This year’s recipient of the most poisoned chalice in showbusiness has been announced. The presenter of the 2017 Academy awards is to be 49-year-old comedian, voice-artist and talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel, who has presided over Jimmy Kimmel Live! for ABC since 2003 and has already presented the Emmys twice.
Kimmel is a solid smallscreen name in the US and does a big Oscars special on his show every year. In 2012, he produced an amusing all-purpose generic Hollywood spoof entitled Movie: The Movie, crammed with star walkons. He likely to be a bit unfamiliar to international audiences, who may have noticed him in a handful of as-himself cameo turns in movies like Ted 2 and Pitch Perfect 2.
But for everyone else, Kimmel is probably best known, or only known, for one music video segment from the show in 2008 which went massively viral: a huge and pretty self-satisfied in-joke which confusingly starred two people other than him. This was I’m Fucking Matt Damon!, in which Kimmel’s (then) partner Sarah Silverman gleefully sang that she was fucking Matt Damon, and Damon smilingly and repeatedly confirmed this. The origin of this gag was the fact that Kimmel had started a running gag at the end of his show, by apologising to Damon, cheekily implying that the A-lister had been humiliatingly “bumped” for the less celebrated types who had already been on the couch. The mock grudge between them escalated and Silverman’s supposed cuckolding was the uproarious climax. (Matt Damon of course was happily married to someone else. Silverman and Kimmel broke up for real one year later.) This once urgent topical gag can’t avoid looking a bit self-indulgent eight years later.
Will Kimmel be tempted to bring Silverman and Damon on and re-run a version of I’m Fucking Matt Damon for his Tinseltown routine this year? Probably not. But it’s in exactly the spirit of risky and narcissistic industry humour the Academy awards want: selfie comedy. The Golden Globes have in recent years done this really well with presenters like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler or Ricky Gervais. The Oscars tend to make a real mess of it. Seth MacFarlane’s toe-curling We Saw Your Boobs song in 2013 was a case in point. Neil Patrick Harris didn’t offend in 2015, but his game attempt at gags — including coming on in his underpants in a homage to Michael Keaton’s semi-nudity in Birdman — fell flat.
Jimmy Kimmel is another unexceptionable guy who will surely turn in an unexceptionable performance. As a small-screen player he has nothing to lose in this context, and he will be a safe pair of hands – safer, certainly, than the wacky but embarrassing duo of James Franco and Anne Hathaway in 2011 – and he probably won’t be tempted to sing. But it looks like a pretty unexciting choice. Ellen Degeneres was a big success in 2014 (the “selfie” year) and it would have been great to get her back, or persuade Tina and Amy to take it on. Well, nobody could be blamed for not wanting the gig. Let’s hope Kimmel can make something of it.
Naturally, Kimmel couldn’t resist making a reference to another notable figure who just landed a big new job: president-elect Donald Trump
“I will say I got a very nice call of congratulations this morning from the President of Taiwan. And just to be clear, she called me, not the other way around,” Kimmel said.
Kimmel finally landed his long-sought Oscar hosting slot on the heels of a well-received performance as emcee of the 2016 Emmy telecast in September.