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‘Kimmel’ Comedy Zone: Where Hollywood Late-Night Gags Are Born

Variety logo Variety 6/12/2017 Daniel Holloway
© Provided by Variety

Since its inception in 2003, “Jimmy Kimmel Live” has taped at the old Hollywood Masonic Temple on Hollywood Boulevard — now known as the El Capitan Entertainment Center, for the movie theater next door. The entire complex is owned by ABC parent the Walt Disney Co., hence the reason why only Disney films screen at the movie house. Above the movie theater are offices for the show’s staff, including head writers Molly McNearney and Danny Ricker. So if you go see “Cars 3” this summer on Hollywood Boulevard, there’s a chance that you’ll do so as Kimmel’s team sits above you, crafting the latest Matt Damon diss.

Back in Time

Among Ricker’s most prized possessions is a vinyl copy of the “Back to the Future Part II” soundtrack signed by Huey Lewis and Michael J. Fox — sort of. “They signed the plastic cover, which is why it doesn’t look very nice in the frame, because it’s still in the weird little plastic sheet,” he says. The album was a gift from the show’s music director after Fox, Lewis and Christopher Lloyd appeared on “Kimmel” on Oct. 21, 2015 — the date that Fox and Lloyd’s characters travel to in the time-machine comedy. “Potentially the greatest day of my career was standing on stage with Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Jimmy and a DeLorean with smoke billowing out the back of it,” Ricker says.

Letter Man

When the Muppets of “Sesame Street” were set to appear on “Kimmel” this year to promote their 47th season, Ricker had a gag in which Kimmel would “pitch the Muppets a new letter that they could use as letter of the day to kind of spice things up.” Three days before the episode, Ricker sketched the “yook.” “Our props department made this dumb, fake letter I made up,” he says. “That is kind of the magic of late night. We have so many people who are amazing at their job. The writers get a dumb idea, then a bunch of great television professionals start running and make it happen.”

All Ears

McNearney has what she describes as “a sick obsession” with the earlobes of Kimmel’s sidekick Guillermo Rodriguez. “I find them delicious.” Kimmel had molds of Rodriguez’s earlobes made, then gave his wife, McNearney, silicon facsimiles of said earlobes. McNearney keeps the fake in their original packaging, but can’t keep her hands off the originals. “They’re like little patties on the side of his head,” she says. “Any time I’m in his presence, I’m squeezing one of them like a little stress ball. I really do love them so much. They give me a sick amount of pleasure.”

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