Ten years after its debut, Jimmy Kimmel Live made its highly publicized move last week from midnight to 11:35 p.m., placing the show in direct competition with The Tonight Show and The Late Show With David Letterman.
In its first night in the new time slot, Kimmel beat Letterman (but not Tonight) in the ratings, although Kimmel is keeping his expectations realistic. “There have been times where we’ve beaten The Tonight Show and The Late Show before,” he says. “It’s not the first time that happened…it’ll be a long time before we celebrate…even though we did very well in the ratings and we beat them, [Letterman’s] numbers were still as good as they were before. We did not put a dent in his numbers. We just happened to get a big number. There are a lot of people watching TV at that time.”
A shift of a mere 25 minutes may not seem like much, but Kimmel admits it’s been a big adjustment for him and his staff. “We’ve been getting up a little earlier, everything is just a little different, and it’ll take some time for the staff to adjust to that,” he says. “It’s a weird thing, but it’s not easy. Just imagine if suddenly you had to go into work an hour earlier, and every deadline you had throughout the day was moved up an hour. It throws you off.”
King of late-night?
Meanwhile, Kimmel’s move has caused a seismic shift in the so-called late-night wars, but the host says he doesn’t buy into what he calls “the drama” of what is now a three-way race for late-night supremacy. “People like the drama of late-night, who will be the king of late-night?” he says. “Well, the truth is that Johnny Carson retired with the crown; there is no king of late night anymore. There are a bunch of shows that split up a very small part of the audience pie. That’s the reality of it. But people do like to kind of treat it like a sporting event, and it really isn’t that. I mean, we could continue with three shows, four shows, maybe even 10 shows at 11:35 and everyone would still do OK.”
For his first week at 11:35, Kimmel stacked his show with A-list guests (Jennifer Aniston, Dr. Oz), and just announced that longtime fake nemesis Matt Damon will finally appear on the show on January 24, after years of what Kimmel jokingly describes as their “unpleasant history” (Kimmel signs off each show by pretending to bump the Bourne Supremacy star, saying, “My apologies to Matt Damon, we ran out of time.”).
“It seemed like it would be a fun thing to do,” says Kimmel of Damon’s upcoming appearance. “We have a fun plan for the show and I think it will be a good one…I don’t want to ruin anything, but we have some good stuff planned.”
In addition to all this, Kimmel is also preparing for his annual Academy Awards special. Does he have a wish-list of guests he’d like to see appear in this year’s show? “We do,” says Kimmel, “but we have to keep it secret because if the people at the top of the list say no, then we want to make the next person on the list think they were our first choice.”
A Dr. Oz makeover
Longtime viewers will have noticed Kimmel’s newly svelte physique, which he reveals is a direct result of receiving a televised medical examination from Dr. Oz — who subsequently contacted Kimmel and advised him to lose weight and take better care of himself. “It really is a ridiculous thing, but the way I feel is, I’m on television, so I need a television doctor to tell me,” says Kimmel. “I can’t go to a regular doctor.”
After a decade hosting a late-night talk show, Kimmel says he’s learned to not fixate on the highs and lows of churning out a show five nights a week. “You get pretty excited when you have a good show and I can get pretty down when I have a bad show,” he reveals. “You learn that it really doesn’t matter than much. The key is to be consistent. If you can do that, that’s really all that matters. You have to look at it as a whole instead of individual parts.”
Although he works hard, and clearly loves what he does, he’s also the first to admit that hosting a late-night talk show isn’t exactly brain surgery. Admits Kimmel: “It’s a very stupid job!”
JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE airs weeknights on ABC