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Jimmy Kimmel Talks Oscars, Politics & What He’d Ask A Certain President-Elect

Deadline logo Deadline 1/18/2017 Matt Grobar
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After taping tonight’s episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Jimmy Kimmel reflected on his upcoming Oscar hosting duties and his plans for his late-night program in the wake of Donald Trump’s surprise victory.

Taking on the Oscar hosting gig for the first time, Kimmel doesn’t seem fazed, despite finding himself at a potential turning point in the #Oscarssowhite controversy. “I’m mostly focused on myself. I just want to be funny,” Kimmel laughed. “My guess is that it’s going to be a very diverse Oscars and that’s not going to be an issue this year.”

Having hosted the Primetime Emmy Awards twice – most recently, this past September – in addition to the American Music Awards and the ESPY Awards, Kimmel is as well primed as one can be for his moment at the Dolby Theatre. While the 89th Academy Awards came together later than most, with producers Michael De Luca and Jennifer Todd eventually stepping in and naming Kimmel as host, Kimmel finds himself unfazed.

“I feel like it came in after last minute,” he admitted. “I’d known really for almost four years I was going to host the Emmys, because eventually it comes around to ABC, and I knew they would want me to do it. So I had a lot of time to think about that, and I didn’t have as much time to think about this one. But time doesn’t necessarily always help. Sometimes, I feel like maybe the best-case scenario would be if they woke me up the day before and said, ‘Hey, tomorrow you have to host the Oscars.’”

Kimmel said the most important lesson from previous hosting jobs is to prioritize the audience response over all else. “People get overly focused sometimes on the audience at home,” he said, “and the audience at home is used to responding to other people laughing, so if you get dead silence in the room, even if there are people at home who might think it’s funny, it’s not going to be seen as a success.”

Lesson #2? Despite the wide reach of Kimmel’s late night program, “you have to go into it assuming that at least half of the audience doesn’t know you, or know what you do, and not make presumptions.”

While the Oscars have underperformed in the ratings the last few years, the tracking for the 2017 Oscars couldn’t be further from Kimmel’s mind. “Not only do I not worry about the ratings, I will guarantee you that this will be the lowest rated Oscars in the history of the Oscars,” he said. “And by the way, next year’s Oscars will be even lower rated, and the next year after that will be even lower, because that’s the nature of network television. There are a lot more choices, and because of that, there are going to be fewer and fewer people watching as the years go on.”

Kimmel named Casey Affleck’s Manchester by the Sea performance as a standout before pivoting to Donald Trump and the possibility of a presidential visit to his late-night show.

“I don’t know what my first question for him would be,” Kimmel said, “but I think that if the President wants to be on your show, you have the President on your show. I think there are people who have no chance of having the President on their show who would say that they wouldn’t have him, but that to me is foolish.

“The presidency is an important job, and it’s an interesting job, and if you don’t have a desire to discuss that, you shouldn’t be hosting a talk show.”

Kimmel continued: “It’s easily the most interesting election and [election] result that we’ve had in my lifetime. It’s nothing if not interesting. The whole thing is a daily circus. I think that’s why Ringling Brothers closed down. They’ve been out-circused.”

Kimmel also gave his take on the controversy surrounding a certain late night talk show host who took flak for throwing softball questions at Trump last fall. “Listen, I’ve conducted interviews that I’ve been proud of, I’ve conducted interviews I’m not proud of. I know how difficult it is. Everybody has their own style and their own approach, and I think it’s easy for people to sit back and criticize.”

Expectations for talk show hosts have never been higher, he said. “I think we got used to Jon Stewart being so great, and engaging a young audience in a subject they didn’t seem to be so interested in – politics – that now everyone’s expected to do that. I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to expect that from everyone.”

Kimmel said he has no particular plans to adjust his show for the post-Trump era. “The years go on and you figure out what works and what doesn’t, and you really don’t vary wildly from that. Hopefully you come up with new bits that have never been seen before, never been done before, and you can get some mileage out of those things.”

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