff was because it reminds you that it’s their show too and they’re as invested in it as you are. So it was a fun day.

Crave Online: How do you feel after 10 years in late night?

Jimmy Kimmel: I feel tired.

Crave Online: Does that threshold mean something to you?

Jimmy Kimmel: It definitely means something to me. There were a lot of people that doubted I would be on this long. I’m sure there are people in this room that doubted I would be on this long, including me. It does feel good. It really does.

Crave Online: What’s nice about being on at 12 instead of 11:30?

Jimmy Kimmel: Well, the good part is there’s less pressure and the bad part is there are less viewers.

Crave Online: How do you program around that?

Jimmy Kimmel: You don’t really. I wish we thought about it in those terms. I wish we thought that far in advance and that strategically but we don’t. We just do what we think might be funny that night and we just go like that.

Crave Online: How important is it to be a little edgy and hurt some people’s feelings along the way, like a Ricky Gervais sort of thing?

Jimmy Kimmel: Well, I don’t want to hurt anybody. Honestly, if I find out that someone’s feelings have been hurt, I feel badly about it for the rest of my life. So that is never my intent. I want to be funny. Sometimes when you’re funny people do get their feelings hurt but I’m going to try to avoid that.

Crave Online: What is off limits?

Jimmy Kimmel: A lot of things. There’s rape, abortion…

Crave Online: Did you hurt Jay Leno’s feelings?

Jimmy Kimmel: Jay Leno doesn’t have feelings. You have to be capable of feeling to have feelings.

Crave Online: Your ratings have been good. Do you have a sense why viewership is going up?

Jimmy Kimmel: I don’t really know why. I’m happy. You look at the ratings every day and you hope you get a good number and sometimes you go, “Gee, I wonder why didn’t we get a good number.” There’s some randomness to them but I just, for me, what is most important is that we do well enough that the network doesn’t feel they have to mettle and tinker with the show. I like to be left alone and for the most part they leave me alone.

Crave Online: When did booking guests get easier?

Jimmy Kimmel: Booking guests got easier in about the fifth year. Actually it got easier every year but it was very difficult at the beginning.

Crave Online: Can you still not book Matt Damon?

Jimmy Kimmel: We have him booked every night. We actually have a very good relationship and Matt enjoys the running joke.

Crave Online: Did it help you that you’re the only one in late night that’s not a standup comic?

Jimmy Kimmel: Am I the only one who’s not a standup comic? I don’t think so. Fallon isn’t. I mean, he does it but I don’t think you’d classify him as a standup. You know what? I came up through radio and I think it was good preparation for me. It definitely taught me what it’s like to do a show every day five days a week and that grind. It prepared me for the grind.

Crave Online: Is it impossible now to do late night as long as Carson did and Letterman is doing?

Jimmy Kimmel: I think it’s probably easier to do now because there are so many outlets and so many places to go but I don’t think I’ll do this, I don’t think anybody will let me do it for 30 years but I also don’t think I would want to do it for 30 years.

Crave Online: Because people watch your show in the daytime now, have the lines between late night and prime time blurred?

Jimmy Kimmel: Yeah, I think in two ways. I think for our show, people can cherry pick the best stuff on the web the next day. But also in late night, people are watching prime time shows because it’s so easy to do with your DVR. I know with my kids, they don’t know what time shows are on. They don’t know what day the shows are on. They just know that they’re available to them when they decide to watch them.


Crave Online: Is hosting the Oscars your next goal?

Jimmy Kimmel: Well, I think we may be getting ahead of ourselves.

Crave Online: So many talk shows fail. Why do you think that yours worked?

Jimmy Kimmel: I think that the number one reason talk shows fail is the host doesn’t know how much work they are. I think a lot of people go in with a lot of arrogance thinking they’re going to be able to show up at 3:00 in the afternoon and chit chat with some people and be funny every night and it’s not that easy. You have to really pour yourself into it to do it right, I think.

Crave Online: If you don’t see doing “JKL” forever, what is the goal you want to accomplish before the end?

Jimmy Kimmel: I don’t know really. I don’t have any specific goals in mind. For me, it’s a day to day thing. Some of the shows are good and some of the shows aren’t good. Hopefully you have more good shows than bad shows the longer you go, but I think when I feel like I’m not as interested in it and our staff isn’t as interested in it, the show should get better every year. When we plateau, that’s when I’ll think about doing something else.

Crave Online: Who is the guest you’d really like to get?

Jimmy Kimmel: I would like to have Letterman on the show. That would be a thrill for me personally.

Crave Online: Have you tried?

Jimmy Kimmel: We have. We have tried and he’s always very nice and I think eventually it will happen one day.

Crave Online: Why him?

Jimmy Kimmel: He’s a guy I’ve idolized since I was a kid.

Crave Online: What would you want to ask him?

Jimmy Kimmel: I don’t know if I’ll even be able to speak any questions when he’s on the show. I really don’t want to have him on the show but I do want to have him on the show. I know it will also be one of the most difficult shows of my life but I have to say, for a 15-year-old Jimmy Kimmel it would be the greatest story ever.

Crave Online: Who was the hardest person for you to interview so far?

Jimmy Kimmel: There were some hard ones. I think Omarosa was probably the hardest because she refused to come out on stage.

Crave Online: But someone you idolized that made it difficult?

Jimmy Kimmel: Oh, Howard Stern was one that I felt like I had to prepare for. Some of the interviews you can kind of just bullsh*t your way through them but you want to impress them and Oprah was another one. I didn’t know what tact she was going to take. I’d made a lot of fun of her and I didn’t know if she was going to hit me with that right off the bat or if we were going to ignore it or what but that was definitely one that I prepared a little extra for.

Crave Online: Have you had any “Larry Sanders” esque moments?

Jimmy Kimmel: Probably when I do the integrations, the commercial integrations. I was actually inspired to do them by Larry Sanders doing a weed whacker commercial. 

Crave Online: Your son was on the show. Will we see your kids on the show more often?

Jimmy Kimmel: No, that was a rarity. He worked for us over the summer so he shot me with a hose. I didn’t even know he was going to be on. I like to kind of keep them off television but they’re adults now and they’ll decide what they do.

Crave Online: Are they remotely impressed with what you do?

Jimmy Kimmel: Not really. In fact I think the only time they’ve ever been impressed was when we were at the White House and I was sitting next to Michelle Obama. Before the event they were trying to get everyone to sit down and the only one left standing was my son who’s 6’5” and she started yelling, “Kevin, sit down!” It was a great moment for me.

Crave Online: What’s more nerve wracking, hosting the Emmys or the White House Correspondents Dinner?

Jimmy Kimmel: I think the White House was, although that remains to be seen.  I almost threw up that afternoon before hosting the White House dinner. That audience is very different, and I didn't know whether they would laugh or whether they would get angry, and I think they did both, but ultimately I think I'm more comfortable in front of an audience of fellow shallow Hollywood stars.

Crave Online: Did you learn anything from that experience?

Jimmy Kimmel: I learned that the President is a little bit funnier than I am.  Other than that, no.  Not really.