Los Angeles — Jimmy Kimmel says he never really wanted to host the Academy Awards.
“If anything, what I wanted is for people to publicly say that I should be the host and that it’s an outrage that I am not the host, but then to not actually have to host it,” the 49-year-old comedian told the Associated Press. “Because hosting turns out to be a lot of work, and as you know, people are very critical.”
Kimmel, who has twice hosted the Emmy Awards, will make his Oscars debut on Sunday. He talked with the AP about his preparations, his pre-show rituals and what role politics might play that night.
AP: How does preparing to host the Oscars differ from the Emmys or the work you do on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”?
Kimmel: It’s very different from hosting my own show, but it’s almost the same as preparing to host the Emmys. My show is every night, so it’s mostly disposable. We write jokes for the day and we write jokes for the next day and we just keep going. There’s not much time for refinement or reflection. Whereas with the Emmys and the Oscars, you know you have a big audience, you know that you’re going to be evaluated, you’re going to be judged, and you want to do as good a job as possible. I always want to do as good a job as possible, but you really want to, as chefs say, put your foot in it for something like this.
What are your biggest concerns this close to show time?
The biggest challenge is I have a lot of jokes and I have to whittle them down and figure out which ones to use. That’s not as easy as it might sound, because a room full of comedy writers is a very different audience than a room full of movie stars who have cameras on them. You can’t really go onstage to a comedy club and try this material out either, because that’s also a different audience and you want the jokes to remain secret, and nowadays people seem to tape everything and post it on the internet. So I really am in a little bit of a bubble as far as what will work and what doesn’t, and really the only way we’ll know is when I’m on that stage.
How political will you get on Sunday?
I’m not sure how to answer that question. I mean, will Donald Trump be mentioned by me and during the show? Absolutely. How much I’m not sure yet. It kind of depends on what’s happening that day, you know?
Are you worried about potentially alienating conservative viewers?
No. I think smart people know funny is funny. Everybody for some reason has decided that they have to pick a side, and I think people would be a lot happier if, when they heard a joke, they enjoyed the joke and didn’t attach some kind of rooting interest to it. We’ve been forced to pick a team, and that should never happen. There’s one team in this country, it’s the United States, and we should be allowed to make fun of each other.
Do you have any pre-performance rituals for quelling nerves? Do you get nervous?
I’m a little bit nervous before the show starts, but once I get onstage, that goes away. I don’t think the human brain can process that many emotions at once, so I’m pretty focused once I get onstage. And once the monologue is done, I’ll be able to really kind of have fun with the show and look for improvised moments and opportunities to comment on things as they’re happening. As far as rituals or anything before the show, we do have a chant (at “Live!”) that we do before every show, where everyone in the room will chant “Best show ever!” and I fist-bump everybody. It’s usually done in a sarcastic way, but we might be sincere just this one time.
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