Jimmy Kimmel on Late-Night's Political Role: "I Wish We Didn't Have to Do It So Frequently"

ABC's longest-running talk show host comes to TCA to also weigh in on if he'd host the Oscars again and if he'd ever run for office.
ABC/Image Group LA
Jimmy Kimmel

Jimmy Kimmel had the daunting task of being the first to take the stage Monday and open ABC's portion of the Television Critics Association's summer press tour following a weekend that featured not one, but two mass shootings in the U.S.

The late-night host and increasingly prolific producer was asked first to comment on the deadly attacks in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, and then, later, address the increasing role of late-night hosts to comment on political events.

"[President Trump] handles everything beautifully as we know," Kimmel said from the TCA stage. "It's horrible and I think now there's an expectation that late-night talk shows will address these horrible things. I wish we didn't have to but nobody is doing anything about it at all. We seem to forget about these tragedies nationally four days after they happen.… I don't have any thoughts that are new or groundbreaking and usually by the time we get on the air there's been 24-48 hours of news coverage to just remind people that 97 percent of Americans believe that we should have background checks for purchases at gun shows and our politicians don't seem to care about what we think anymore."

Kimmel, ABC's longest-tenured late-night host, recently inked a new three-year deal to remain with the Disney-owned broadcaster, for whom he also exec produces Live in Front of a Studio Audience and a newly announced game show with Mark Burnett, gave credit to David Letterman and Jon Stewart for using their TV platforms to address current events and express remorse that his peers continue get political so frequently.

"I just don’t know what alternative there is. You watch news all day and see what's going on. How do you walk on stage and ignore it? You can't. I wish I could. It's hard for me to talk about serious subjects, it takes a lot out of me. I want to be funny and it's not fun doing anything like that," he said. "People, when they watch a late-night TV show, they feel they know you more than any other format and they want to know what you think in the same way that when you interact with your friends, you want to know what they think about things. I wish we didn't have to do it so frequently."

Kimmel also revealed that he has zero plans to run for office or return to hosting the Oscars, the latter of which is a job he's done twice in his career. He called the gig a "no-win situation" that is almost always met with equal parts celebration and criticism. "If you don't care what people say, it's a good gig. I do [care], so for me it's a fucking nightmare," he deadpanned.

As for running for office, he compared that to coaching his son's basketball team and having to deal with parents demanding more playing time for their kids. "My response was, 'You wanna coach this team?!' That's what I'd be doing the whole time; I don't have the patience for it."

As for his future with ABC, Kimmel praised the expanded Disney group, which now includes cable networks FX and a film and TV studio — as well as execs including Peter Rice and Dana Walden, who, along with ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke — made him feel "appreciated."

"You still want to feel like your company is behind you, and I do," he said.

Kimmel also was asked about collaborating with former The Apprentice exec producer Burnett in a new ABC game show based on one of his late-night segments. Burnett is a frequent target for Kimmel, who said he had no plans to let the prolific unscripted producer off the hook for his role in turning Trump into a media star.

"Will I remind him 15 times a day that Donald Trump is president because of him? Yes I will," he said. "There's no way Mark Burnett has the vision that this monster would one day become president. If he does have that, I think we should be paying more attention to everything he does."