In 2003, Jimmy Kimmel left “The Man Show,” a high-testosterone homage to the male id, to host his own late-night talk show. Nearly a decade later, “Jimmy Kimmel Live” leads a rare double-life as both a network ratings contender and the occasional Internet meme, thanks to celebrity-packed viral videos. Kimmel remains at the center, an unexpected everyman who seems to take pride in testing the limits of his likeability. His next test: hosting the White House Correspondents Dinner, where he’ll take shots at the president, Washington elites, and, ahem, the media.
Huffington Post: The president of the White House Correspondents Association described you as “sophisticated and edgy while appealing to a wide audience.” Do you agree?
Jimmy Kimmel: Only with the word “wide.” “Sophisticated?” Obviously, she and I have never met. I’m not someone you would describe as a sophisticated man. But you know what, I understand the room and I’m comfortable in almost any forum and I’m sure it will work out fine. Well, I hope it will work out fine. But I will try to lean towards being sophisticated instead of leaning on my normal assortment of farting jokes.
HP: Are there any jokes you’ve been told you can’t do?
JK: No, I’ve been given no feedback whatsoever! They didn’t even tell me how long they want me to speak. There seems to be no screening process whatsoever.
HP: So are you just planning on going hog-wild?
JK: Well, I don’t want to ruin the evening, so I’ve been seeking advice from people to see what sort of thing you can and can’t do. Depending on what you’re doing, there’s a wide swath, from Comedy Central Roast to funeral, I guess. So I have to figure out where I’m going to fit in.
HP: Have you talked to any of the previous hosts?
JK: I actually emailed with Seth. What he did I think is a good way to gauge because he did a lot of jokes and they all seemed to go over pretty well.
HP: You’re also hosting the Emmy’s in September. Which audience are you more nervous about?
JK: I’m definitely more nervous about the correspondents audience because I don’t know those people. I’m an outsider in Washington, for sure, and I think a mistake that one could make is pretending to be an insider when you aren’t one. I don’t want to do any jokes I might not actually get.
HP: Who has been your favorite Republican candidate?
JK: Herman Cain, definitely. Have you seen his latest commercial with the chickens eating the man? I mean, if it’s his way of announcing that Godfather’s Pizza is adding chicken fingers to the menu he might need to fire his ad agency.
HP: How do you feel about the war on women?
JK: I think there’s a war on intelligence… and we’re all losing.
HP: What’s next for you, are you thinking of starting your own network?
JK: There’s been talk of me buying Current TV. For me there’s never really any next. It’s funny, I was sitting with the writers this morning, and I said it seems like we’re always working on something. The things we’re working on almost never arrive, we’re just constantly working. So, I don’t really think about the future, I think about the show that night.
HP: Who do you have more fun making fun of: The media or politicians?
JK: They’re both very, very good and very consistent. Every day somebody does something stupid. You’d think that eventually it would run out or we’d have a dry spell of two weeks but it never happens. It’s constant. Whether you have Rick Santorum taking on pornography, or a congressman announcing that 78-81 members of congress are communists, there’s always somebody saying something dumb. It’s probably always been this way but I think now that everyone has a video camera on their phone we get to see more of it and it’s always more fun when you get to see it rather than just read about it.
HP: What would you do if you had a day where no one did anything stupid?
JK: Well occasionally it happens, but fortunately we’re able to come up with enough stupid stuff on our own, so if the world isn’t being stupid we will take care of it ourselves.