After hosting a late night, post-Oscars special for the past 11 years, Jimmy Kimmel is taking his emcee skills to primetime on the Academy Awards. And he’ll be the first to admit he’s a little nervous about it.
“It’s something I was hoping to be asked to do, but I didn’t necessarily ever want to do it,” Kimmel said with a laugh in an interview Tuesday. “I know all the baggage that comes along with it and the work that comes along with it, and also the criticism that inevitably also comes along with it.”
“I wanted to do it but I’ve also feared doing it — and I still fear doing it.” he told CNN.
Kimmel takes over the gig from Chris Rock, who returned to host in 2016 after previously hosting in 2005.
“You could look at it as a risk or you could look at it another way,” Kimmel said. “Let’s say it goes great, and then they ask me to do it again, then it has to be great again. There’s no end to this. You keep doing it until you fail. There has to be an end game of some kind where I emerge victorious.”
More seriously, Kimmel hopes to walk away from the show “relatively unscathed.” But he faces one of the toughest crowds in recent history — a viewership that’s arguably cared more about cabinet nominees than Oscar nominees in recent weeks.
With politics on the forefront of many minds, Kimmel aims to strike a balance.
“You want to talk about what other people are talking about and this is definitely what people are talking about right now,” he said. But while politics will be part of his monologue, “it won’t make up the entirety.”
Kimmel — who’s hosted the Emmys twice, the ESPYs and the American Music Awards five times — is a master of reading his crowd. That’ll be key on Sunday, he said.
“The first time I hosted the Emmys, I learned a lot about the audience there and I suspect that the same thing will be true for the Oscars — and really it’s been true for every award show I’ve hosted,” he said. “Everyone is a little bit different, and you don’t really know how they’re different until you walk on that stage.”
Speaking of the stage, Kimmel makes no secret of his hope that psuedo-rival Matt Damon won’t have a chance to take it Sunday night.
Asked what he’d do if Damon, nominated as a producer for “Manchester By the Sea,” wins, Kimmel said: “I’m gonna hit him over the head with the Oscar.”
Damon was memorably smuggled onto Kimmel’s post-Oscar show last year by best friend and frequent collaborator Ben Affleck, after years of being snubbed.
“Listen, there are certain people who are winners and there are certain people that aren’t. I put Matt in the latter category,” he said. “I don’t see him getting his grubby, overly moisturized little hands on an Oscar on Sunday night. And if he does, I’ll be heartsick.”
The 89th Academy Awards airs February 26 on ABC.