Oscar Advice for Host Jimmy Kimmel: "Let the Squirm Build"

A THR TV critic offers suggestions for the emcee's sophomore outing regarding #MeToo, Envelopegate and, yes, Matt Damon.
Chris Pizzello/A.P. Photo
Jimmy Kimmel will return to host the Oscars.

The best advice anybody could give Jimmy Kimmel as he approaches his second consecutive Oscars hosting stint is also the simplest advice: Don't be Steve Harvey.

Botching the name of the Miss Universe winner earned Harvey an extended hosting contract and also gave an irrelevant and antiquated beauty contest an unearned patina of "Anything can happen!" excitement that the show has humped like a desperately hormonal dog ever since.

Just as Envelopegate wasn't Kimmel's fault, the Oscars aren't Miss Universe and the worst thing the Academy Awards could possibly become, especially in a celebratory anniversary year, is a show that wallows in the one high-profile goof in its 90-year history.

That isn’t to say Kimmel has to ignore the Moonlight/La La Land chaos entirely. That would be disingenuous, but maybe limit it to a joke at the top of the show and then one midshow callback?

Might I suggest an entirely straight-faced, “Welcome back our next presenters, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway …” followed by a long pause to let the audience squirm build? (Just keep the jokes away from the actual best picture presentation.) 

Besides, Kimmel has serious comedy to do and a year of well-developed gravitas to help him address the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements at an event that previously has been more than friendly to Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey. 

But with the Oscars’ insiderness, maybe Kimmel doesn’t need to make these tectonic shifts as central to his monologue as Seth Meyers did at the Golden Globes in January. Kimmel probably wants to remember, and joke about, his time on the not-so-progressive The Man Show and also keep in mind that Matt Damon's comments about #MeToo earned him a lot of flak, so maybe that feud should be soft-pedaled.

That's not a bad thing, because last year's show was almost a greatest hits introduction to the host and his preferred schtick, from "Mean Tweets" to man-on-the-street mirth to multiple references to multiple Damon gags. Maybe this year could be a la carte and not the full buffet? It might be worth using some of that newfound Kimmel sincerity to bring in some of the Parkland students for an emotional moment in lieu of a more generic on-the-street gag.

Mostly, what Kimmel should remember is that before last year's show went off the rails in the last 10 minutes, he was doing a really solid hosting job and that, and not the fiasco, is what brought him back.

A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.