TCA 2012: Jimmy Kimmel on Roasting Obama, Jay Leno's (Lack of) Feelings and his Emmy Plans

Jimmy Kimmel ABC TCA Tour - P 2012
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Jimmy Kimmel ABC TCA Tour - P 2012

"I'm more comfortable in front of an audience of shallow Hollywood stars," quips this year's Emmy host.

Having already hosted the White House Correspondents Dinner this past spring, the Emmys will come easy for Jimmy Kimmel.

Or at least easier.

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“I’m more comfortable in front of an audience of shallow Hollywood stars,” he quips to a packed ballroom gathered for the Television Critics Association’s semiannual press tour Friday, noting that he almost threw up hours before he roasted the president.

While Kimmel, whose ABC late-night show was nominated in the variety category for the first time, remains tight-lipped about his plans for Emmy night, he does acknowledge that his intent is not to offend anyone as past hosts, including the Golden Globes’ Ricky Gervais, may have done.

“If I find out I hurt people’s feelings, I feel bad for the rest of my life,” he tells a smaller group of reporters following his panel, joking that Jay Leno qualifies as an exception. “Jay Leno doesn’t have feelings,” he adds to big laughs, “you have to be capable of having feelings.”

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Kimmel, who lists Jimmy Fallon, Jon Stewart and Ellen DeGeneres among his favorite previous Emmy hosts, will rely on his Jimmy Kimmel Live writing staff for both his jokes and the kind of pretaped segments that he’s become famous for in recent years (see I’m F---ing Matt Damon). 

What’s more, the Emmy audience will be seeing a lot more of him during the Sept. 25 telecast. Kimmels says he plans to incorporate himself into more of the show, which is to say he won’t disappear for 45 minutes at a time as past emcees have tended to do. “It’s nice to be able to comment on things as they’re happening,” says Kimmel, who seems to recognize that the key to a good awards show is to be funny and fast-paced.

Still, as executive producer Don Mischer notes, much of what happens Emmy night is out of their control, including which series and stars will win and what and how much they will say when they grace the stage. Further, they have no choice but to incorporate 26 awards during the three-hour telecast, leaving only 20 minutes or so to jam in everything else. "If the Emmy Gods are good to us, we'll have heart-felt acceptance speeches, brevity and humor," allows Mischer.

What the EP says his team will try to be strategic about is who they bring in to present the awards. As of now, the plan is to include roughly 15 percent current nominees and 85 percent bold-faced names that will make the telecast appear more like a Hollywood party than an exclusive event. (Going forward, TV Academy chairman Bruce Rosenblum says his board of governors will “absolutely” consider expanding the number of nominees in the best drama and best comedy series categories as they have with the Oscars.)

Mischer acknowledges that the Emmy team has yet to make any decisions about which 34 to 36 names will make it into the in memoriam segment, which he claims is the audience’s second favorite part of the telecast after the host, according to the Emmy testing that has been done. "I love the in memoriam segment," Kimmel says with a straght face. "I I love that even in death, you’re subject to a popularity contest. Some people get applause; some don’t."

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