The self-dubbed "champion of the common man," Jimmy Kimmel is the host of the popular late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live! He came to prominence on Comedy Central as the cohost of the game show Win Ben Stein's Money, and The Man Show. Because of the relatively crude nature of his previous work, some were surprised that Kimmel evolved into a respected talk show host with wide appeal. As of 2018, Kimmel continued to host Jimmy Kimmel Live! and work on a variety of other projects.
Early Life and Career
James Christian Kimmel was born on November 13, 1967, in the borough of Brooklyn in New York City. He was raised in Las Vegas, and by his teens, he was an enthusiastic fan of popular late-night talk show host David Letterman. Kimmel planned on an art career until college when a stint working at a college radio station changed his focus. He attended the University of Nevada for one year and then Arizona State University for two years.
Kimmel began his professional career working in radio, although he had trouble staying employed. He was fired from at least four radio jobs. He told Alan Sepinwall of the Newark Star-Ledger, "I would make it my job to make fun of the program directors at these radio stations and they generally didn't appreciate it." He eventually had a morning show in Palm Springs, California, and worked at KROQ-FM in Los Angeles in the 1990s. By the late 1990s, he was known as "Jimmy the Sports Guy."
Game Show Success Opens Doors
While still working in radio, Kimmel moved into television by serving as the cohost of a game show on Comedy Central, Win Ben Stein's Money. Beginning in 1997, he and his titular cohost challenged viewers with trivia questions for a chance to win thousands of dollars. The show soon gained a loyal following. As Terry Morrow of the Cleveland Plain Dealer explained, "Much of the game show's success has been attributed to the on-screen chemistry between the deadpan Stein and the wiseacre Kimmel...." Because of their work together, Kimmel and Stein won a Daytime Emmy Award for outstanding game show host in 1999. The pair were nominated for the same award in 2001.
Building on the buzz created by Win Ben Stein's Money, Kimmel was given his own show on Comedy Central and left radio behind in 1999. Entitled The Man Show, Kimmel cocreated and cohosted the program with close friend Adam Carolla, who had himself gained public recognition as a personality on the popular call-in radio and television show Loveline. On The Man Show, Kimmel and Carolla offered an uninhibited perspective on male interests with crude humor in both talk show and sketch comedy segments. Critics had a mixed reaction to The Man Show, with some embracing the humor and others decrying its lack of any substance. Despite such reviews, The Man Show was one of the highest rated shows in Comedy Central's history.
More Television Work
With the success of Win Ben Stein's Money and The Man Show, Kimmel added more television appearances to his schedule. In the late 1990s, he began appearing on FOX NFL Sunday, offering his picks for football games and making fun of the show's cast, including former NFL players Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long, in his weekly segment.
In the fall of 2000, as The Man Show and other projects took up more of his time, Kimmel left Win Ben Stein's Money. One of these projects included Crank Yankers, which aired on various networks between 2002 and 2007. In addition to executive producing the show, Kimmel provided voices for some of the crank-calling puppets that formed the heart of the program.
Kimmel's career reached new heights in 2003 when he began hosting his own late-night talk show on ABC, Jimmy Kimmel Live! With the advent of Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Kimmel left The Man Show and FOX NFL Sunday. Kimmel's show was shot at Hollywood's El Capitan Theatre and began airing in January of 2003. His show's debut came after ABC's airing of the Super Bowl and featured rotating guest cohosts and sidekicks. At the ABC upfronts (an event where networks introduce new shows to the press and advertisers) in May of 2002, Broadcasting & Cable quoted Kimmel as introducing himself by saying, "My name is Jimmy Kimmel, and I'm the new king of late night. I know that may sound presumptuous, but I really feel, with the right support and promotion, I could be the best thing to happen to this network since Michael Ovitz."
There were some initial concerns over Kimmel's ability to attract an audience and guests--diehard Man Show fans were expected to be disappointed by his more tame show, and those who disliked The Man Show might not give him a chance. Former cohost Stein believed in Kimmel as a late-night host, telling Sepinwall of the Newark Star-Ledger, "Jimmy is so lively and quick-witted and is so original. It won't really depend on his guests or his musical acts. It's going to depend on his own personality. He is a stand-up, pleasant, nice guy who can be counted on to empathize with his viewers. He is basically a big kid at heart, he's going to appeal to the big kids in the college dorms who are the audience for this kind of show."
Success in Late Night
Kimmel quickly found a loyal audience as he slowly developed into a respected talk show host who attracted many high-profile guests. Although he tried to limit the amount of imitation of Letterman, critics noticed that early on at least, Kimmel clearly displayed his reverence for Letterman and his sense of humor. He also was praised for doing his show live, which allowed him to comment on the latest news and information unlike his competitors who tape their shows in the late afternoon. From the beginning, Kimmel also was able to attract the audience ABC desired (adults, especially men, ages 18 to 34) and improved his ratings during his first years on the air. The show's quality also improved. Kimmel told the New York Times' Bill Carter, "It's confidence. Not just me learning what I'm doing. Most of the people working here had no experience."
Over the next few years, Kimmel did have ups and downs related to his talk show. In 2005 he was nominated for a People's Choice Award for favorite late-night talk show host for his work on Jimmy Kimmel Live! However, Kimmel faced controversy for making negative comments about Detroit during the Detroit Pistons' appearance in the NBA finals in 2004. The Associated Press State & Local Wire quoted him as saying that "They're going to burn the city of Detroit down if the Pistons win, and it's not worth it." After the comments were made, Kimmel's show was temporarily pulled off the air by the ABC affiliate there. Kimmel later apologized and hosted a series of shows in Detroit. His contract with ABC also was extended.
Jimmy Kimmel Live! was not Kimmel's only project. In 2003 Kimmel began a gig serving as the emcee of the American Music Awards. That same year, he saw the premiere of his reality-inspired movie on Comedy Central, Windy City Heat. The prank at the heart of Windy City Heat involves an aspiring actor who is desperate to start a career. The actor is deceived into believing he earned a starring role in a major motion picture. In 2007 Kimmel showed his workaholic side by serving as a fill-in host on Live with Regis and Kelly for a week. That show was taped in the morning in New York City, and Kimmel flew back each day to host his own show that night in Los Angeles. Over the years, Kimmel also had small roles in films such as Danny Roane: First Time Director and Garfield.
In August of 2011, Kimmel's uncle, Frank Potenza, who was a regular on Jimmy Kimmel Live! passed away. Kimmel gave a tribute to Potenza, who was a retired New York City police officer and security guard. The following year, Kimmel hosted the Primetime Emmy Awards.
In 2013 Kimmel received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. That same year, Jimmy Kimmel Live! moved to the 11:35 time slot--pitting its host against the Late Show with David Letterman and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Jimmy Kimmel Live! did well in its new home. On the first night, Kimmel bested Letterman, putting him in second place behind Leno in the ratings. Of the move, the late night host told the New York Times, "I was on 10 years of probation. We always told ABC we were ready to move up whenever we got the call." The show was nominated was several Primetime Emmy Awards.
Kimmel continued to work on several other projects in addition to his late night show. In 2013 he lent his voice to The Smurfs 2 film. He then had roles in the films Pitch Perfect 2 (2015) and Ted 2 (2015) and made an appearance on the television series Scandal. He also hosted awards shows such as the The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards in 2016 and The Oscars in 2017 and 2018. In 2017 Kimmel again got tearful on his show in 2017 when he revealed that his newborn son, William John, was born with a serious heart condition. As of 2018, Jimmy Kimmel Live! continued to compete with the The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Born James Christian Kimmel, November 13, 1967, in New York, NY; married Gina Maddy, June 25, 1988 (divorced, June 16, 2003); married Molly McNearney, July 13, 2013; children: Katie and Kevin (with Maddy); Jane and William (with McNearney). Education: Attended the University of Nevada--Las Vegas and Arizona State University.
Began career in radio, working at such stations as KCMJ-FM, Palm Springs, CA, and KROQ-FM, Los Angeles, CA; cofounder, Jackhole Industries (a production company), CA. Television appearances include: Win Ben Stein's Money, 1997-2000, 2002; The Man Show, 1999-2003; FOX NFL Sunday, c. late 1990s-2003; Donner (movie), 2001; American Music Awards, 2003-08; Crank Yankers, 2002-07; Jimmy Kimmel Live!, 2003-; Robot Chicken, 2006; Drawn Together, 2006; The Sarah Silverman Program, 2007; Glenn Martin DDS, 2010; Hot in Cleveland, 2011; The Soup, 2011; The 64th Primetime Emmy Awards (host), 2012; Scandal, 2012-2016; The Middle, 2014; The Comedians, 2015; The Grinder, 2016; The Real O'Neals, 2016; Trailer Park Boys, 2016; Pitch, 2016; The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards (host), 2016; Curb Your Enthusiasm, 2017; The Oscars (host), 2017, 2018. Writer, including: The Man Show, 1999-2003; Crank Yankers, 2002-2007; The 44th Annual Grammy Awards, 2002; Windy City Heat (television movie), 2003; The Andy Milonakis Show, 2005-2007; Jimmy Kimmel Live!, 2003-; The 64th Primetime Emmy Awards, 2012; The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards, 2016. Executive producer for television including: Crank Yankers, 2002-07; Windy City Heat (movie), 2003; Gerhard Reinke's Wanderlust, 2003; Jimmy Kimmel Live!, 2003-; The Adam Carolla Project, 2005; The Andy Milonakis Show, 2005-07; Big Night of Stars (special), 2008; Ace in the Hole (television movie), 2009; Alligator Boots (television movie), 2009; Sports Show with Norm Macdonald, 2011; Cousin Sal's Sure Thing, 2016; Big Fan, 2017. Film appearances include: Down to You, 2000; Road Trip, 2000; Like, Mike, 2002; Garfield, 2004; Danny Roane: First Time Director, 2006; Hellboy II: The Golden Army, 2008; Project X, 2012; The Smurfs 2, 2013; Pitch Perfect 2, 2015; Ted 2, 2015; The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards, 2015; The Boss Baby (voice), 2017; Sandy Wexler, 2017; Brad's Status, 2017.
Won (shared) Daytime Emmy Award for outstanding game show host for Win Ben Stein's Money, 1999; (shared) Writers Guild of America Award for Comedy/Variety (Music, Awards, Tributes)-Specials for Jimmy Kimmel Live!: After the Academy Awards, 2012; received star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, 2013; (shared) Writers Guild of America Award for Comedy/Variety (Music, Awards, Tributes)-Specials for Jimmy Kimmel Live!, 2016.
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