It’s late, and I’m still waiting. I have waited through the Saturday Night Live halftime show (NBC), two suspenseless quarters (ABC), the post-game (ABC), Alias (ABC), the local news (ABC), and now, as the clock officially clicks over to Super Bowl Monday, Ted Koppel finally announces, “There will be no special post-Super Bowl edition of Nightline tonight so that ABC can bring you the following piece of garbage.” At last: the premiere of Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC).
Although he has been delayed by 47 minutes, Jimmy Kimmel still bounces joyfully down a line of fans, casually slapping hands and making his way to a red talk-show desk inside the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles, where a live audience is starved, as I guess I now am, for his presence. Chubby, nondescript, Kimmel wears a light brown jacket and a white checked shirt. He takes the desk. “Welcome to Enjoy It While It Lasts, my new talk show.” Oh no. Colin Quinn made a lot of I’m-about-to-get-canceled jokes on Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn (Comedy Central), and now that show seems to be on a permanent cigarette break. How about a rugged man show with some confidence in the first quarter?
Snoop Dogg is Kimmel’s co-host; George Clooney and Warren Sapp (a Buccaneer) are his guests. The co-host concept, I believe, is the show’s innovation. Snoop will spend the whole six-day week with Kimmel. They may have conversations like tonight’s:
“Who do you root for?”
“Why do you root for the Steelers?”
“I’ve been rooting for them since the ‘70s.”
And these conversations may be inexplicably diverting because Kimmel is laboring so hard to be cute and start a show (“I am the new Queen of Nice”), and Snoop, though he’s off marijuana, always looks like he couldn’t care less. It’s a comical contrast. And then, when George Clooney joins them, pouring out three glasses of vodka, the conversation kicks up a notch—to the subject of what they can and can’t say on network TV.
“You can say ‘ass,’ ” Clooney proposes.
Snoop rouses himself. “You can say ass?”
“You can say ‘hole,’ ” Clooney says.
Kimmel sees his opening, testing the censor by wondering what would happen to someone praising Courtney Love’s band. “They kick ass, Hole,” he says. (Fun. The words are indeed zapped out.) The trio plays bait-the-censors a few more times, and I begin to imagine censors getting incorporated into the late-show mix, the new off-camera sidekicks.
Hours have now passed since Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl, and in that drowsy time, Warren Sapp, a defensive tackle for the champion Buccaneers, has made his way by helicopter from San Diego to Kimmel’s set. As he tells the audience, he also managed to take a shower in that time. Sapp seems to connect with Snoop. In taupe creased pants and shiny shoes, Clooney, sitting between them, looks uncomfortable and prim.
Kimmel tries to get Sapp to talk about his ferocity on the field, but Sapp says, “I really can’t find anything to get me upset right now”; and it’s kind of a cool thought—he has just won very big, he’s elated, and he’s not up for sarcasm. He can hardly suppress a smile, in fact, though Kimmel tries to disturb him. Kimmel also, somewhat annoyingly, bugs Snoop the old-fashioned way: by flaunting a gawky high-school picture of him. After he flashes the shot one too many times, Snoop says, “Hey, Jimmy. Check this out. We’re going to be together for six days. You can’t keep doing me like this.”
Good point. Coldplay performs a new song and part of “Yellow,” their biggest hit—but it gets cut off when ABC returns to regularly scheduled programming. Chris Martin, Coldplay’s hoarse lead singer and possibly Gwyneth Paltrow’s current boyfriend, plays the strung-out English rocker, hopping around between songs. It seems that much of the turnout is for him. (Aerial shots show mobs.)
In all, Jimmy Kimmel keeps his chaotic, on-the-fly show—in which a tech problem costs him a live interview and nearly all of his jokes work off news no more than six hours old—in working order. Jimmy Kimmel Live was a much bigger production than I expected it to be, and it wasn’t bad. It’s 2:30 a.m., and I feel almost awake again.