Jimmy Kimmel has sadly been here before. Many times, as a matter of fact. As he approaches his 20th anniversary in late night, the late night host has been at the helm of “Jimmy Kimmel Live” long enough to address several national tragedies over the year. In some ways, it only gets harder, particularly after another shooting massacre leaves 19 young children and two adults murdered in an elementary school.
“There is a certain amount of pessimism that infects you, when you’ve talked about this multiple times,” he tells Variety’s Awards Circuit podcast. “Because the first time you think, ‘what I’m saying seems to make sense. It’s pretty much what everyone else is thinking. Maybe this will get through to somebody. Maybe there’ll be a handful of Republican senators, Congresspeople who go hey, This is nuts. We can’t this can’t keep happening.’
“But then it doesn’t. And it’s somewhat shocking. And then it happens again. And then it happens again,” he says. “And it happens when you’re on break, and you’re not even on television. And at a certain point, you feel like, what am I screaming into the void here? People agree, and yet we’re still not getting anything done. In fact, we’re taking steps backwards in so many different areas, not just this one. But what are you gonna do, give up? And what are you going to talk about, the NBA Playoffs? You can’t. You have to talk about what is on everyone’s mind. And I have a hard time with it. It’s very difficult for me, it’s hard for me to get through it. But I don’t feel like I have any choice.”
On this edition of the Variety Awards Circuit podcast, we talk to Kimmel about how his voice has provided some conscience to a nation that’s in a really bad place right now. But we also talk about his return to the studio after double bouts of COVID-19, as well as his April Fool’s Day stunt with Jimmy Fallon, his upcoming trip to Brooklyn and, of course, producing a third edition of “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” with Norman Lear. Listen below!
When Kimmel agreed to talk to the Awards Circuit Podcast, it was before the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, and the murder of 19 children and two teachers via an assault rifle. So we had to talk about it, and Kimmel was gracious in walking through his process in having to address such a horrific event on what should be a fun, light-hearted talk show. It’s a burden, but Kimmel has risen to the occasion time and time again. We talked about Kimmel’s monologue, and how he tried to appeal to the humanity that he hopes is still inside the elected officials who still let these things happen.
Later, we talked about Kimmel’s recent April Fool’s prank, in which he swapped studios for a night with “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon. It’s a classic radio-style bit, something that he helped “Kevin & Bean” do one year with Power 106’s Baka Boys.
“I thought it’d be funny to do with Jimmy Fallon because so many people confuse us,” he says. “I think I pitched this like four or five years ago. But for whatever reason, COVID being two of the big reasons, it didn’t work out. This year, I was like, we have to do this because April Fool’s Day is falling on a weekend next year. And we did get it done. And it was amazing that as many people who knew about it, it didn’t get out. It really is surprising that it didn’t.”
What did he learn from hosting “The Tonight Show”? “Jimmy had some really good shelves under his desk at the ‘Tonight Show,’” he says. “And so I had to build me a couple of shelves under my desk. I don’t know why we never thought of shelves, but it’s really been a major improvement in the show!”
Kimmel also talks about “Live in Front of a Studio Audience,” and in particular, getting Kevin Hart to play Arnold on the show’s “Diff’rent Strokes” remake. “He immediately got how funny it was,” Kimmel says.
As for the future of the show — Kimmel’s contract with ABC is up next year — he says he’s still thinking it all through. “I wish I knew I was gonna do,” he says. “I have moments where I go, ‘I cannot do this anymore.’ And I have moments where I go, ‘what am I gonna do with my life if I’m not doing this anymore?’ It’s a very complicated thing. And there are practical considerations, and there are family and friend considerations and co worker considerations. And eventually, I am going to have to stop doing this. I’m not going to do this forever. I would not be honest at all if I said that I have decided one way or the other. I’m thinking about it a lot, though.”
Variety’s “Awards Circuit” podcast, produced by Michael Schneider, is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in film and television. Each week “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every Thursday and Friday.