A lot has happened since Jimmy Kimmel was last in Brooklyn, New York. Donald Trump was elected president, late night TV has become a regular forum for politics as well as comedy, and Kimmel has evolved from comedic host to the conscience of America.
The ABC host, who is broadcasting a week of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” starting Monday from the Brooklyn Academy of Music, has become one of the most-talked-about figures in late night for igniting difficult conversations about health care debate and gun control through his emotional monologues
Kimmel sat down with CNN to talk about Trump, the Harvey Weinstein scandal and how he hopes to stop crying so much on TV.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Two years ago you were in Brooklyn and it was a much different late night landscape. How has President Trump changed your job?
I mean how has he changed the country? How has he changed every dinner that everyone has in huge, inexplicably enormous ways?… It’s funny because about two years ago I felt like every dinner I had all anyone wanted to talk about was what shows they’re watching and now it switched over to Trump. I sometimes wait when I’m sitting with friends to see how long it will take before we launch into that part of the conversation and it’s never more than, like, six minutes. Appetizers then on to Trump.
Do you feel that there’s this moral obligation to be less funny and more of a voice on your show?
No, I don’t feel that there’s a moral obligation. I never really put too much thought into what I do [laughs]. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I don’t even really have conversations with other people at work about what I’m going to cover. I just kind of do it. We do the show everyday and I approach it the way I approached my radio show when I was in my many years of radio. I just try to do whatever feels right that night.
What made you go back into the health care fight this time around?
Well, a concern that people were going to lose health care… And the fact that [Louisiana Senator] Bill Cassidy named a test after me. This was before I had him on my show, and I didn’t want my name being used improperly. If anyone is going to use my name improperly, it’s going to be me. So I felt like promises were made on my show and they weren’t kept and that upset me, and I felt like I had to say something.
Would you like to cry less during your monologues?
Yes, I would. I’m looking for a medication that can help me keep it together. If anyone knows of anything, please let me know [laughs].
Okay, I know that was a joke, but a lot of what has happened lately, like Vegas and health care, have impacted you personally. How do you push through that emotion in these monologues?
It’s embarrassing and it’s hard and I dread it and it makes me appreciate the nights where I don’t have to do that, where I can go out and can just joke around, but it’s almost like speaking at a funeral. You just have to get through it.
You’re hosting the Oscars again this year. Are you guys going to get the Best Picture right this time?
We’re going to try!
Speaking of the Oscars, everything that’s been going on with Harvey Weinstein…
Why? What happened?
Well, you actually got a lot of criticism from people who said you overlooked the scandal. Did you think that criticism was fair?
No, of course not. It’s a 100% bullsh*t. First of all, we do show Monday through Thursday and the [New York Times] story came out late Thursday afternoon, so the idea that I clammed up about it was nonsensical. We had a rerun on Friday and we already written our show Thursday night, but it’s also kind of funny to hear these people who say celebrities shouldn’t be speaking out on serious subjects now decide to criticize me for what I do and don’t speak about.
And I’ll add on top of it that I’ve probably done in one week more Harvey Weinstein jokes than I did Bill O’Reilly jokes over the course of the last year. But people don’t listen to facts, or reason anymore. They just make assertions and look to get people to click on their links.
With everything that’s been going on with Trump and politics, what do you feel is the role of the late night host now?
I don’t think there’s one particular role and if there was one particular role, we’d have a lot of the same. I think every host has to find his or her own niche now. It used to be that late night was a mainstream endeavor and you wanted to get as many people from both sides of the aisle watching you. You didn’t want to offend, you didn’t want to give your opinions on things, but now we have so many viewing options so that doesn’t make sense anymore. You know, everybody does their own thing. Some people dabble in politics… and for me it’s the same approach I took to radio: What are people talking about today, what is the news of the day, and what is my take on it?
It just so happens that politics is dominating the news everyday, specifically Donald Trump, so as long as he continues to dominate the news cycle, he will probably dominate late night television.