I began my conversation with the late night host by discussing his big move and going head-to-head with his childhood hero David Letterman. Kimmel has not been shy to express his admiration for Letterman, and his overall distain for Leno. In fact, Kimmel was one of the presenters at this year’s Kennedy Center Honors, where David Letterman was awarded for his contributions to the arts. Kimmel has been a frequent guest on The Late Show and late last year, Letterman made a rare television appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Since being a late night talk show host makes you a member of a very exclusive club, I asked Kimmel how he feels about going up against Letterman and the relationship he now has with his longtime idol. “Well, listen, I’m trying to have a relationship with Dave,” Kimmel admitted. “I told him I’d like him to stay at my house for a couple of weeks and I would very much like to be his friend, let’s make no mistakes about that,” he continued. “But with that said, I think the more you want to be Dave’s friend, the less Dave wants to be your friend. So, I’m trying to play cool and so far it’s not working that well,’ he laughed.
Kimmel is also very close friends with groundbreaking radio talk show host Howard Stern, who has never been timid to give his opinion. So I asked Kimmel if Stern has been vocal about the move and if he has offered to give any advise on the matter. “Well I think that Howard’s primary advice is stay at midnight and don’t move! So, that always seems to be his plan. If things are working, then stay put, and maybe there is some wisdom in that,” Kimmel said. “But for me, when your network asks you to do something, and gives you an opportunity to move up, then you really don’t have a choice as to whether or not you are going to take it.”
“But Howard has probably more than anyone in my career given me excellent advice,” Kimmel explained. “If I ask him for it, he’s always willing to give it to me. He never pushes it at all, but he’s always willing to give it and 99% of the time I will listen to him.”
Finally, I wanted to ask Kimmel about basically switching timeslots with the long running news program Nightline, which for many years was the reason ABC could not have a late night talk show. Nightline will now be seen after Jimmy Kimmel Live!, as well as adding an hour in prime time. Unlike Letterman and Leno, Kimmel will not have the luxury of another talk show following his and Nightline will now have to compete with Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. So I asked the talk show host what he thinks about that and if he would feel more comfortable having a comedic show on after his, rather than a news program.
“Honestly, it really doesn’t matter to me that much what is on after me. I’m more worried about what’s on before me,” Kimmel joked. “Listen, I don’t like to see anyone lose their job, so I’m very glad that ABC decided to keep Nightline.”
Jimmy Kimmel Live! will debut at 11:35 pm ET beginning January 8th.