Emmys Countdown: Host Jimmy Kimmel Plans a Hands-On Approach

Sunday's emcee only wants to be funny - and not hurt people's feelings.

By Scott Huver
|  Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012  |  Updated 4:42 PM CDT
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Jimmy Kimmel - host of the "64th Primetime Emmy Awards"

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Jimmy Kimmel’s polishing up everything but the trophies as he prepares for his debut stint as the host of the 64th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards.

The popular ABC late night host has been handed the reigns of the show, which airs on his network on Sunday night. Kimmel reveals that he recognizes the ceremony isn’t just another vehicle for his signature comedy bits (don’t expect to see Guillermo), hopes to keep his hand on the steering wheel throughout the broadcast (look for Billy Crystal-style in-the-moment quips in response to the on stage action) and won’t launch Ricky Gervais-level verbal slaps at the stars (at least not ones that will leave a lasting mark).

Can we talk about the early blueprint for the show?  

I want it to be jazzy from beginning to end. I don't have a ton of control over how things go. Only what I do know is that I'd like to be a part of the show throughout. I think sometimes in award shows the host is there in the beginning and then he or she disappears until about 45 minutes later, and it's nice to be able to comment on things as they're happening, and we've talked about this, and hopefully I will be able to insert myself in the entirety of the broadcast.  

A lot of people who are up for the awards have been on your show.  Does that give you a certain license to play around?  

Definitely.  I think that it's human nature: you know somebody, you are able to make a little bit more fun of them without them getting angry. I think that will help me. I think I will know probably 40% of the people in the audience that night.  

What’s more nerve‑wracking, hosting the White House Press Corps Dinner or the Emmys?

I think the White House was, although that remains to be seen. I almost threw up that afternoon before hosting the White House dinner. That audience is very different, and I didn't know whether they would laugh or whether they would get angry – and I think they did both, but ultimately I think I'm more comfortable in front of an audience of fellow shallow Hollywood stars.

What did you learn from that experience?  

I learned that the President is a little bit funnier than I am.

Was it a given that you were going to host the Emmys with ABC broadcasting the ceremony? And did you jump at the chance?

I don't think that it was a given, but I was happy to have been asked. I won't say that I was surprised to have been asked. I figured that they would ask me. I would've been very angry if I hadn't been asked, and so maybe that's why they asked me.

Who are the great Emmy hosts, in your evaluation?

I think that Jimmy Fallon did a great job. I think that Ellen DeGeneres did a great job. John Stewart. I think that Garry Shandling did a really good job, and did a really interesting thing that was kind of ahead of its time at that time.

How important is it to be an edgy host of the Emmys – is it worth hurting a few egos, Ricky Gervais-style?

Well, I don't want to hurt anybody…If I find out that someone's feelings have been hurt I feel badly about it for the rest of my life. So that's never my intent. I want to be funny. Sometimes when you're funny people do get their feelings hurt, but I'm going to try and avoid that.

Did they give you a talk about what you can and can't do for this?

It's not like they treat me like a child or anything. It's not like it's going to be a prepared event. Every bit of it will be thought out and negotiated as all of these things are. Everything that I say will probably have been approved in advance.

What do you hope we're saying about when this is done?

I hope that people will say it's funny and that I did a good job, but you never know. I'm sure it'll be a mix, regardless of how it goes.

What stands out for you this year, it's been a good year?

Well, the Emmy nomination was very excited for us because as a staff we started to feel like the Bad News Bears. Not that we felt like we deserved an Emmy nomination, but we did feel like we deserved an Emmy nomination. And everybody was very excited. It's fun to see the staff…I probably have convinced myself that it doesn't matter, and I have to say, it was exciting to see how excited the staff was because it reminds you that it's their show, too. They're as invested in it as you are. So it was a fun day, that day.

Did practice an Emmy speech when you were a kid?

No, I didn't. I didn't have not any delusions of grandeur as a kid. I never imagined being on television. I just really wanted to have one that was in color. That was my goal.

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