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Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC)

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I’ve watched Jimmy Kimmel Live since Superbowl Sunday, but I’ve only seen it live once. It comes on at 11:35pm in my market (I live in the Central time zone, where everything is an hour early. And live, like the East coast.), and I’m too old to stay up past midnight to watch a show that frankly, needs some work. So I PVR it and watch it the next night. Incidentally, I’ve read elsewhere that Kimmel’s show overlaps others. Here in Dallas, it runs head-to-head with Conan and Kilborn.

I read Greg Beato’s take on the show with some interest, and realized that he is absolutely right. There is something wrong with Kimmel’s audience. Perhaps, as Kimmel claims, it’s a result of the lack of alcohol. Kimmel himself certainly wasn’t lacking in alcohol last night. That’s two nights ago for those of you watching live. I haven’t seen anybody do a show while that drunk since 1986 when the Challenger blew up and NBC pulled Tom Brokaw out of whatever bar he’d been having breakfast in.

Herself suggests that Kimmel is essentially alone in not spending some time warming up the crowd at the beginning of the show, which might hurt him. Then again, I paused and rewound on a sweeping crowd shot a couple of nights ago (subtract one if you watch live) and saw a lot of gray hair and male pattern baldness, so I’m not sure libations would help. How does Jimmy Kimmel end up with geezers in his audience? Nothing against geezers, of course, but I don’t remember seeing many in The Man Show audience the few times I watched. Except the beer-swilling piano-playing Ernest Borgnine lookalike, of course.

I seem to remember that David Letterman came out before the show and did a little shtick (usually involving canned ham) with the audience with no cameras, and then of course did the same once the show started. Other shows (I think) have hired other people or had special guests spend time warming up the crowd before the show. Is it possible that ABC should have spent a little less on writers and a little more to bring in some struggling stand-up comedians to act as crowd-warmers.

Anyway, last night’s show (er, the 29th) finally had me falling off the couch laughing. After starting this piece, I note that neither Greg Beato nor Jim Treacher were similarly impressed. Oh well.

The segment with the deep fryer was side-splittingly funny for me. I’m not sure if it was the idea that Jimmy was well and truly sloshed, or that Adam, similarly wasted, tried to do an “intervention,” but I laughed and laughed until it hurt. Herself had warned me not to play another episode lest I face her withering scorn in play-by-play commentary, but she asked me this morning if I had already deleted the episode, because she really wanted to watch the deep-fryer segment again.

Yes, we both gasped in shock when Jimmy mocked the fry-lady’s weight. Then again, Jimmy had already spent time on the show mocking his own weight, so it felt like shared pain. The fry-lady didn’t seem to mind. When Jimmy drunkenly kissed her on the lips, she held on to her hat and went back for another lip-lock. No kidding, I rewound it to be sure.

Yes, the guests suck. I remember when David Letterman’s guests sucked, too. I’ve long thought that anyone funny enough to have a show of their own ought to be able to fill up an hour with no guests at all, and I can’t remember the last time I’ve tuned in a talk show because a certain guest was on. Musical guests are different.

Speaking of music, the idea of a week-long guest-host isn’t the only unique contribution Kimmel’s show has made to late night television. I love how they handle musical guests. From the show’s premiere with Coldplay on the (apparently not adequately permit-ted) street stage, to the “intimate” setting of the club room, to last night’s performance on the “normal” street stage, they’ve put some work into the venues. By having the musical guest perform at the end of the show, they’ve set up an environment where the band can perform a full set and give a free concert to Kimmel’s guests, possibly turning Kimmel’s audience list into one of the hottest tickets in Hollywood. Of course, we in the viewing audience only hear the first song or two. If the musical guest sucks, you can just turn off the show and go to bed. You won’t have missed anything.

I’m a sucker for late-night talk shows, especially when they’re new. I watched Arsenio Hall’s show from day one, was a big fan of David Letterman before he moved up an hour, and I even tuned into Chevy Chase for both (all three?) of his shows. I remember the rough edges, and I hope ABC lets Kimmel continue. If he can win over Herself (a Man Show hater) within four nights, he’s got something going on.

Just do something about that audience.

(This article originally appeared at W6 Daily.)

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