Q&A: How mean can Emmy host Jimmy Kimmel be?

LOS ANGELES — Jimmy Kimmel will serve as TV-fan-in-chief – a role for which he’s eminently qualified –  when he hosts the 68th Primetime Emmy Awards Sunday (ABC, 8 ET/5 PT).

After a taping of his Emmy-nominated Jimmy Kimmel Live this week, the late-night host sat down with USA TODAY to talk Emmys, TV, presidential comedy and late night before heading off to the  Microsoft Theater to prepare for his second stint as Emmy host. Those jokes won’t write themselves.

Q: Do you enjoy hosting the Emmys?

Kimmel: My idea of enjoyment is sitting on the couch at home. But as far as show business goes, this is a fun event to do. You know a lot of the people in the audience. You see familiar and friendly faces, so that helps calm your nerves somewhat. And I really do love television, probably to an unhealthy degree, so it is fun to be in the middle of all that.

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Q: How mean can the monologue be?

I never want to hurt anybody’s feelings, but for the most part I think you know who can and can’t take it and that’s how you decide who gets it. You’re really penalized for being a good sport.

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Q: Jimmy Kimmel Live is up for best variety talk series, so you’re a nominee, too.

There are five nominees and only, like, eight talk shows, so it’s important to get nominated. You know how they say it’s an honor to be nominated? It’s a real dishonor not to be nominated.

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Q: Do you think you’ll win?

I absolutely do not expect to win. If I felt like we were going to win, maybe I’d be nervous about it.

Q: How do you rate the quality of TV these days?

I think it’s too good. If this continues, we’re going to have to quit our jobs and devote ourselves full-time to watching television. There’s too much to keep up with. Everyone’s yelling at me that I need to see (The Night Of), but I don’t know how I’m going to schedule it. It’s a problem."

Q: What do you think of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as comedy material?

I think they’re great subjects because  they’re both very interesting. They’re caricatures in a way, and you have a lot of people who really don’t like them. When Obama was running, it was kind of boring. I think (Mitt Romney) maybe did two weird things the whole time he was running, while Trump does two weird things every single day.

Q: What about Clinton, whose August appearance on your show became part of the campaign when some questioned whether she really opened a pickle jar?

The day of her appearance, I was going to ask, ‘Could you open a pickle jar?’ Moments before the show, I thought, ‘Let’s get a pickle jar and see if she can open it.’ And, so they raced and got a whole bunch of pickle jars and I picked one and asked her if she could open it and she did. It was literally a last-second notion that has somehow become the subject of many conspiracy theories.”

Q: How come it’s been a year since the big late-night host shakeup, and there are no feuds?

I think it’s a result of the fact that your DVR and your computer make it so easy to see anything you want at any time. There just isn’t that competition anymore where it’s 11:30 and I can only watch one thing. Now, you don’t have to choose.

Q: Is there any part of the Emmys you would change?

I don’t understand why the accountants get so much time. Can’t they just pay them and keep them off the air? How much counting are they really doing? There are only a few thousand voters. It seems like one good computer program could figure that out for them.


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