Jimmy Kimmel on Hosting the Emmys and the 'Great Group' of Nominees
It’s been four years since Jimmy Kimmel hosted his first Emmy Awards, and he’s more than ready for Round 2. In fact, for a guy tasked with keeping some of TV’s biggest stars entertained for three-plus hours, the late-night host is probably the only person heading to L.A.’s Microsoft Theater who isn’t feeling the heat. There should be an award for anyone with this much affable chill.
Having hosted the Emmys in 2012, what did you learn the first time around?
It’s funny, I’ve hosted other award shows—I’ve done the American Music Awards, like, five times—but it’s surprising how much you learn from one to the other. I’ve learned that people say they want things to be different, they want weird or new stuff, and they really don’t. We did what I thought was a pretty great take on The Andy Griffith Show starring [Breaking Bad characters] Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, and it was almost as if it didn’t happen.
Or like when there were five reality-show hosts in 2008 and viewers rebelled?
I think that was more about the general sense that no one had prepared anything. [Laughs]
The AMAs are way different from the Emmys.
Yeah. [The AMAs’ audience members are] fans who want to see the performers. At the Emmys, it’s almost all nominees in the room who just want you to get to their category so they can get the hell out of there. It’s not necessarily ideal, but at least I’m on at the beginning.
What was your first thought when the powers that be approached you and said, “We want you to do this again”?
Well, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t expect it. When it comes around for ABC [to air the Emmys] it’s either me or the Bachelor.
Where are you when you’re not on stage?
There’s a little room right off the stage that’s usually not big enough for the number of people I have there.
Who’s back there with you?
My staff writers and one writer friend of mine. My agent will there be, my kids might be there. And I’ll have [Jimmy Kimmel Live! sidekick] Guillermo back there just in case I need him.
Obviously you’re watching for anything that can be turned into a joke.
Exactly. Once the nominations come out, we really start thinking about it, but if you go in with all of your jokes written, you’re missing the [fun]. It’s important to comment on things that are actually happening [during the show]. It’s just more exciting that way.
Will you work Guillermo into the show?
He will be shooting material for Monday night’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! I usually don’t have a speaking voice after being out late [the night before]. He will be carrying the ball.
Last year’s ratings hit an all-time low. Does that amp up the pressure?
The host gets either too much credit or too much blame for the ratings. Last year’s ratings had nothing to do with Andy Samberg, who I thought did a really great job hosting.
Will you rewatch the 2012 show to make sure you don’t revisit old territory?
I’ll watch it for other reasons, to see what worked, what didn’t and get a gauge of it. Because it’s really, like, 90 percent the same people in the room.
Which shows have you been loving this year?
There’s so much good TV. Fargo was a great show. And Narcos. I worry that I’m going to forget some now and be furious at myself later! I love Veep and Silicon Valley and Modern Family. Really, there aren’t too many nominations that anyone would have a quarrel with. We got a pretty great group. I think they should give everyone an award as they leave the building!
It’s also a pretty diverse list of nominees, which takes one of the jokes a lot of other hosts have had off the table.
That’s boring anyway. To be the white guy standing up there complaining that there’s not enough diversity? It’s like, “Oh, really? Then why don’t you give your spot up for a minority?”
What’s the hardest part of this gig?
I think it’s trying to entertain a bunch of nervous people who are fidgeting with the speeches hidden in their pockets or who are just thinking about whether they’re going to win or not. People are preoccupied…so you really have to grab them to get their attention and approval.
Is there anyone that you’re excited to meet?
I think I’ve met everybody because of my show. I would be surprised if there’s a single celebrity in the room that I haven’t met.
So you have to be nice to them?
Quite the contrary. If somebody’s my friend, they are about 100 times more likely to be made fun of. [Laughs]
68th Primetime Emmy Awards, Sunday, September 18, 8/7c, ABC.