'Jimmy Kimmel Live' Turns 10

As he celebrates a decade at ABC and preps his move to 11:35 p.m., Jimmy Kimmel says he has no reason to be nervous—and yes, he would go on Leno again

Why This Matters

Lightning Round

Would he consider getting married on ABC, home of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette? "After the miracle that was the Ashley and JP wedding, I think ABC has covered it for the year....Should I be insulted that they haven't even asked me to televise my wedding?"

Favorite auto-correct mistake: "Bob Iger's wife, Willow Bay-I was typing her name and it changed it to ‘whiffle ball.'"

Favorite app: Scrabble. "Although I have a major bone to pick with the people at Scrabble for not allowing tournament mode where you can challenge someone's words...I'm organizing a march on Hasbro as soon as I figure out where [its] headquarters are."

What's cooking: "I do get a lot of satisfaction from feeding people," says the avid cook. Go-to pizzas at home include a Margherita pizza, one with prosciutto, meatball pizza, cheeseless pizza and a white pizza—with truffles if they are in season. Around Thanksgiving, Kimmel has a barbecue at the studio, and on Christmas Eve he hosts "a major operation" at home, an Italian seafood feast for some 43 adults and 16 kids. "I do have a little kitchenette here in my office and I made salmon for the guys here one night last week and every once in a while if people seem hungry, I'll whip something up."

What made him laugh recently: Kimmel gets a kick out of ripping his agent James Dixon, who also reps Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. He has a painted nude of Dixon hanging in his office, which he used a couple of years ago for the fake holiday card he sends out every year on behalf of Dixon to members of the entertainment industry. This year's card listed the fees for all of the clubs Dixon belongs to and a photo of his shiny new truck. Kimmel also re-gifted the painting Dixon gave him this year to his producing partner Daniel Kellison—in front of Dixon at a restaurant in L.A. Kellison proceeded to re-gift the painting to a woman outside the restaurant who admired it.

When asked if he
thinks about what it is he's doing so right these days, Jimmy Kimmel has a good

"It seems like everything is happening at once," he says the
week before Christmas, sitting on a long, red wrap-around couch in his office
above the space in the El Capitan Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard where Jimmy
Live is filmed. "But it's like putting a pot of water on the
stove. Just after a long time of heating, it starts boiling."

Kimmel's cup does appear to boileth over. With a new
two-year deal following a successful 10-year run on ABC at midnight, his talk
show is moving up to the late-night big-time. Starting Jan. 8, he's going head-to-head
at 11:35 p.m. with his idol David Letterman on CBS, ratings heavyweight Jay
Leno on NBC and the youth-appealing Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central. (Nightline,
which has occupied 11:35 p.m. on ABC, moves to 12:35 a.m.)

What's more, Letterman appeared on JKL for the first
time in November. In 2012, Kimmel drew raves hosting the Emmys, the White House
Correspondents' Dinner and ABC's upfront; and JKL earned an Emmy nod.
Also: Kimmel is engaged to Molly McNearny, JKL's co-head writer.

Kimmel sounds downright philosophical -- Zen, even. Maybe it's
all the talking he's been asked to do lately about what is arguably the biggest
move of his career. In a two-week marathon of promotional visits to ABC
affiliates last month, he was in New York; Boston; Philadelphia; Atlanta;
Washington, D.C.; and Dallas.

"There's no point" in being nervous, Kimmel says. "I feel
relatively confident about it. I know we'll work hard; I know we'll do the best
we can. And the rest is up to the universe."

The Apples & Oranges of Ratings

Kimmel and ABC have not talked about ratings expectations,
he says, but he's looking at the long game. And for the rest of the TV season, JKL
ads were sold based on the ratings potential for the show in its old time
slot. "Presumably we are going to exceed whatever number we promised the
advertisers just by virtue of the fact that we're on a half-hour earlier [when
HUT levels are higher]."

Kimmel says he hopes people don't make direct comparisons of
Jimmy Kimmel Live's ratings to Nightline's. "Nightline is
a half-an-hour-long show that was rated on, like, 17 minutes," he says, "and
we're an hour-long show -- and in late-night, that's a major factor. Your first
half-hour is higher-rated than your second half-hour because people go to
sleep." The only fair comparison to make is with Leno and Letterman. "We're all
on head-to-head now," Kimmel says.

So far this season (through Dec. 23, 2012, according to
Nielsen data provided by ABC), The Tonight Show on NBC at 11:35 p.m. is
averaging a 0.8 18-49 rating and 3.5 million total viewers; Late Show With
David Letterman
on CBS at 11:35 p.m. is averaging a 0.7 18-49 rating and
3.1 million viewers; and Jimmy Kimmel Live on ABC at 12:02 a.m. is
averaging a 0.5 18-49 rating and 1.9 million viewers. The Colbert Report,
which like Nightline is a shorter program, airing for 30 minutes
starting at 11:31 p.m. on Comedy Central, is averaging a 0.8 18-49 rating and
1.8 million viewers.

Nightline, which as Kimmel points out is rated on far
fewer minutes than JKL, has been averaging a 0.9 18-49 rating and 3.9
million total viewers. Due to the demand for entertainment programming in the
hour, ABC reps say, JKL's younger audience in the earlier time period
lets ABC get additional commercial time at premium CPMs. And JKL won't
have to beat Leno or Letterman -- or deliver the numbers of Nightline -- to
make more money for the network in its new time period.

Kimmel sees one additional possible edge for his show: While
Leno and Letterman do full shows on Fridays, Kimmel is prepping a weekly
best-of compilation show. Like the JKL Friday repeat that has been
airing in his midnight slot, the best-of show will be part of the weekly
ratings average. It's a strategy he even thinks his competitors may try.

"This may turn out to be a false prediction," he says, but
"once we start doing it -- of course we're going to see how it rates and how it
does -- but I believe that it will become a trend, and other shows will wind up
doing their own version of what we're going to do on Friday night."

Kimmel sees the format appealing to short attention spans:
"If you're lucky, your regular viewer will watch the show one time a week," he
says. "If you watch the show on Friday, you'll get to see the best parts of the
week all in one show."

The Friday show is among a handful of not-so-big changes
viewers will see in addition to the show starting 25 minutes earlier. Among
them, the set is getting a makeover. Five minutes after the show finished
taping Dec. 18, before hiatus, the studio was torn up. A wall was knocked down
to accommodate different shots in the new JKL era. The ad breaks will be
a little different. But the biggest change Kimmel foresees for 2013 is that
he's going to be more selective.

"In the past there have been nights where I've looked at a
bit, and thought, 'Yeah it's OK. It's pretty good,' and sometimes I convince
myself that it's good. Because I know I need something to fill the slot. And
I'm determined to stop doing that," Kimmel says. "That's my goal for 2013: less

One of his most important comedic influences -- his
grandfather -- would be proud regardless. Last month, Kimmel came across
memorabilia of his early fascination with Letterman while cleaning up his home
office to make room for his daughter, who was coming home from college. He
found buttons he'd made for a party he threw in honor of Letterman's second
anniversary on NBC. He also found snapshots his grandfather had taken of
Letterman on the TV and mailed to him.

Letterman was something Kimmel and his grandfather
bonded over, he says: "He's the first person I ever discussed David Letterman
with. He actually brought it up to me. He said, 'Did you ever see this guy
Letterman?' And I said 'yes.' It's a strange thing, but at that point I thought
I was the only person in the world watching the show and it never occurred to
me that other people might be watching it."

His grandfather, who was the old man in a wheelchair in the
opening of The Man Show -- the late-night sketch series Kimmel did with
Adam Carolla from 1999-2003 -- lived long enough to see some of his grandson's
success. "He was a very funny guy and as a result, most everyone in my family
is funny. But my grandfather was the funniest of everyone," Kimmel says, adding
that he thinks to know Letterman went on Kimmel's show and he's now going
head-to-head with him, his grandpa would "be very excited about it and proud of

For the most part, Kimmel is looking to continue doing what
he's doing, already having that high point of the show with Letterman's
November JKL appearance, which was "everything I could have hoped it
would have been with the possible exception of us, you know, going out and
playing whiffle ball afterwards," Kimmel says. He did his best to return the
favor, helping fete Letterman during his recent Kennedy Center Honors

"He owes me nothing," Kimmel says. "As far as influence and
entertainment goes, I feel like my debt to him is enormous, and there was no
reason for him to do our show. And it was really very gracious."

Kimmel's take on his other big competition -- Leno -- is
different, to say the least. In a 2009 interview, before NBC's Leno-Conan
O'Brien debacle but after it was clear Leno would not be jumping to ABC, Kimmel
told B&C Leno was a "very nice guy." But in interviews since NBC's
late-night saga, Kimmel has had less flattering things to offer, saying "F---
him" in one interview and likening The Tonight Show host to Jason from Friday
the 13th
in another.

Leno 'Punished Sufficiently'

"That wasn't an indictment of his personality," Kimmel says
of the Jason allusion. "In fact, if anything, that was a compliment. You could
never count him out. When you think he's dead, he comes back." But when asked
if he is taking some opportunity for a little "Hey, batter batter," Kimmel says
that's not his intention.

"I come from a morning radio background, and one of the ways
to get attention in morning radio was to attack the big guy," he says. "But
that's not really what I'm doing. I just feel like I'm answering questions that
I'm asked and I feel like I've been straightforward about my feelings in that
department, if you can call it that."

Kimmel points out that at the time he called Leno a "very
nice guy" in February 2009, "[Leno] was definitely wooing me in some way
because he needed me to give him the OK if he was going to have ABC as an
option, because they weren't willing to blow me out for him.

"But what they wanted to do was put him at 11:30, and they
wanted to slide me to 12:30," Kimmel explains. "So he made a great effort to be
very nice to me, and the moment that he signed with NBC, I did not hear from
the guy again. When I did hear from him again, it was months later, when I
impersonated him. That was when he decided to pick up the phone."

After Kimmel impersonated Leno on JKL, Leno invited him to
appear on The Tonight Show in March 2010, right after Leno returned to
his late-night perch. Kimmel proceeded to rip Leno to his face. He says he'd
accept another invitation to go on Tonight: "I would do it again. I
think that stuff is interesting. For the viewer it's a lot of fun. I would
gladly do that if he wanted to have that conversation on television."

But the fact that Leno seemed to drop him like a hot rock
once the ABC deal was off the table made him feel "stupid," Kimmel says. "I
mean, at that point I just felt like -- 'Oh, OK, that was all fake.' There was
nothing, there was no relationship there. I was being manipulated," Kimmel
says. "You think you're smarter than that. You'd think you'd look at this guy's
history and you'd understand that that's a distinct possibility, but I didn't.
I have to say, it embarrassed me."

For that, though, he doesn't expect Leno to apologize. "I
don't think he owes me an apology," Kimmel says. "I think he's been punished
sufficiently for his misdeeds."

Success is the best revenge anyway. And Kimmel sounds
hopeful that he may get it, pointing to the recent morning ratings upset his
home network achieved: "If you look at, like, what's happened with GMA and
the Today show, you can see that every once in a while you can turn
things around," he says. "And hopefully, given time, we will do that."

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