April 08, 2010

Meet Jimmy Kimmel. He’s nicer than caustic old Letterman, livelier than wooden Leno, cooler than still-stuttering Fallon, and a touch less goofy than Conan. Kimmel calculatingly uses his slackerish appeal to expertly get A-listers”€”and himself”€”in on the joke. His comedy has elevated self-deprecation to an art form. The Jimmy Kimmel Live! host has crossed the line from talk-show lug”€”one who viewers merely tolerate”€”to a guy they”€™d want to have a beer with after the wrap. And because he’s so refreshingly normal in an all-hype, over-indulgent medium, even celebrities can”€™t help but appreciate his charming lack of nonsense.

You”€™re thinking: that Jimmy Kimmel, the slightly chubby dude whose biggest feat before nabbing a talk show was as Adam Carolla’s better half on The Man Show? It’s true that he hasn”€™t had a meteoric rise to the top, more like a slow climb to the middle of the pack. Early reviews savaged his awkward interviews and he could only book C-list stars for the first weeks. Yet through sheer persistence, the guests came, the interviews improved, and he prevailed. Hell, he’s now the darling of ABC”€”the network just announced a special-edition Jimmy Kimmel Live! with the cast and creators of Lost following its series finale.

“Kimmel’s the only one gutsy enough to mock his peers and consistently laugh at his own flaws.”

Underneath that how”€™d-I-get-here?, slightly droll demeanor lies no fool. Kimmel’s the only one gutsy enough to mock his peers and consistently laugh at his own flaws. His post-Oscars special made more news than the bloated awards show. He even outdid the slam-dunk duo of Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin with the hilarious, instantly viral Handsome Men’s Club skit. Rounding up the most attractive men in Hollywood didn”€™t give the skit its mass appeal”€”the essential ingredient was Sting and Patrick Dempsey and Matt Damon actually bragging about their God-given devilishly handsome mugs. Vanity is usually far too embarrassing and off-limits for “€œreal”€ artists to discuss, but anything is fair game on his show, where stars feel safe and in on the joke. Positioning Jimmy as the group’s black sheep only made it more real. The audience can clearly see the host doesn”€™t belong”€”just like he barely belonged on late night”€”and their reward is watching his slow realization. Kimmel’s not the most handsome man in the world, but this skit reminds everyone he is one of the funniest.


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As for those recent late-night wars, he may just have had the ballsiest opinion of all. While NBC was doing their backdoor crowing about moving Leno back to The Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel thrust himself into the role of instigator instead of innocent bystander, pummeling “€œthe big-chinned one”€ nightly and with glee, the crowning moment of which came when he did a dead-on impersonation of a lisping, power-hungry Leno. Then the NBC comic invited Kimmel on his show to Kimmel has cultivated a similar slacker appeal in his personal life that only pervades his onscreen persona. His off-and-on six-year romance with Sarah Silverman was under-the-radar, except when she was memorably made an accessory to his show, as during the infamous


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