The real reason US talk show host Jimmy Kimmel is back to host the Oscars
Jimmy Kimmel is helping to restore ‘lustre’ to an event tarnished in 2022 by Will Smith's onstage slap of Chris Rock. Photo: Twitter/Jimmy KImmel
Jimmy Kimmel was almost going to hang up his hosting hat before the writers and actors strike shut down the entertainment industry earlier this year.
Kimmel, the ABC late-night host and a 20-year loyal staffer at the network, was “very intent on retiring”, but changed his mind pretty quickly when he realised it was actually “kind of nice to work”.
And now he’s busier than ever.
As the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced Kimmel, 56, would be hosting the Oscars for the fourth time, he wrote on social media he was “enthused” to be back on the Dolby Theatre stage in Los Angeles to host the 96th Academy Awards on March 10.
None of the industry heavyweights were surprised. He’s a safe bet.
In the wake of US actor Will Smith’s slap of stand-up comedian Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars, Kimmel – who also hosted in 2017 and 2018 – led a cautious ceremony in March that helped stabilise the Academy Awards after years of turmoil.
The 2023 ceremony attracted 18.7 million viewers, the most since 2020’s pre-pandemic broadcast.
“He delivered,” wrote the New York Times, pointing out this year’s viewership was up from 16.6 million the year before and 10.4 million in 2021, the lowest ever.
From 2019 to 2021, the Oscars gala was hindered by the pandemic and did not have a host.
Before 2018, the telecast had never dropped below 32 million.
“Seeking cultural relevancy for the ceremony following a period of plunging ratings, the academy and ABC, which broadcasts the Oscars, have bounced between formats in recent years.
“They tried three hosts in 2022 (Wanda Sykes, Regina Hall, Amy Schumer) and zero hosts, from 2019 to 2021.
Kimmel’s return this year, wrote NYT, “was free of controversy, helping to restore lustre to an event tarnished” by the onstage punch which is now widely referred to as “Slap-gate”.
One prohibition during the long-running US writers and SAG-AFRA strikes was that the lead stars on studios’ films and television series were unable to promote their product.
This means the next eight weeks are crucial for actors to hit the talk-show circuits and get back into full campaign mode.
Just as well Jimmy Kimmel Live! is still on the air.
“The town’s top talent is already back in full campaign mode,” says The Hollywood Reporter. “Many have been scrambling to make up for lost time.
“In fact, Kimmel’s ABC show is poised to benefit from the parade of A-listers hungry to promote this year’s Oscar hopefuls.”
Julianne Moore, who won a best actress Oscar in 2015 for her role playing an Alzheimer’s sufferer in Still Alice, was on this week, as was Seth Rogan, to promote his new film Dumb Money.
US actress Emma Stone and Paul Mescal are set to sit down at the desk with Kimmel on November 16.
Stone, who is reportedly getting Oscar buzz for her deranged performance as a female-style Frankenstein in Poor Things (premieres Boxing Day in Australia) will return.
Irish actor Mescal, who is filming Gladiator 2, also has films to chat about, including sci-fi thriller Foe and a ghost story, All of Us Strangers.
Four times a winner
Who didn’t love the donkey Jenny (who starred in the Banshees of Inisherin) onstage during this year’s ceremony?
Kimmel’s animal-handling skills were first class.
There was no drama and no unintended consequences throughout the entire three-hour-plus broadcast.
The Academy announced Raj Kapoor will serve as executive producer and showrunner Katy Mullan will executive produce and Hamish Hamilton will direct.
They’ll be joined by Molly McNearney, executive producer of Jimmy Kimmel Live and Kimmel’s wife, who will return for a second consecutive year to serve as executive producer for the show.
“We are thrilled about Jimmy returning to host and Molly returning as executive producer for the Oscars. They share our love of movies and our commitment to producing a dynamic and entertaining show for our global audience,” said Academy CEO Bill Kramer and Academy president Janet Yang in a joint statement.
“We are deeply grateful to Jimmy, Molly and their teams for their incredible creativity and partnership and for going on this ride with us again.”
Bob Hope still rules
Adds Kimmel: “I always dreamed of hosting the Oscars exactly four times”.
And though the comic is inching up in the record books, he’s still a long way from becoming the most-frequent Oscar emcee.
That title belongs to the late comedian, entertainer and actor Bob Hope (who died aged 100 in 2003), who hosted the gala event a record 19 times either solo or as a co-host.
Stand-up comedian and star of Billy Crystal (Throw Momma from the Train, When Harry Met Sally) hosted nine times, all between 1990 and 2012.