Jimmy Kimmel is just back from a summer vacation that featured a family road trip, check-ins on his late-night competitors and a four-day stint shooting 17 more episodes of the “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” revival, returning Oct. 18.
Guest hosts filled in on ABC’s temporarily shortened “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” The late-night talk show (an Emmy nominee) is back Monday, but first Kimmel, 52, will spend Sunday hosting the Emmy Awards (8 EDT/PDT), his third and most unusual stint presiding over TV’s biggest night.
The awards show will look very different this year, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic: There’ll be no gushy pre-show with red carpet fashions, and Kimmel will be largely alone in Los Angeles’ Staples Center, surrounded by just a small crew but no nominees and no audience. Instead, 125 award hopefuls will appear live from their homes in 20 cities – including London, Toronto and Tel Aviv – using laptops, cameras, ring lights and microphones sent to them by the TV Academy. And the Emmys promise “special appearances” by Oprah Winfrey, Gabrielle Union, Lin Manuel Miranda and Count von Count, among others.
USA TODAY chatted with the late-night host about the remote Emmys, his summer vacation and next week’s return to “Jimmy Kimmel Live”:
Our predictions: Emmys 2020: Who will win (and who really should) at this year’s awards
Question: Have you been enjoying your summer vacation?
Jimmy Kimmel: You know what, I have been enjoying it, I really have taken to the idea of not working. I’m really good at it, too, it turns out.
Q: Was there anything you had fun doing?
Kimmel: My 6-year-old and I went and bought an RV, and then I loaded the whole family into it and we drove up to Idaho.
Q: Wow. That sounds like fun
Kimmel: It was quite an adventure. It was really like an ’80s movie, but it was fun.
Q: And this is part of your new contract, that you get every summer off?
Q: Good; I would like a deal like that.
Kimmel:Hey listen, I’ll tell you just how to do it. The key is to be completely replaceable and try to get somebody to do your job for free for you. That’s it; that’s the secret right there.
Q: OK, well the first part is done; the second part I’m not sure about. So tell me about the Emmys. From what I understand you’ll be essentially alone in front of the camera at the Staples Center?
Kimmel:This is going to be a disturbing journey into my brain, with occasional statuettes.
Q: So how’s it going to look for the audience at home? What can they expect?
Kimmel:Are you familiar with home schooling? It’s gonna be kinda like that. It’s gonna be a bunch of people on their webcams. It’ll be closer to porn than an awards show.
Q: Alright, well that’s something to look forward to. Do you feel a little bit weird with everything that’s going on in the world, that we should be giving out statues to people we like in TV shows?
Kimmel: No, I feel the opposite of that. I think that a diversion is necessary, and we will be paying tribute to not just actors, but people who have been heroic throughout this pandemic and through all of the things that we’ve gone through. For a lot of people who are sitting at home, it will be nice to see a newly produced show on television. I mean, it would be one thing if we, like, stopped progress on the vaccine to do the show, but if we don’t really have anything to do with that, I figure it’s OK.
Q: Just to get a little more granular here, you’re gonna do some kind of opening monologue without dancing and singing, and then there’s going to be awards, and the people who are nominated for these awards are going to pop up on little Zoom squares and then the person who wins, their square will get bigger and they’ll give an acceptance speech, right?
Kimmel: You’re very meta, aren’t you? It seems like you’re taking all the fun out of everything. You’re not wrong, that is what it’s going to be… we’re gonna try to have fun with the fact that we are not in the studio. There’s really not a lot of ways to be creative doing the Emmys from home.
The problem is not for us, really. The problem is for whoever has to do the next awards show because we have the advantage of being first, and the advantage of it being a novelty. I don’t know what some of these other shows are gonna do because they can’t do exactly what we did, can they? And if they do, it’s gonna be even more boring than watching a bunch of people on Zoom already is. I’m pushing my problems on them.
Q: Does this setup make it more of a heavy lift for you?
Kimmel: It makes it harder because we’re starting from scratch. For the first three months that we were talking about this show, we didn’t even know where we’d be doing it. We didn’t know if we’d have an audience. Everything seems obvious now, but there were so many basic questions that did not have answers, which makes it difficult to move forward.
You get to a certain point when you’ve hosted a bunch of awards shows where you know how to do it. That doesn’t guarantee that it’ll be good, but you figure out what the formula is. I think I’ve got that figured out pretty well, but now they’ve changed all the ingredients, so I will be basically alone in a giant room where they usually play basketball, trying to communicate intimately with the home television audience. It sounds like a bad idea now that I spell it all out.
Q: Well let’s hope it all goes smoothly.
Kimmel: I don’t want it to go smoothly, to be totally honest with you. There’s nothing more boring than smooth. I want it to be a little chunky. We’ll see what happens. My big concern is that we maintain a strong WiFi signal.
Q: Back to “Jimmy Kimmel Live”: Will there be any changes for the new season, apart from going back to an hour?
Kimmel:Yeah, we’ll be going back to our studio without an audience. So it’ll be like the fourth incarnation of our show this year. But that’s kind of fun to change things up and figure out how you’re gonna do it and seeing how the other guys are doing it and trying to figure out what you can do to make it different. These talk shows can be repetitive, and pulling the rug out from under us has been a good thing.
Q: Did you have time while you were in Idaho to look at any of your competitors and how they were getting through the summer?
Kimmel: I checked in to see what they were doing every once in a while, and I think what they do Night One is often not what they’re doing Night 10 because you figure out what works and what doesn’t. I think everybody’s doing a pretty great job. I think late night has handled this as well as can be.
Q: Can you tell me one thing you’re most looking forward to about hosting the Emmys?
Kimmel: Since I’ll be the only one there, I feel like I should get all the gift baskets, right? So I think that’s what I’m looking forward to.
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