Jimmy Kimmel on how Trump changed late night comedy

Late night host Jimmy Kimmel sits down with CNN's Frank Pallotta to discuss how politics influences his show and his own intentions for 2020.

Posted: Oct 17, 2018 7:01 AM
Updated: Oct 17, 2018 7:15 AM

Jimmy Kimmel returns to New York for a week of "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" from the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Monday.

The Brooklyn shows come about a year after Kimmel garnered increased attention for his emotional monologues about gun violence following the mass shooting in Las Vegas and healthcare reform after his infant son, Billy, recovered from heart surgery.

In a recent interview with CNN, Kimmel opened up about those monologues, President Trump and the changing world of late night.

So you're back in Brooklyn. Why don't you just stay? Most of the other late-night hosts are here.

It's a good idea, I never really thought about that. I think if I stayed, I'd weigh 350 pounds. I don't have the self-control to live here.

You have Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the show this week. Why did you think it was necessary and important to have her as a guest?

I don't think it's necessary or important. I think it'll be fun to talk to her, though. I've been interested in her, and I see that she's got a real spark.

You had President Trump on as a candidate. Say he came on the show again as president, what would you talk about?

He's an interesting character, I think, because when he's sitting next to you, much like we saw with Kanye [West], he'll agree with what you say. And I don't think he's being disingenuous, I think he is a chameleon in that way. I mean, the guy was a Democrat 12 years ago. The guy was one of Hillary Clinton's supporters and now it's all so preposterous.

It's funny because I used to think well, maybe I could convince him of something, and that's indeed what I tried to do when it came to immigration. And he sat there, and it seemed like he was agreeing with me, and I don't know, it seemed like we made some kind of progress. And then it became clear that I was an idiot, and we didn't make any progress because whatever room he's in, whoever's in that room applauding him, or encouraging him, those are the people that he's going to go along with.

You haven't cried on air as much this year as you did last year, so that's great.

[Laughs] Yes, well, I haven't had any of my children almost die, wise guy.

In all seriousness, those were really emotional monologues you had about a year ago with healthcare and the shooting in Las Vegas. Do you feel like those monologues made a difference?

I don't know. I would never say that they did because I really don't know if they did. I know there are people who think they did, and there are people who think they didn't. I never like to put more weight on something that I did. The gun control made no difference obviously, because we've still done nothing in that area, and everybody seems to be okay with that, and it's all going to happen again.

But, with healthcare, that did happen to be at a moment where it may have had an effect, and I think also at that time, it was before our friends in the extreme right wing of the Republican party decided to position me as some kind of a partisan shield for the Democratic party, which I am not. I was just speaking about my experiences and the experiences of other parents that I had seen and people I talked to. You're embedded in a hospital with people who are all very, very concerned about their children's health. While it's simple to say, "Oh, well, if your child has a life threatening situation, yes, you're gonna get an operation. They're not gonna let your kid die," and that is true. But there's so much more to it than that. Certainly the impact that it has on a family financially, but also we had to take our son to the doctor twice a week for six months after that. These things are expensive, and those things are not covered in an emergency situation. And those things are necessary to keep your child alive.

Also, just speaking to people who told me their stories as a result of me telling my story really made it very, very clear to me that we need to take care of people who have these pre-existing conditions. We can't just throw people on a trash heap because they can't afford what I can afford.

How has your comedy changed as a late-night host over 15 years?

I think late-night comedy has changed, and I have been a part of that. I think Jon Stewart was really definitely the person who lit that fire, and then of course Trump coming in made us all feel like we're in an emergency situation. Also, the news of the day, every day, is about Donald Trump. I always look at my job as someone who comments on the news of the day. You go to dinner and it's all people talk about. It used to be everyone talked about Netflix all the time. That's been replaced by Donald Trump.

You've been doing this about 15 years now, and your contract is coming to an end soon. Are you gonna keep doing this, or are we in the last days of "Jimmy Kimmel Live"?

I don't wan to push anybody off their perch, but there's talk that I might replace Jeanne Moos on CNN. Don't tell her though, I don't want to get her nervous. [laughs].

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